What It Is Like to Go to War

What It Is Like to Go to War

by Karl Marlantes


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802145925
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 09/11/2012
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 90,730
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He is the author of Matterhorn , which won numerous prizes, including the William E. Colby Award given by the Pritzker Military Library, the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the 2011 Indies' Choice Award for Adult Debut Book of the Year, and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction. He lives in rural Washington.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Temple of Mars 1

2 Killing 6

3 Guilt 48

4 Numbness and Violence 61

5 The Enemy Within 80

6 Lying 114

7 Loyalty 134

8 Heroism 155

9 Home 176

10 The Club 208

11 Relating to Mars 220

Afterword 255

Acknowledgments 257

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What It Is Like to Go to War 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I originally purchased this for my husband, a Vietnam veteran who has suffered from PTSD and other after effects of the war for 40 years. My husband found this book very accurate in portraying what it was like to serve in Vietnam. Some parts brought back memories for him of horrible times, and others brought back great memories of fellow soldiers. He highly recommends this to anyone who served in Vietman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone who served in Vietnam should read, Semper Fi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book and find out what it does to the soul and psyche of "temporary" life takers.Drills down to the root without novacaine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am amazed at the courage it took to write this book. Those who have experienced the depth of this man's military experience, either by serving the country in a war or by serving people in other extraordinary ways, will relate to the meaning of this book and be impacted by its message. It requires deep and thoughtful reading.
msf59 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Two years ago, I picked up [Matterhorn], the highly acclaimed novel about Vietnam. It was outstanding and ended up being my favorite read of the year. The author had spent 30 years writing it. It was based on his experiences as a young Marine lieutenant.Now, we have his non-fiction account and this one might be even more harrowing than the fictional one. It is also a book about war, our warrior instinct, the vast mental strain combat places on soldiers and the difficult task of re-entry into ¿normal¿ society. Marlantes attempts to cover all these issues, in a clear, sometimes philosophical manner. He also offers many solutions for making these transitions a little easier. He is a very fine writer, with a deep intellect. If you have not read the novel, do so now and then wait a few months, (you¿ll need to) and then start this remarkable and profound follow-up.
creighley on LibraryThing 8 months ago
for the true picture of the warrior fighting in a war, this is a must read! Told by a Viet Name vet who saw the good, bad, and the ugly there, he has somehow managed with MUCH introspection, to make sense of it all. A time-sensitive read for those whose loved ones are or were in the military. It is a MUST read for any combat veteran and the family!
TimBazzett on LibraryThing 8 months ago
As one of tens of thousands of readers who read and marveled at Karl Marlantes' best-selling novel of the Vietnam war, MATTERHORN, and wondered either privately or publicly how he managed to write such a viscerally real, honest and gut-wrenching fictional account of that war, here is our answer. Or at least Marlantes' attempt to answer that question. Because this "follow-up" book, WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR, reads like a cross between a psychological and sociological inquiry into the hell that is war and a personal examination of conscience. Marlantes lays bare his soul in this volume, or perhaps as close as one can come to doing this.The chapter headings in the book say it all: Killing, Guilt, Numbness and Violence, Lying, Loyalty, Heroism, and Home. Marlantes investigates thoroughly every aspect of what it was like for him and thousands of other young men who were torn from home and family, trained to kill and then thrust precipitously across an ocean and into an unforgiving jungle world filled with other young men who were trying to kill them.Although Marlantes also attempts to put the Vietnam combat experience into a larger historical context going all the way back to the Greeks and Mars the god of war, it is when he tells of his own personal agonies and fleeting madness in the heat of battle that he is most effective and touches the reader most deeply. And it is in the chapter on heroism that this comes through in the most profound way, when he tells of the specific events that earned him some of the highest medals, awards he's not sure he really earned, considering so many other he knew of who did and sacrificed so much and were never decorated at all.One of his exploits which earned him a medal involved trying to rescue one of his men who had been wounded, crawling and firing up a hill under a machine gun barrage, then dragging and rolling with the man back down a hill where the man died, "a neat hole in the top of [his] skull." Decades later, Marlantes remembers that hole, and still wrestles with guilt and crippling doubt."He had been lying head down toward me. The bullet went into the top of his head. I could have put it there myself when I was trying to keep the machine gun fire down as I crawled toward him. I'll never know."And later, in the chapter called "Home," Marlantes summarizes what so many returning veterans no doubt felt in those years, with no little bitterness and anger - "To me, and to my parents, I'd been gone an eternity; to everyone else, a flash. This is no one's fault. Life is busy and full."I can remember how I felt coming home from the army after nearly three years away and people I knew acting surprised that I'd even been gone. But I was a Cold War veteran who never saw combat, so it's hard for me to imagine how such a reaction would have felt to someone who