REMF “War Stories” — 17TH Cag, Nha Trang, Vietnam, 1969, by Dean O. Muehlberg

REMF “War Stories”
17th CAG – Nha Trang, Viet-Nam – 1969
by Dean O. Muehlberg (Lulu Enterprises, Inc. [www.Lulu.com], 2005; 315 pp., $24 — ISBN 1411629442).

Author Muehlberg served as an administrative clerk in the 17th Combat Aviation Group, headquartered at Nha Trang, and his narrative of life as a Rear Echelon Mother Fxxxxx (REMF) is compelling reading. This is not a “shoot ’em up” book, rather it is a very intelligent and penetrating story of one man’s fight against the tedium and frustrations of being caught up in an incomprehensible war in an army that attempts to make things worse, not better.

The author relates in a very readable fashion the shock of leaving a sub-zero North Dakota winter and his loved ones to travel halfway around the world to a tropical war zone. He very candidly and in surprising detail chronicles the diversions he and his fellow enlisted buddies used to make the place and circumstances bearable. Alcohol, drugs, sex and a clandestine, yet constant, streak of rebellion against the army tell a story that will resonate very loudly with those who served in the support functions not directly in combat in Viet-Nam.

This book is perhaps the best I have yet to read at describing the many paradoxes and dilemmas facing the noncombatants who watched the war, helped sustain the warrior, yet were generally removed from the death, destruction and uncertainty of combat. Dean’s struggles with uncaring and incompetent “lifers” and the often intransigent nature of the army reveal why so many soldiers returned from Viet-Nam disillusioned with both the military and their nation’s leaders. He befriends a number of Vietnamese, including his hootch maid and her family, prostitutes and Vietnamese military personnel, and learns enough of their language to be more readily accepted to their culture than most Americans in Viet-Nam. As a result, he observes and analyzes many aspects of their lives and unique situations in a very revealing and ultimately disturbing fashion. He knows his time in Viet-Nam will end, while theirs will not, and this consequently portends very unhappy outcomes.

This book is well-written, honest, objective and reveals the dark shadows that still occasionally visit those of us who served in Viet-Nam.