Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
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.