had undergone horrendous living conditions in a faraway jungle, risked life and limb and been wounded multiple times. In fact Marlantes didn't just get casual indifference from people; he got rejection and outright hostility. Indeed he even recalls having his uniform spit on by a woman on a train. Such were the sixties.There have been countless personal narratives detailing the Vietnam war experience. Two of the best that immediately come to mind are Philip Caputo's A RUMOR OF WAR and Robert Mason's CHICKENHAWK. But Karl Marlantes has spent most of his life trying to figure out exactly what happened to him in Vietnam, going over it and over it and over it again. Finally he gave birth to a most moving and enormously successful novel, MATTERHORN. In this new book, WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR, he finally explains his own personal experiences and the absolute hell that war has always been and how it can destroy lives. It's a pity that politicians don't make time to read books like these. Perhaps they would not be so quick to rush into wars. I hope, finally, that Marlantes has managed to expiate some of his own personal demons and doubts by w
agnesmack on LibraryThing 8 months ago
When I was notified that I'd be receiving this book through the Goodreads First Reads program, I really wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. A book about combat? Well now, that certainly doesn't sound appealing. Luckily, Mr. Marlantes quickly put my concerns to rest.My main fear was that this book would glorify war and combat but, though it does discuss some very ugly truths, I didn't feel that it was glorifying anything. Yes, the author saw plenty of combat in Vietnam, yes he killed people and yes he details that in this book. However, he makes it clear in the Preface that his goal is to educate people about the realities of war in an effort to better protect our military personnel:"All conscientious citizens and especially those with the power to make policy will be better prepared to make decisions about committing young people to combat if they know what they are about to ask of them."This book does discuss what happens in wars but it goes far beyond a simple play by play of what it's like to pull a trigger. The author speaks at length about the psychological damage that's done and how ill prepared our troops are for this."The Marine Corps taught me how to kill but it didn't teach me how to deal with killing.""We cannot expect normal eighteen-year-olds to kill someone and contain it in a healthy way. They must be helped to sort out what will be healthy grief about taking a life because it is part of the sorrow of war. The drugs, alcohol, and suicides are ways of avoiding guilt and fear of grief. Grief itself is a healthy response."Mr. Marlantes is very honest about all sides of the coin. He talks about the adrenaline rush of being in combat, about the mixed emotions you feel when you've succeeded at your objective...when that objective is killing another human being. He also openly admits that if he were to be in that same situation again today, he'd handle it differently."I'd hope that I'd remember to respect my enemy's pain and agony."I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Marlantes is quite the skilled writer. He wrote for a broad audience and explained the military terms without talking down to his audience. This was a powerful and important book that I would not hesitate to recommend.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I've met Karl Marlantes a couple of times now, and each time I've been deeply impressed with his intense intelligence, his ability to tell a story, and his bravery to talk so very honestly about war, what he did in it, what he got out of it, and what he wishes were different, then and now. This book is very much like having a long conversation (albeit with footnotes) with the man himself. He opens up about everything which requires a depth of bravery that far surpasses that of a traditional warrior, though he would argue that the truly traditional warrior was a man of thought and philosophy, and we've stripped that part of war away over the millennia. He's introspective and probing, looking for meaning and lessons. He's also adamant about training and supporting the WHOLE warrior, not just on weapons and strategy but on spirituality, philosophy, morality and psychological coping techniques--before they go, while they are in the field, and certainly after they come home. He makes many great points about what is wrong today, and what lessons we should have already learned from all the battles from Vietnam on. This is a very intense read, but an invaluable one. I urge everyone to read this book.
fingerpost on LibraryThing 8 months ago
"What It is Like to Go to War" is an incomplete title for this amazing book. Marlantes does so much more than merely show those who are fortunate enough not to have the experience what it is like, though that is certainly part of the book. The author embodies combinations of personality traits that we don't normally associate together. He is deeply proud of his service as a Marine in Vietnam. He is also shamed by some of the things he did in that service. He strongly believes that in a perfect world there would be no war and no need for warriors. He is also smart enough to know that we do not now and never will have that perfect world, and we will always need warriors.Karl Marlantes is a combat veteran from the Vietnam War. He says in his preface that he has spent the last 40 years writing this book in one sense or another. The book is not a story. There is no linear tale of his experiences. The chapters are titled things like Atrocities, Loyalty, Lying, Honor... Each of the chapters has several elements. There is a war tale or two from the author's experience that illustrates his point. These tales are brutally honest, and sometimes hard to read. There is a psychological discussion of the subject. There is intelligent expression of theory as to how this particular element can be improved in future combat scenarios and for the benefit of those involved in war. And for each chapter, he also points out that this element is not unique to war. In all of our lives we deal with all of these features. The problem is that war amplifies them to the nth degree.I have never been in the military. No one in my family has for at least two generations. I chose to read the book to see if it could show me what it is like to go to war. I got far more out of it than I hoped or expected. I would recommend this book to anyone. I think the "war monger" and the "peace hippie" would both come away from an open reading, wiser, more empathetic and compassionate to their philosophical opposites, and one small step towards making this a better world for everyone.