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What It Is Like To Go To War
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on October 14, 2017
A difficult subject addressed in prose employing very insightful thoughts not just from Karl but others who have given serious thought to war and its costs.
Like Karl I was a Marine in his sister unit and had very similar experiences and observations and this book helped me to appreciate why I was and still am so angry about the people who were so cavalier about expending our loyalty, our trust, our youth.
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on November 16, 2011
First off, Thank you Mr. Matlantes for serving our country. I to am a veteran, and was deployed to Afghanistan. I very much appreciate your words as they resonated with my experiences. Some things never change. I was a bit disappointment of your treatment of the Chaplain Corps. I know that in Viet Nam, as in all wars that we as a corps have been in, we have had failures and we have had shinning successes. Please remember that we are only too human, and we too have our breaking points, we are not immune to the horrors of war. On top of that, we have no weapons to defend ourselves. Have we learned our lessons? I believe so, more now than ever. We have been meeting the spiritual and religious needs of our soldiers. We are a part of Yellow Ribbon and took the lead in Strong Bonds programs, we are also very involved in suicide prevention. We are conducting memorials for our fallen brothers and sisters. many of the things you saw, we see also, and we have acted. Are we 100% effective 100% of the time? No, we are not. Are we effective? I believe we are making a positive effects in our soldiers. Have you talked to us to find out what we are doing? I believe that if you had, you would be pleased. Again, thank you very much for this vital book. I do believe that this is something that should be read by warriors and those who would send us into harms way. Thank you.
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on June 1, 2013
Books written about war are never enjoyable to read, but they can be enlightening. They provide new material for my nightmares. Marlantes point of view having been a leader in combat provides lessons on the importance of maintaining high standards and looks at empathy as a high value. He describes the many factors that erode standards for men in combat and the disasters those lowered standards bring. I have never been in combat but I have to wonder whether I or anyone else could kill another person while having empathy for that person. He definitely makes a good point that military members who go into combat should be better prepared for the emotional and spiritual consequences of what they do or witness being done. I found it an excellent book but felt that his opinions on having empathy for your enemy was putting me off.
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on April 15, 2014
I purchased to give to a judge so that he would be more knowledgable hence sympathetic to veterans who commit crimes to buy more ellegal meds to stabilize themselves in our social society. I had a jail ministry and kept running into veterans who had committed a minor crime in order to get a pitance to buy drugs. From then on their life took a turn for the worse as they usually ended up separated form family and unemployable. Hence it was also the start of many jail and prison stays. The book is very good reading as the author has in my humble opinion done a masterful job to describe the horror and sadness of War. The Rev. richard Reece
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on May 23, 2017
Outstanding insights into what it's like to go to war, particularly in Vietnam. The lessons learn can be used by all veterans today.
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on June 28, 2014
In my opinion there is no better source of information than first hand experience. And when the informant is a highly educated, informed intellectual like Marlantes who has dug deep into professional and historical sources to affirm his conclusions, we need to listen carefully. Karl Marlantes disabuses us of the theory that deep psychological trauma can be "fixed" by a one shot visit or a compressed series of sessions with a professional therapists and shows us that such trauma is not dispersed as easily as it is acquired. What takes places in a day, a minute or even seconds may take decades to repair and may never heal. This book should become part of the research of everyone, professional or layman, who seeks to assist our traumatized people, especially war veterans.
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on December 29, 2011
As a freshman in college who is just starting in the Marine Corps officer program, this book was a very sobering read about the kind of life I can expect after I graduate and receive my commission. Marlantes goes into extreme detail about his personal experiences both in combat and outside of it. As someone who has been wondering what combat is like, this was a huge help. The author talks about all aspects of war, including the rarely acknowledged truth that war is exhilarating along with dehumanizing and dangerous. He speaks about acting ethically even in an unethical war such as Vietnam. I would also recommend this to people who have read Marlante's other book, "Matterhorn," which, as this book reveals, is not so fictional after all. In short, this book is extremely well written and is an absolute must-read for those soon-to-be warriors like myself.
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on February 20, 2014
First, give it to every teenager/young adult you know who is considering joining the military. Not to dissuade them, but to make sure they understand what they are signing up for. Then everyone else should read it so that we all understand what we are sending them to do. Karl Marlantes is remarkably frank about what he did and what he went through in Vietnam. And he relates it very well to our current wars. He is a brave man to be to be so frank. The book is highly readable and thought provoking. I recommended it to my book club and it was very well received. The discussion was incredible. I really wish everyone would read this book.
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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
Marlantes' newest effort is a great achievement in many dimensions. For those headed for combat it is an essential read. For those who remain home, it's a 200db wake up call, that we, as citizens, need to understand the consequences of sending young men off to fight and how we and the nation need to help them, re-enter our world in peace.

