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

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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



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



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



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[Her] bold and courageous book encourages us to ask difficult questions about what this means for traditional and often-outdated ideas about the military, soldiers, and citizens during wartime.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society



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



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



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

Review

We are entering a new era of Vietnam War scholarship, and Lair's book will be one that leads the way. Lair upsets the traditional combat narrative and reframes it on non-combat experience to devastating effect. With crisp prose and her hands on seemingly every relevant source, she tells the neglected (but fully American) story of a militaristic society's war machine in full bloom.-- Michael S. Foley, author of Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War



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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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: 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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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