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The author of the novel Matterhorn has turned his talents to writing a nonfiction book about his experiences in Vietnam, how present-day warriors are not trained to emotionally and spiritually deal with the jobs they physically must do, what we've done wrong, what we need to do better. He looks at the history of war and warriors in ancient cultures and mythology, and how the wars we fight are changing every day. He has advice for warriors, those who are serving now, those who are trying to deal with having served, and those seemingly fearless and impressionable young who want to serve. He looks at the psyches of those who kill, what emotions they are feeling. And like the training, that which makes the warriors strong and loyal can also work against them. I haven't underlined so many passages in a book since I was a student, trying to memorize facts.I don't remember reading a book that touched me as deeply and as personally as this one did. Some of his writing is about theories, ideas, interesting to read and ponder. Some is very highly personal, violent, open. While I found the theories and ideas fascinating, the personal really hit home. I found myself, most unexpectedly, crying.Part of this is because I married young, after (and largely because) my husband was drafted, and he was sent to Vietnam when I, along with many of the soldiers and their spouses, was not old enough to be allowed to vote. I felt powerless and very angry. And the war...the war, not the young soldiers...was one we both opposed. He was, of course, a different person when he returned. This book brought back all those long-hidden emotions.But that is too much about me. I include it to explain in part why this book had such a profound effect on me. I can't imagine it not having an effect on anyone living through that period. But I think it is very important reading for anyone who has served or is serving, for anyone considering it, anyone who is responsible in any way for training warriors. And it is also for those who oppose most or all wars. It's a must-read for anyone who has ever given a second thought to war.The version I read was an e-book uncorrected proof, and I thank Grove/Atlantic and NetGalley for giving me a copy. The publication date is scheduled for September, 2011. In case you haven't already figured it out, I highly recommend this book.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Karl Marlantes¿s 2010 Vietnam War novel, Matterhorn, was some thirty years in the making, years during which Marlantes continued to fine tune his story while waiting for the marketplace to be ready for him. Following the success of this acclaimed debut novel, Marlantes, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, now uses his real life combat experience as the basis to explore how insufficiently America¿s young men and women are prepared for modern warfare. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes addresses the history of warfare, a history as old as man himself, and the methods used by various cultures to prepare young men to risk giving their lives for the perceived good of their country or tribe. The author believes that, compared to warriors of the past, today¿s soldier not only has far superior weapons, he is, in fact, better prepared ¿technically and tactically¿ than ever before. His concern is that these young soldiers are not being prepared to cope with the moral and psychological stresses associated with modern warfare. Marlantes does not, however, believe that the kind of individual soul searching necessary to prepare them properly for war can be accomplished via today¿s cookie-cutter training programs. This must be accomplished, he offers, by the individual, alone or with the help of a peer or mentor who has already successfully crossed that bridge.What It Is Like to Go to War is Karl Marlantes¿s attempt to help America¿s young fighters maintain their sanity ¿ both during, and after, their combat experiences. To his way of thinking, if these young men and women go into war with the proper mindset, they will not only do no more harm than their mission requires of them, they will be able to make a healthy adjustment to life when they return home. In order to accomplish this, the terror and horrors of war they experience have to be placed into their proper context so that the overall experience means something.One of the most striking characteristics of modern warfare addressed by Marlantes is the way that modern technology has blended the worlds of combat and home. Today¿s soldier has the luxury of calling home within minutes of the end of a firefight in which he thought he would die. In addition to communicating by telephone, he can exchange photos and messages via email, and if he is so inclined, can tweet on Twitter and check-in with friends and family on their Facebook pages. His two worlds become so blurred that it is near impossible for him to leave behind the stress of combat when he is thrust back into the arms of his family at breakneck speed.What It Is Like to Go to War should be read required reading for every young man and woman before they place their lives on the line for the first time - if not even before they formally become part of the military. It should be read by our policy makers, those who decide where, and how many of, our soldiers will be put in harm¿s way each time a new hotspot flares. It should be read by those drill sergeants and officers that train our troops for combat. And, just as importantly, it should be read by the families of those who serve so courageously. This is an important ¿ and practical ¿ book.Rated at: 4.0
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steve92037 More than 1 year ago
Fantastic to read, also a great audio book.
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