Fragging by George LePre

The term “fragging” was coined during the Vietnam War. Every Vietnam veteran knows the definition. In Fragging: Why U.S. Soldiers Assaulted Their Officers in Vietnam (Texas Tech University, 356 pp., $34.95) Army veteran and author George Lepre does a very thorough job trying to answer the subtitle’s question in this, the first detailed study of the fragging phenomenon.

Lepre notes that seriously deteriorating morale beginning in 1968 was the main motivating factor in Vietnam War fragging incidents. That led to a¬†divisive “us-versus-them” attitude among career officers and NCOs (does the word “lifer” ring a bell?) and junior enlisted personnel. That factor played into “the larger social picture,” as Lepre puts it, as a “climate of hostility emerged among American troops in Vietnam that did not exist in other wars.”

Lepre did a ton of research for the book and, among other things, came up with a better look at the fuzzy fragging statistics, although he concedes that for a variety of factors the total number of fraggings that took place in the Vietnam War “will never be known.”

His research confrmed 94 incidents of fragging in the Marine Corps, in which 15 Marines were killed and more than 100 injured. As for the Army, Lepre says that the total number of incidents ranged from 600-850, “or possibly more.” His research indicated that 42 soldiers were killed in those fragging incidents in Vietnam and about a dozen others died “by their own ordnance during apparent attempts to assault others.”

—Marc Leepson