Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I've always had an unnatural interest in the Vietnam War; perhaps because I was fortunate enough to not have to go and fight. The luck of the lottery I guess.

Matterhorn is a sprawling book about a piece of the war. Time-line-wise it might only cover a few months in the lives of a group of soldiers, many of whom died perhaps needlessly.

It is a long book that requires patience. I had to try twice to work my way through it but then finally reached a point where I felt I knew some of the characters and began to care how they'd come through their ordeals.

The book has the usual trappings of any Vietnam story; fraggings, ineptness, language, drudgery, jungle and more.

I wouldn't rate this as a great book. The last novel I read of Vietnam, "The Things They Carried" will likely stay at the top of my favorites list.

But this is likely an important book. Told mostly through the experiences of a "butter-bar" Lieutenant on his first tour, it gives some insight into some of the reasons why we ended up leaving behind more than 57,000 dead soldiers without much to show for it. I was struck by the stubbornness of some of the higher-ups who were more concerned about body counts, meeting arbitrary schedules and the like than whether we might actually be making a difference and possibly winning the war.

I realize I'm speaking from a distance of more than 40 years and of one who has never worn a uniform so I have little right to say much at all. Perhaps it is summed up in something I saw today on either Facebook or Twitter and it went something like this: "How many Vietnam marines does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "You wouldn't understand, you weren't there."

If you enjoy reading about wars and the experiences of those who fought, give this a read but remember, be patient.

It is not about Vietnam but I just heard of a book called "Redeployment"
Looking forward to this one.

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