Marlantes is a unique combination of highly intellectual scholar and highly decorated combat officer who endured some of the more violent combat of the Vietnam war out in the field with his Marines. He gave up the soft life of a Rhodes Scholar during the sex, drugs and rock and roll days of the 60's to join his fellow Marines in Vietnam.

Some have commented that the book wanders, it does and that's one of its strengths. Reading it almost feels like a series conversation late into the evening. The others have gone, most of the wine has been consumed, lights are dimmed and one of the most intellectually stimulating guys you have ever met is talking about the last 40 years. There is an authentic intensity, angst, sadness, passion and outrage that flows across the table. You need more wine.

It should be required reading for every member of Congress, White House senior staff and the press. The increasing numbers of officers who have not served In combat or on the cutting edge of the sword would probably benefit from a couple of evenings spent reading Marlantes' book.

Too many of the tragic stories from our current wars include those further up the chain of command who fail to comprehend the violence and speed with which events occur in combat. Last week's Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House failed to mention that the heroics did not save the lives of four Marines who never received desperately needed air support in the intitial hours as a result of risk adverse seniors who had been tasked to provide that assistance.

Marlantes captures the impossible moral choices of war. Far too often there's simply no good choice, only the indecipherable choice of the lesser of evils. The warrior is left alone with these burdens long after the homecoming parade. But for the Viet vets there were no homecoming parades only demonstrations, spit and a nation hurtling through one of the most convulsive decades in its existence... war, sex, drugs, rock and roll, burning napalm and burning bras, the killing of JFK, RFK and MLK. Few soldiers were asked to give more and none were thanked less than out Vietnam vets.

Beyond the combat and intellectual discussions thereof, there are simply heart stopping moments as he wanders through his post Vietnam life in a new search for meaning.

Some of the best material is in his discussion of the moral hazards of lying. From the simple inflation of probable enemy losses to much greater lies. The public does not realize how much the military depends on integrity and how disabling the culture of lying becomes to the functioning of the organization.

It reminded me of Adm. Stockdale's book, co-authored with his wife, In Love and In War. The North Vietnamese torture of Stockdale was unrelenting; if they knew what they wanted they could get it out of him with enough time. But they did not know that the entire Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a fraud and that Stockdale was overhead that night to witness the events. During the debriefing he explained to the intel officer that there were no N Vietnamese boats out there attacking the Americans. Somewhere between Stockdale's debrief and the President's address to Congress the story had been fabricated.

It's a great read for the families and friends of warriors who have been in combat or perhaps dealt with very risky operations such at flying jets from carriers on a daily basis. One of the book's greatest gifts is in its ability to help veterans and family and friends communicate. I would also highly recommend it for those who counsel veterans and their family members.

It's a book that I wish was available when I was a young man with a father who had returned from years in the Pacific with the Marines during WWII.

addendum October 2011
The other evening we were talking about the changing face of war as more information is transmitted halfway around the world and decisions regarding employment of weapons made by people far from the action. Since the birth of the nation, those who experienced combat and remained in the military provided an invaluable influence on those in senior leadership who have never been there. Perhaps some of the senior folks who have not been in combat will read this book along with Grossman's On Killing. Were I the Emperor I would also send them to one of the military hospitals in Afghanistan where the seriously wounded are received from the field so that they might get a better feel for the true cost of war.

There's a great risk that those at the top of the military (without combat experience) or those in the Whitehouse addicted to power (including staffers) will become even more involved with what should be tactical decisions. It's especially dangerous when those who grew up on video games and see playing with Seals and Predators as an ego boosting extension. It turns us backwards to the disastrous decision making process of the Johnson /McNamara era. It's clear that seeing the photos of the Prez and friends watching the bin Laden raid on live feed has caused a lot of concern.

Driving by the Mission Santa Ines well after midnight on another evening I could almost hear Marlantes' voice echoing from what is one of the most moving pages of the book.

Highly recommended
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on October 31, 2011
This book was a great representation of a personal experience with our forces fighting in Vietnam. Since I had experienced the Army as an Army wife married to a soldier that had orders twice to go to Vietnam, I can say that his efforts to get those orders changed certainly worked to his benefit. He was able to avoid the mental trauma that the war caused in our fighting men. Yet the book meant a lot to me, as we had friends that did go and fight there.
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