Armed with Abundance

Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Armed with Abundance
    Book Description:

    Popular representations of the Vietnam War tend to emphasize violence, deprivation, and trauma. By contrast, inArmed with Abundance, Meredith Lair focuses on the noncombat experiences of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, redrawing the landscape of the war so that swimming pools, ice cream, visits from celebrities, and other "comforts" share the frame with combat.To address a tenuous morale situation, military authorities, Lair reveals, wielded abundance to insulate soldiers--and, by extension, the American public--from boredom and deprivation, making the project of war perhaps easier and certainly more palatable. The result was dozens of overbuilt bases in South Vietnam that grew more elaborate as the war dragged on. Relying on memoirs, military documents, and G.I. newspapers, Lair finds that consumption and satiety, rather than privation and sacrifice, defined most soldiers' Vietnam deployments. Abundance quarantined the U.S. occupation force from the impoverished people it ostensibly had come to liberate, undermining efforts to win Vietnamese "hearts and minds" and burdening veterans with disappointment that their wartime service did not measure up to public expectations. With an epilogue that finds a similar paradigm at work in Iraq,Armed with Abundanceoffers a unique and provocative perspective on modern American warfare.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0252-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-1)
  5. INTRODUCTION A War Refined Reframing the Narrative of the Vietnam War
    (pp. 3-22)

    When Phil Kiver got out of the military in 2005, he published a diary about his experiences as a U.S. Army journalist who deployed in the global war on terror. His story emphasizes the danger, privation, and sacrifice endured by American troops, elements that are typical fare in memoirs of conflict. Where Kiver’s book departs from the norm is with its glimpses into the banal details of daily life on an American base: shuffling papers around an office, sunbathing at the local pool, and chowing down at a typical military dining facility (DFAC). This last experience is depicted with a...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Same Side, Different Wars: Grunts and REMFs in Vietnam
    (pp. 23-65)

    Somewhere outside Saigon, a large black-and-white sign stood by the side of the road: “WARNING: You Are About to Enter One of the Most Dangerous Combat Areas in Viet-Nam / A Public Highway / Please Drive Carefully.”¹ This sign, and others like it, used the war as a metaphor to make a clever comment on local traffic, that a Vietnamese public highway represented a battlefield all its own, where military convoys and civilian vehicles fought for position along the road. Separated from its context of reckless drivers and heavy traffic, the sign would seem to demarcate safety and danger, as...

  7. CHAPTER TWO This Place Just Isn’t John Wayne: U.S. Military Bases in Vietnam
    (pp. 66-106)

    In 1998, the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation opened its Vietnam Era Educational Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, the first permanent museum dedicated to the Vietnam War in the United States. The ribbon-cutting ceremony followed months of controversy in which local veterans condemned the content of the museum’s exhibit script as having an antiveteran bias. Because controversy had marred the National Air and Space Museum’sEnola Gayexhibit in 1995, the foundation’s content committee had taken pains to include veterans in the script’s development process so that their feedback might be incorporated before the museum opened. So how did...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Total War on Boredom: The U.S. Military’s Recreation Program in Vietnam
    (pp. 107-144)

    The North Vietnamese and their southern allies, the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), often had little to sustain them in their war with the United States and its ally, South Vietnam. As Ho Chi Minh put it when facing similar odds against the French in 1946, “I have no army. I have no finance. I have no diplomacy. I have no public schools. I have just hatred, and I will not disarm it until you give me confidence in you.”¹ Yet in 1954 his forces prevailed against an army with what seemed to be superior technology and logistical capabilities. The...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Things They Bought: G.I. Consumerism in Vietnam
    (pp. 145-181)

    Since its publication in 1990, Tim O’Brien’sThe Things They Carriedhas emerged as one of the defining works of Vietnam War literature. An exemplar of nonlinear storytelling that blurs the lines between novel and non-fiction, the book is a fixture in high school English classrooms, where students grind through the humor and horror of O’Brien’s prose, with visits to the Cliffs Notes version online. The first chapter of the book, “The Things They Carried,” introduces the main characters but also the Vietnam War by cataloging the literal and figurative burdens of ground combat. O’Brien describes the weapons and tools...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE War Zone Wonderland: The Strange World of “the Nam”
    (pp. 182-221)

    In 1969, the Phuoc Vinh Special Services club sponsored a “Cavalry Carnival” to lift the spirits of the 1,000 Skytroopers of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. To encourage participation in the event’s planning, service club workers created a contest in which the unit that came up with the best amusement booth would win a new television set for their dayroom. Among standards like darts, the ring toss, and a batting cage, games that simulated violence were the most popular at the carnival. The division newspaper’s coverage included a picture of one such booth designed to test marksmanship. In the photograph,...

  11. EPILOGUE From Vietnam to Iraq Reimagining the American Way of War
    (pp. 222-248)

    During his 2004–5 deployment to Iraq, Alex Barnes struggled with the same kinds of questions that plagued rearward soldiers in Vietnam decades earlier: What is my role here? What does my contribution mean? How does my war experience compare with those of my fellow soldiers and those of soldiers in wars past? As a member of a National Guard signal unit, Barnes’s assigned duties were sedentary and never required him to leave the safety of the base where he was stationed. Writing under the name Delobius on his blog, “Blog Machine City,” he recorded his activities on 1 December...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 249-276)
    (pp. 277-288)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 289-295)