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on April 1, 2013
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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on January 29, 2012
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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on December 7, 2014
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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on June 26, 2015
A well-researched glimpse at an under-reported aspect of the Vietnam War: the fact that 2/3 of the people who served, served in the rear in non-combat roles. The central question of the book is this: "What if we focus on the majority experience of war in the contemporary US military, as opposed to the minority of combat vets? How would that affect the way we think about war and militarism?" It's a worthwhile question.
Lair has dug deeply into the national archives to document the importance of consumerism to the maintenance of morale "in country." Given that most soldiers were drafted individually, not as part of a unit, and served for only one year, it was difficult to articulate the mission in a meaningful way. Instead of giving soldiers a compelling reason to fight, commanders sought to appease them by providing for their every consumer desire. More and better food, lavish vacations, cut-rate consumer electronics, cars, and loans, "clean sheets and cold beer," all of this encouraged the Boys in Green to think of Vietnam as a holiday from reality, a permissive space where nearly anything was possible or could be had for the right price. Yet, while such extravagance enabled many working class youth to acquire the trappings of middle class life, it still didn't boost morale...why not? A compelling inquiry into the modern dynamics of war-making. Explains a lot about what happened in Iraq 30 years later!
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on January 27, 2016
This an important scholarly work that looks at the situation of support troops in Vietnam and to a much smaller extent in Iraq. The author points out that a large fraction (~80%?) of the troops were in support roles. Most of these soldiers lived in secure bases and had access to a wealth of amenities. To improve morale the military made vigorous and costly efforts to provide a wealth of consumer goods to all troops. There was considerable disdain from combat troops for the rear echelons.

How civilians viewed the Vietnam War and how rear echelon troops dealt with the perception of the war is explored.

The story is similar in Iraq. She points out that there was significant changes with time. This was probably also true in Vietnam.

This book has many citations with significant explanations for some. There are no maps; but, not really a problem for this work.

One thing I found somewhat off putting was the authors sometimes censorious tone.
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on February 9, 2013
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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on June 19, 2012
A well-written, extensively documented commentary, which begs two large questions: One,why have our military leadership -- from field grade, through flag rank, to the Commander-in-Chief, failed our service men and women-- and our nation-- so badly? The American fighting men have not lost a single battle since WWII-- yet, we have never won a war in that same period. American military leaders need to read Sun Tzu's Art of War, rather than "Rolling Stone" magazine. The military is supposed to be a "lean, mean, fighting machine," not a social club, bent on making us "...happy in our work." Two. Isn't this more a commentary on the new American culture? You know, where protestors, living off welfare, and communicating over "free" phones can castigate the people who are willing to work for a living. The protestors, of course, know the liberal press will support them. This book is difficult to read, because the truth hurts!! Each page contains extensive facts and data. Reading through it reminded me of slogging knee-deep through the "sucking" mud of Vietnam under a driving rain. I did not like the mud or the rain, but, they existed, no matter how much I tried to rationalize them away! One clarification: The author correctly states the military had three official working categories: combat, combat support, and combat service support. However, she implies that there were two categories in the minds of us soldiers: "Grunts" and "REMFs". For us "grunts" there were three categories: "Grunts", the support folks, and the REMFs. Grunts recognized and appreciated the support troops. They worked their butts off to support us-- thanks,again. Then, there were the REMFs. And, you know who you are. REMFs were the ones who actively sought those cushy positions, and were more interested in "the soft life" than in supporting the grunts. Incidentally, the REMF mentality (today, I understand they are called "FoBbitts") existed at least as far down as combat battalions. Unfortunately, few battalion commanders had the courage and/or wisdom to send them out to the line units. For another view of REMFs-- see the book The Best Government Money Can Buy. On Amazon
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on November 18, 2012
having been a grunt in Vietnam, did not receive the benefits of those in the rear...we always did without so they could be safe and spoiled
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on April 14, 2015
It was ok...much overlapping of opinions chapter to chapter
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on January 28, 2012
This woman is completely full of CRAP!!! She has NO idea what she's talking about. She claims many bases and posts in Vietnam had houses of prostitution on the base. She's an ignorant TWIT!! She knows absolutely NOTHING about what went on in Vietnam!! It is simply outrageous!! The book is packed with lies! I spent a long time in Vietnam as a Marine. I can assure you she knows nothing! She writes myths! Her book tries to prove that a tour of duty in Vietnam was a vacation with all kinds of amenities. Nobody told her that over 58,000 people died there.
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