Books by David A. Willson

THE REMF RETURNS by David A. Willson
Released: May 7, 1992

The sequel to REMF Diary (1988—not reviewed): an account of the last days of an Army clerk's Vietnam tour-of-duty from July 5 through October 23, 1967. Both books claim to be novels, but if you're looking for intense combat scenes or romantic interludes back in Hawaii, you'll be disappointed. The fate of Western democracies is not decided here. The point is comic, although in a way cautionary: this is the tale of a clerk in the rear areas of Saigon and the plush base at Long Binh, and the truth is that it is at least as representative of the enlisted man's Vietnam war as are tales of combat by Larry Heinemann, Gustav Hasford, or John M. Del Vecchio. Willson's diary entries are detailed and often annoying accounts of: how little work he can do in a day, the books he reads (mostly mysteries), what was served at the mess hall, the TV shows he watched, and the rock songs he listened to. Characters emerge—such as the officer who seems to have a vendetta against him; several buddies; and some prostitutes—but Wilson appears to have drawn almost verbatim from his diary at the time. He sets no scenes and for the most part does not even reproduce dialogue, but nonetheless the minuteness of his account causes the rear echelon war to emerge, in its droning, hot, meaningless stupidity. We see Willson planning for his R & R in Hong Kong and then enjoying it; his naivetÇ and unwitting irony are a delight and irritation at once. He starts from the point of view that none of what is going on around him makes sense, and neither do the objections to it. Maybe it's not so different from ``the world'' itself, where the first object is to survive, and the second is to enjoy oneself. With all the agony we have come to associate with the Vietnam War, many young men had the time of their lives, and will never enjoy themselves so much again. Whether these two diaries are novels begs the question— there's a narrative here, and a sly wit at work. Read full book review >