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Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War Hardcover – November 28, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (November 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807834815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807834817
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A valuable work for any student of this war. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.--Choice

Leading a much-needed re-evaluation of Americans' Vietnam War experiences and all the layers of complexity that are buried under public memory and myth.--Journal of Social History

Belongs on any reading list on the American experience in Southeast Asia.--Journal of American History

Fluid and engrossing.--A Nota Bene selection of The Chronicle of Higher Education

In this refreshing, original book, Meredith Lair attempts to disrupt and transform traditional narratives of the [Vietnam] war by focusing on the overwhelming majority of American personnel in Vietnam who served in noncombat positions. . . . [Her] bold and courageous book encourages us to ask difficult questions about what this means for traditional and often-outdated ideas about the military, soldiers, and citizens during wartime.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Lair has laid the foundation stone for a new historiographical approach, a research field that focuses on the other aspect of warfare, the leisure culture during wartime and between battles. This research can serve as a model for the examination of similar phenomena in other wars.--H-War

Break[s] new ground in scholarship on American experiences of the war in Vietnam. . . . Boldly and skillfully venture[s] into new historical terrain, and complicates the war story in the process.--Diplomatic History


Meredith Lair's fascinating analysis of rear-echelon life among American G.I.s dramatically challenges our most common conceptions of U.S. military experiences in Vietnam. From steaks to steambaths, swimming pools to giant PXs, the amenities provided on large bases not only belie conventional images of that war, but also stand as dramatic testimony to the desperate and unsuccessful effort of American officials to bolster flagging troop morale as the war lurched toward its final failure.--Christian G. Appy, author of Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By jose c. ingojo on January 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I saw the author interviewed on BookTV. She was very good and was very credible. So I picked up the book and read it, based on that great interview.

I found the book a great read and enlightening. It really does give a different view of the war.

I do not know why the book has engendered such hostility. Having grown up on military bases myself, as well as worked on base, there is nothing disparaging here about the military or military life. It is just life as it always has been in every war.

The author is the daughter of a career military officer who served two tours in Vietnam, so she is not totally clueless about the war. And she also writes about her father's experience there as well.

I also talked to some of my friends who served in Vietnam, and they confirm a lot of what the author writes. These were vets who served in the support services rather than in the fields, and they agree with much that is in this book.

So, I think it is quite a good book and deserves to be read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harry on April 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a REMF in Vietnam, and this book doesn't ring true to my experience. One factor that stymies a lot of writers about the war is that conditions varied dramatically from year to year and from region to region throughout the years. It's hard to pin down a generalized Vietnam War experience among Americans.
By the time I arrived in 1970, command had seriously broken down in parts of the rear, and Americans had divided into gangs. My biggest fear was not the Vietnamese. It was other U.S. soldiers. In my unit, we were all armed with illicit weapons. Mine included a Bowie knife. Fistfights were common, and we had to watch our backs.
We now know that this dangerous situation was part of an institutional meltdown throughout the U.S. armed forces that made battle readiness problematic, even in Europe where it really counted. By 1970, soldiers in Vietnam regularly refused orders and negotiated with commanders who had limited control. Despite this disintegration, my medical unit continued to perform at top-notch, but not because of our allegiance to the Overall War Effort. We just did the right thing for sick and injured solders.
I'm not sure of what the the book's point is, other than to document that the rear was awash in consumer products and that we had it a lot easier than the grunts. The book fails to address the apparent strategic function of high American consumerism in the rear, a topic covered by many other historical analyses, nor does it do justice to the vibrant backmarket in the rear. Small fortunes were made, just on illegal money exchanges alone, and we all knew it was going on.
Nevertheless, persons interested in the war's history will find some fascinating points, as long as they do not conclude that this book is the definitive work on the very complex experiences of REMFs and our relationships with the grunts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I come from a military family and occasionally look for something interesting to read about the intricacies of war. This is among the most unique books I've read focusing on the daily materials lives of Vietnam soldiers. It made me look at war and service in a more nuanced way. Author is a fantastic, engaging writer.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christian Potholm on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Meredith H. Lair, Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldering in the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). "An Embarrassment of Riches"

This is an extremely valuable reappraisal of the way the "suffocating luxury" in places like the Long Binh Post with its 12 swimming pools, 81 basketball courts and 31 theatres (along with others such as Tan Son Nhut, Cam Ranh Bay etc.) produced a great disconnect between the worlds - and narratives - of the battle grunts and the REMF's in the course of the war in Vietnam.
In 1967, for example, only 70,000 of 464,000 U.S. troops were in combat (25). The cornucopia of food, the ongoing war against boredom for the REMF's, the paper clip and PX wars all lead the author to conclude that for most, "At the end of it all, the Nam was a wonderland, and, through unsavory to admit, much of what American soldiers experienced there was wonderful." (221).
The author provides quite a revisionist overview, and we are its beneficiaries. Well written and well documented by the daughter of a two tour veteran of the war in Vietnam, this work deserves to be read by anyone truly interested in understanding American success and failure in that conflict.
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