SMALL TOWNS: Waupaca woman becomes an author to honor her husband and other Vietnam veterans
After hearing and recording their stories of the Battle of Chop Vum, she felt compelled to write a book.
WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) - A Waupaca woman credits her husband’s bravery, and the courage of the other Vietnam veterans he served with, for inspiring her to become an author. After hearing and recording their stories of one battle, she felt compelled to write a book.
This week in Small Towns, we sit down with the author and the man she calls her hero.
It’s been 54 years, and pictures still trigger vivid memories of what Philip Krause and his fellow soldiers endured over a week’s span in Vietnam in March 1969.
“We were being mortared,” Philip recalls as we look through a photo album, “and you hear that noise of the mortar leaving the tube and you’re just hoping and praying that it doesn’t hit you, and when you hear it hit, wow, I survived that one. But there were times like that that were rough,”
On Hill 283, the Battle of Chop Vum unfolded when 104 members of Charlie Company walked into an ambush, surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers.
“Think it was described like about the size of a football field, was about all we basically moved in those days, just shifting our position a little bit,” explains Philip.
By the time the battle ended, more than half the company had been lost.
Only 47 men made it out.
“It’s a miracle any of these men, they should not have survived, but they did,” says Peggy Krause, Philip’s wife.
Peggy met her future husband after he returned from Vietnam a few months later, severely wounded. They married in 1971.
And while they talked a little about his time in the war over the years, she says she never understood what the men in Charlie Company had really gone through.
That began to change in 2002.
“One of this Army buddies from Texas called and said, ‘We’re having a reunion, would love you to come,’” explains Peggy.
A little hesitant, Philip decided to go thanks to Peggy’s encouragement.
“It was the greatest thing he could have done,” says Peggy.
The following year, Philip invited Peggy to join him on what would become an annual reunion in St. Louis.
“So when I got there, there were all these men sitting around talking and they included us women. Because they worked together in Vietnam they were very open. They talked about things I had never heard about, and I was so intrigued by their stories,” recalls Peggy.
At that point, Peggy realized she’d never go to another reunion without a video camera.
“So each year I took my camera and I’d ask several, ‘Will you tell me about Vietnam?’ Well as I was listening, I kept hearing about this one particular battle, and so I took this home and I transcribed what they said, and I started a notebook, and I took it back to the reunion every year, and each year there were more people and my scrapbook grew, and the more stories I heard, the more I was so amazed at these men, they were unbelievable,” says Peggy.
So inspired, Peggy decided she needed to write a book on the Battle of Chop Vum.
But there was just one tiny hurdle.
“I’m not a writer. I never wanted to be a writer. But I couldn’t hold the story in. I was so passionate about it, so to honor these men and to keep their story alive, I learned how to write a book,” says Peggy with a chuckle.
After spending a year studying how to become an author, Betty started writing in 2015.
Over the next five years, Philip estimates he answered hundreds of questions.
“‘How exactly did you sit?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I just sat there.’ ‘You sat in the same position all night?’ ‘Well, no I really didn’t, I moved.’ ‘Well did you lean against a tree?’ ‘No, there wasn’t a tree there.’ She had to know exactly how I sat so she could put herself into the feeling of the book,” Philip explains with a smile.
In 2020, Peggy published and released her book, “The Men Behind the Scarf,” as well as a companion non-fiction book containing the transcripts of interviews and photos.
The first to read the book was no surprise, Philip and his Vietnam buddies.
“And that was of course the most terrifying moment ever because I wanted to honor them and do the book justice,” says Peggy.
Based on all the initial reviews, Peggy did just that.
“They said, ‘I could never tell my family the things and how it really was,’ but if they read this book they’ll get a much better idea,” recalls Peggy.
“It’s a great honor to have her do that to me, and I know the guys in the book appreciate it, too, to have that part of history shared with future generations,” says Philip, adding, “and it’s a great accomplishment on her part.”
“He is truly my hero. All the guys are heroes, and I absolutely wanted to honor him with this, something he did, he lived through. There’s nothing you can do to change what happened, but you can help preserve it,” adds Peggy with a smile.
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