No Apology: A REMF Draftee’s Tour of Duty in Vietnam by Richard D. Foerster (Lulu Press, 65 pp., $25.80, paper, $20, e book) is a clearly written, brief account of the author’s experiences in the Vietnam War where he served from August 1968 to June 1969. The book begins with Foerster’s “freedom bird” flight back home to California for compassionate leave. A timeline provides a valuable source of the highlights of Foerster’s tour, augmented by color photos he took in Vietnam.
“As an eighteen year old who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, registering for the draft was a rite of passage,” Foerster writes, “and a reality.” In 1966 Foerster—a VVA life member—married and went to work at Audio Graphic Supply. Mentioning the word “supply” during his induction interview “got me assigned to Supply School in the Quartermaster Corps,” he writes, which led to rear echelon duty in Vietnam as a “Refrigerator Man” at USARV Headquarters Mess No. 3 at Long Binh Post
Dick Foerster’s supply clerk MOS challenged him to keep the mess hall supplied within budget. “I also looked for ‘deals’ that added to our menus,” he writes. “Once a semi-truck load of ice cream had to be distributed because no freezer was available at the docks. I took all the drums that would fit and we were able to offer ice cream at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for weeks thereafter.”
Some food items were valuable on the local underground economy. But Foerster did not give in to the temptation to cash in. One such item was raisins. “We got them in #10 cans any time a recipe called for even just a few,” he writes. “Each can was worth about $20 on the black market, but I didn’t allow unauthorized use.”
There were about 18 civilian workers employed at various jobs in his mess hall, Foerster says. “One of the workers came to me and said that [another workers] was having her baby. Baby, what baby?” That turned out to be one delivery Mess Hall #3 was not equipped to receive, so Foerster drove the woman to the base gate where she had to “walk through the ‘exit maze’ before re-boarding the truck. She didn’t live far away, so we saw her safely to the door at her doctor’s office”
Some red alert attacks interrupted the usual peace at Long Binh before Foerster was sent home early. His main regret: “I wish I’d kept a diary. I wish I had taken more pictures.”
I also wish Dick Foerster had kept a diary and taken more pics, as I enjoyed reading the book even without them.