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What It Is Like to Go to War | [Karl Marlantes]

What It Is Like to Go to War

In 1969, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience.
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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the bestselling and award-winning Matterhorn comes a brilliant nonfiction book about war and the psychological and spiritual toll it takes on those who fight.

“I wrote this book primarily to come to terms with my own experience of combat. So far—reading, writing, thinking—that has taken over thirty years.”

In 1969, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience. In his first work of nonfiction, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war.

Just as Matterhorn is already acclaimed a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyone—soldier or civilian—interested in this visceral and all-too-essential part of the human experience.

Karl Marlantes, a cum laude graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, was 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 has lived and traveled all over the world and now writes full time. He and his wife, Anne, have five children and live on a small lake in Washington.

©2011 Karl Marlantes (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A staggeringly beautiful book on combat…[Marlantes] is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker.” (Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Blacklake Austin, TX United States 01-14-12
    Blacklake Austin, TX United States 01-14-12

    cmd1

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    "An important book"
    What did you love best about What It Is Like to Go to War?

    Marlantes' insight into what it is to be a battlefield killer is powerfully frank and intensely thoughtful. Going well beyond superficialities of matters like political pacifism or hawkism, he speaks unflinchingly of the horrible but unavoidable necessities of war at the personal level, its impact on the individual psyche and its possibly righful place in personal philosophy (and sometimes its ramifications in popular culture). It is not pro-war. It is not anti-war. It is, rather, a sane look into the primal darkness that can be called upon within us all. Profound content and excellent narration. Easily one of my most satisfying Audible purchases.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Pepin Raleigh, NC, US 12-16-11
    John Pepin Raleigh, NC, US 12-16-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Best book I've ever read on the warrior experience"

    I turned 18 in 1973, and Vietnam was not really in-scope for me as it became obvious the war was winding down as I finished high school and I was likely not to get called up. I have always wondered what it was really like for the people who served there. This book is it. The author is a former Rhodes scholar who entered the Marines for reasons he describes and fought well, earning a number of commendations. He is one of our nations best. He went through hell, both physically and emotionally and is very open about his thoughts and experiences, and the guilt and other feelings afterwards. He describes the difficulties in making the transition back to normal life with a number of observations and suggestions which make a lot of sense and are worthy of being acted on. This book is a vital part of our nation???s history. Well-written and easy to follow.

    This is a very important book for anyone who wants to understand what the people who served in Vietnam went through, both in-country and on the home front when they got back. A must listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Jericho, VT, United States 12-13-11
    Ruth Jericho, VT, United States 12-13-11 Member Since 2011

    ManyGoldens

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    "Everyone should read this book!!!!!"
    What did you love best about What It Is Like to Go to War?

    It did just what the title said! It tells you what it is like. Not focused on blood and guts but whats going on in you head. What we are taught about killing and how we process that in war.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The references to historical great leaders in war and what they said about war.


    What does Bronson Pinchot bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Totally!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes and no. I hated to stop and yet I needed to take time out and think about it from time to time.


    Any additional comments?

    I think this should be mandatory for everyone to better understand our veterans, what they have been through, what they go through upon their return and how we can help to make it better for them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KEITH Canyon Country, CA, United States 10-22-11
    KEITH Canyon Country, CA, United States 10-22-11 Member Since 2010

    I have been listening to books on tape for over 20 years. Starting with audio tapes, then CD's and now downloads.

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    "What can Mr. Marlantes write next"

    I just finished this book after I listened to Matterhorn. Both were very good. I did enjoy Mr. Marlantes points of philosophy of helping the modern day warrior return to society. His real life examples were fascinating but realized they were also the stories he had written about in the Matterhorn. I like his writing and hope to see a non Vietnam story soon. By the end I thought some of his changes to the military was unrealistic but the reader will need to decide for themselves.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 12-04-13
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 12-04-13 Member Since 2011

    I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.

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    "War is a Haunting Condition"

    The author, Karl Marlantes, tells us that he suffers from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as do many other veterans who have been to war. PTSD is not a condition that has only war as its reason for presenting itself. Marlantes feels that men and women who go to war should be prepared by someone who is capable of explaining the horrors that are a part of war. The young men at age 18, who cannot drink, can go to war and kill. The government targets this young age group because this group, for the most part, have not even thought about their own mortality. They are READY to take up a weapon and wipe out those bastard's who flew into the NYC Twin Towers and killed upwards of 3000 men, women and children. Marlantes contends that before a person signs on the dotted line he or she should be told that they will face death if they go to war. We are raised in America to understand that life is precious. Our moral conscience is telling us that killing another human being is wrong and against God's law. Do unto other's as you would have them do unto you, that is the mantra that American's are raised on. Thou shalt not kill, is one of the commandments that we are taught from a very early age. Could you look another man, woman or child in the eyes and pull the trigger without consequences to your mind after coming home. Yes, soldier's are told to kill someone who is carrying an AK47 anywhere on their person by the DOD. The Taliban will use a child by strapping a bomb to her and detonating it while she stands around the American soldier's giving candy to the kid's in Afghanistan. The fundamentalist Afghan's put no value on life. While war is being fought, it's a known fact that one kills or is killed. Marlantes acknowledges that he felt powerful when he was able to kill someone. That power made him want to kill more.

