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Old Soldier Tony Herbert Won't Fade Away; He Has a Manual of Mayhem for Everyman

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Want to know what’s wrong with the Army today? Ask Tony Herbert, who came out of the Korean war as one of the Army’s most decorated GIs. “Our soldiers are trained to march in parades, while the enemy’s learn to trot cross-country for 50 miles overnight, arrive in good shape, ready to fight. We give our soldiers a Coca-Cola, beer, junk food, a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet, while theirs are cut down to 800 and drink swamp water. We send soldiers out to die, while the enemy’s are trained, conditioned and sent out to win.”

It is 11 years since Herbert, whose troops in Vietnam called him “The Animal,” was relieved as commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The brass who sacked him challenged Herbert’s account of both battlefield and civilian atrocities. Within a dizzying year, the former lieutenant colonel passed from hero to rebel to villain. After counterattacking angrily in his best selling 1973 autobiography, Soldier, Herbert sued CBS’ 60 Minutes for libel, claiming he was depicted as “a psychopathic liar, an opportunist advancing himself on the issue of war crimes, and a killer.” (The case is still pending.) Now Herbert, who retired from the Army in 1972, has written another book, a manual of guerrilla warfare and outdoor survival. Martially packaged in a plain khaki canvas cover and extravagantly priced ($100), The Soldier’s Handbook introduces the reader to a bloody world of do-it-yourself killing.

Shrugging off charges that he is revealing secrets and aiding terrorists, Herbert, 50, maintains that much of his information comes from unclassified government documents. “Terrorists don’t need this book,” he says. “There’s nothing in it they don’t know. And knowledge by itself isn’t dangerous. I’ve known all these techniques for years, and I don’t go around killing people.” Some fear that his readers may not exercise similar restraint after learning how to kill with a bare fist or how to construct mini-bombs using mouse traps or dried peas as detonators. Though primitively written and illustrated, Herbert’s 611-page book is quite sophisticated about the uses of violence. He includes recipes for poison drinks thought up by an inmate in a Wisconsin mental hospital and how-to information on exploding light bulbs, electrically wired urinals and the infamous glue pie that smothers a victim when thrown in his face.

At first Herbert tried to prevent the book’s sale to anyone with a criminal record by requiring detailed identification. Lawyers said this was illegal. The book is available by mail order and in some gun shops. The publisher, Cloverleaf Press of Englewood, Colo., has tried, with doubtful success, to keep the manual out of the hands of convicts in jails and prisons. “It’s hard,” says Cloverleaf board chairman Shirley Brown. “They all have box numbers.”

A coal miner’s son, Herbert was born and raised in tiny Herminie, Pa. He enlisted in the Army at 16 by lying about his age, and at 20 became the youngest sergeant major in U.S. military history. He was encouraged to attend college by Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he met on a post-Korean war tour of Europe, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1956 with degrees in creative writing, psychology and Far Eastern studies. Reenlisting as a second lieutenant that same year, he rose swiftly through the ranks until Vietnam.

Now leading a nomadic existence, moving from motel to motel and office to office because of threats and harassment, Herbert refuses to disclose the whereabouts of his wife, Mary-grace, and daughter Toni. As Dr. Herbert, with a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Georgia, he maintained a practice in behavioral modification in Boulder, Colo. until recently. He believes in confronting problems head-on. “Anything I work on can be cured in eight weeks,” he says brusquely. “Long-term treatment is bullshit. Bed-wetting takes one night, stuttering two to four hours. For other problems I occasionally use shame therapy.”

His ultimate ambition, shared with former astronaut Wally Schirra and some 20 other famous Americans, is to open a summer camp for future leaders. “The Rockefellers, the Kennedys, they train their kids to be leaders,” Herbert declares. “The rest of us train ours to be drones. We want to take kids who have been recognized as risk takers and heroes by their police departments and towns and have them taught by America’s heroes.” Though Herbert says he owns no property and has given away most of his money to war orphans, he insists that financial obstacles will not stand in the way of his dream.

“I’m a revolutionary,” he says. “There’s no question. But everything that happens to me reinforces this feeling that I’m a hell of a lot better than you are, Gunga Din.”