Sunday, October 31, 2010
Karl Marlantes - Matterhorn
Karl Marlantes' book on Vietnam has rightly become a huge bestseller. On one level, the story is identical to a million other Vietnam war novels and films. A young, inexperienced, arrogant young Lieutenant, Mellas, reaches Vietnam, determined that his military experience (and his natural leadership skills learnt at a good college) will stand him well for a political career post war. Leading a company of 200 men in Vietnam would look good on his resume. There's a great little moment in the novel when one of the other soldiers, a black marine, asks what a resume is. Then laughs at the notion that a bit of paper would help you get a job.
This gulf between worlds is quickly overcome for Mellas and the other newbies on the front line. Living in soaking wet foxholes, constantly plagued by leeches, enemy fire and a shortage of food, while being expected to follow the most insane of orders quickly teaches you something about your own army, and your fellow troops. But the Gulf between officers and grunts isn't easily overcome, particularly when those officers rarely leave the home comforts of their command sites, way behind the lines.