    However, when a person's time in a war is over, he or she has to come home to a society that morally as well as criminally, will not condone killing. Walking through the battlefield after a conflict and gathering the dead in a pile, can make for some anxious and frightening dreams, whether awake or asleep. Taking a gun and aiming it at a fallen enemy who has not yet died and shooting him in the head, might create a feeling of power but at a later time may come back and haunt the man or woman who did the deed.

    Marlantes tells us that perhaps someone will listen and will at least provide our would-be soldier's with sufficient knowledge, allowing them to make a concerted decision about participating in a war. The Vietnam veterans were not given a choice, they were drafted. Marlantes tells us that the soldier's of today are better trained in the mechanics of warfare but are still lacking in the moral and spiritual ways that war can torment a veteran for life.

    Marlantes pulls no punches in his memoir. He is up front and honest. He hopes that maybe a young person who is considering joining the military will be given an opportunity to read his book. The warrior's of today need help before going to war, in the hopes that they will not suffer from PTSD after they come home.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Richard Delta, UT, United States 11-23-11
    Richard Delta, UT, United States 11-23-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Well written and thought out"

    I listened to Matterhorn and could not wait to get Karl Marlantes "What it is like to go to War. I was amazed at the people he referred to in his book, like John Bly. I have read his works "Iron John" many years ago and enjoyed them. I would read anything Marlantes writes he is a thinker and well versed. Well written thanks Marlantes. I even bought the book. Dick from Delta

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 03-29-15
    Richard 03-29-15 Member Since 2014

    Say something about yourself!

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    "A True Honor For Viet Nam"
    Would you listen to What It Is Like to Go to War again? Why?

    Here is the most powerful, balanced, mature description of the experience of Viet Nam from someone who was there and able to observe and evaluate his own experience in the past and retrospectively. Karl Marlantes brings the wisdom of highly educated man, and the courage of honest self-analysis that Freud would admire. The honesty of James Webb, the personal revelations of Tim O'Brian, the powerful effort a healing, and the drama, heroism, glory and stupidity of combat. Her draws from his contemporaneous experiences written down after and during missions. He exceeds the drama of Matterhorn because he gives us the full context of his life and he owns his own mistakes and vulnerabilities. Marlantes brings the resources of mythology, psychology, literature to bring the power of war and the experience of the returning young soldiers to allow us to feel their experience. No citizen, veteran or not, should vote on going to war without reading this book. We take responsibility for what happens to these young men. We should know what we are doing.

    Thank you Karl Marlantes.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    All these characters are human beings that did all the things that human beings do. They live through the author's memory and literary talent.


    Have you listened to any of Bronson Pinchot’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes, excellent as usual.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Mc. 03-23-15
    Heather Mc. 03-23-15 Member Since 2015

    I enjoy listening to audio books. I <3 Audible.

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    "the warrior has many psychological wars"

    This book is one man's experience in going to war with the Marines in Vietnam. It is heart wrenching and yet gives hope in the human condition. As a young and fairly recent veteran, I enjoyed hearing what he experienced and it gave me a chance to ponder my own experiences in the military and civilian d.o.d.

    There are many interjections of his current thoughts, ideas, and reflections. He references many texts of greek mythology and German mythology. Overall, it is a book I think most soldiers need to read/hear.

    Warning: There is some splitting of male and female or masculine and feminine that more recent vets may disagree with our fall to understand . But, I found it gentle and respectful, as a female. There is also some use of the Judeo-Christian ideas. Same gentleness applies.

    The reader has a sort of fitting, older wiser male soldier tone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Christina Madison 03-17-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Modern warrior perspective"

    intelligently written, the best first person perspective of war and fighting I have yet listened to. Also interesting thoughts on past, modern and future society. Narrator showed great respect for the subject matter. His performance helped add to the meaning of the authors story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tami Fowler Olathe KS 03-01-15
    Tami Fowler Olathe KS 03-01-15 Member Since 2012

    Tami Fowler

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    "Every soldier should read this book!"

    This book wasn't what I expected it would be but I enjoyed it none the less. I like the writings of CS Lewis in the "Problem of Pain, and that's what this author's style of writing reminded me of. Very intellectual and very enlightening. The narrator did a great job as well... Very enjoyable to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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