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Viet Nam was a terrible fire-fight war Print E-mail

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May each year. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. It was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.

“Lest we forget,” Memorial Day is a day of remembering those hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that laid their lives on the line, has, of recent, expanded to all veterans of American forces. In Bamberg County there are over 1,400 veterans from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan, from the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Army and Air Force. Blue Spader veteran Klaus Langehans, is assuredly one of those to whom we need to honor on this day.

“I was born into a hell on earth,” wrote Klaus Langehans in his autobiography, A Patriot from Gransee. “For the past fifty years I’ve read and researched the finality of Europe’s World War II and the period around my time of birth. Hitler’s Third Reich was no longer. Germany and most of Europe were in ruins. Many of the great cities of Europe were little more than rubble. The Nuremberg Trials, a series of trials notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany after its defeat in World War II, was only a few months away, November 1945. Tens of millions of people had been killed. Highway and railroad systems had been bombed and torn up, making transportation difficult and often impossible. Hunger prevailed for the people of defeated Germany.

“In early spring, with snow still showing in the shade of now-leafing trees of Gransee, Germany, I was born Klaus Dieter Wolfgang, May 16, 1945, at 11:55 p.m., only nine days after the surrender of Germany on May 7 during very chaotic times in Germany, following the demise of Europe’s Second World War. Erna, my mother, was twenty years old when her first child, me, was delivered in our home in Gransee by my Grandmother Martha Agnes Krist.” His biological father was a Polish colonel, who, according to varying stories, worked closely with British intelligence in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

After the surrender of Germany to the allies, Klaus’ mother, Erna, then married Herbert Langehans, a German Lufwaffe fighter pilot who’d been captured by the British and shipped to the U.S. as a prisoner of war. Throughout a convoluted time of “escape” from the Russian-held Soviet sector of Germany to the U.S., Klaus eventually was educated in the ‘States,” drafted into the Army, attended OCS, and was shipped, body and soul, to Viet Nam.

“Everything was fine until May 3, 1966, when I received a notification, via U.S. mail, that I was being drafted into the United States Army. The Vietnam War was escalating, and U.S. soldiers were dying in greater numbers as reported on a daily basis by the three major television networks— ABC, NBC, and CBS. The Local Draft Board No. 4 in Freeport (NY) coordinated government transportation to Whitehall Street in New York City. We entered as a group of civilians and were sworn into services of the U.S. Military,” he recalls.

Klaus, a quiet, unassuming man now in his mid-60s, served in Viet-Nam as a platoon leader-second lieutenant in the midst of “some pretty terrible firefights.” The Viet-Nam “conflict,” as politicians were at the time prone to call it, was, indeed, an all-out, terrible war that was a toll on the American psyche for many years, far more than a “conflict.”

The First Battalion Twenty-Sixth Infantry, the “Blue Spaders,” had a major impact on Klaus’ life. “My platoon consisted of twenty-six to thirty young men, red-blooded men – the ‘cream of America.’ The native races included African-American, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Hawaiian, Irish, and of course me, German by birth.” He still stays in touch with several lf his comrades from the Blue Spaders.”

He’s not inclined to speak much about his firefight experiences or loss of buddies in Viet Nam though he does write about some of the more spectacular battles in his autobiography. “After separation from the Army, he recalls, “I was cursed at, yelled at, spit on,” An experience that was not unique for returning Viet Nam soldiers in the late 1960s and ‘70s, a blight on American “patriotism” of the era, of Jane Fonda’s Radio Hanoi Broadcast.

Klaus’ exploits in Viet Nam earned him the Bronze Star with the “V” cluster.

 
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