I wrote this piece about two years ago after reading this intriguing book. It was a semi fictional tale of soldiers during the Vietnam War. Anyway I’m posting this to give everyone a last minute gift idea. A war buff would enjoy this book.
I read a great book on the Vietnam War called, “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes, who was actually a Vietnam veteran. The book is fictional but Marlantes uses some actual experiences to back up the storyline. This is not your typical war story, in that it focuses on a brotherhood of soldiers that struggle with government orders and even sometimes themselves. When these soldiers fight together in the jungle, they share in the same struggles such as bug problems, bouts of depression, limited rations and ammo. They often are disappointed especially when helicopters were unable to fly in with relief and supplies. This helicopter issue led the soldiers to distrust their commanding generals as well as the government and they started to wonder why they were fighting here. Even though they fought bravely, it was during their down time that most controversial issues during the era came full circle. One such issue during this era was racism and Marlantes gave a vivid representation of this in the military. The black soldiers usually separated themselves from the white soldiers and tensions rose to such a degree, that it often became violent. Despite all these struggles, however, they attempted and succeeded in recapturing the hill, Matterhorn, which they previously were told to abandon.
One thing I really found interesting in this book is how much the government intervened and manipulated statistics of the war. Marlantes showed a great example of how the government used propaganda by pointing out the inconsistencies of the kill counts of the Vietcong. He recounts a story when he was in the thick jungle along with fellow soldiers and they hear at least 2 enemies and shots rang out. They know they killed 1 enemy but weren’t too sure about the 2nd one. They relay this information to a commander who bumps up these kills by 2 or 3, as instructed by the government, and as the info goes up the ranks they keep adding more and more kills. By the time it got to the highest ranking general it was recorded as 10 kills. So, once this info reaches the public, it wrongfully displays that we were significantly destroying the enemy and winning the war, exactly what the government was trying to show. As Marlantes inferred, many times they were often outnumbered and they lost a lot of men.