Karl Marlantes

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Karl Marlantes
Marlantes at the 2019 Texas Book Festival
Karl Arthur Marlantes

(1944-12-24) December 24, 1944 (age 78)
Alma mater
Notable work
Military career
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Service years1964–1970[2]
Rank First Lieutenant
Unit1st Battalion, 4th Marines
WarsVietnam War
AwardsNavy Cross

Karl Arthur Marlantes (born December 24, 1944) is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. He has written three books: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2010), What it is Like to go to War (2011), and Deep River (2019).


Early life[edit]

Marlantes grew up in Seaside, Oregon, a small, coastal logging town.[3][4] He played football and was student body president at Seaside High School, from which he graduated in 1963.[5] His father was the school principal.[6]

He won a National Merit Scholarship and attended Yale University, where he was a member of Jonathan Edwards College and Beta Theta Pi,[7] and played as wing forward in the rugby team.[8] During his time at Yale, Marlantes trained in the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class.[9] He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship at University College, Oxford.[10] He returned to Oxford after his military service and earned a master's degree.

Vietnam War[edit]

Marlantes left after one semester at Oxford to join active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He served during the Vietnam War with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines from October 1968 to October 1969,[9] and was awarded the Navy Cross for action in Vietnam in which he led an assault on a hilltop bunker complex.[11] He also served as an aerial observer while in Vietnam. Marlantes was also awarded a Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and 10 Air Medals.

He served another year of active duty at Marine Corps Headquarters after his combat tour.[12] He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.[13]

Marlantes is featured in Ken Burns' and Lynn Novick's 10-part documentary series, The Vietnam War (2017), where he reflects on his experiences during the war.[14]

Literary career[edit]

Marlantes is the author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2010). Sebastian Junger of The New York Times declared Matterhorn: "one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam - or any war".[15] It received the 2011 Washington State Book Award in the fiction category.[16] The novel is based on Marlantes' combat experience in the Vietnam War.[17]

His next book was "What It Is Like to Go to War," a biographical non-fiction work published in 2011 about his return to the civilian world and modern veteran life in general.[18]

Marlantes's novel Deep River (2019) was published in July 2019. It follows a Finnish family which flees Finland and settles in the Pacific Northwest in a logging community. The story examines the logging industry and labor movements of the early 1900s and rebuilding a family in America while balancing family tradition.[19]

Published works[edit]

  • Marlantes, K. (2010). Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780802119285.
  • —— (2011). What it is Like to Go to War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780802119926.
  • —— (2019). Deep River. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780802125385.


  1. ^ "Karl Marlantes". Chicago: Pritzker Military Library. 20 October 2011. Archived from the original on 26 November 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  2. ^ Q&A transcript 2011, "And that was in '64 and I started on active duty in '68 [and] I got out in '70".
  3. ^ "Karl Marlantes: 'Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War'" (Video). Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Chicago. September 23, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  4. ^ Baker, Jeff (September 10, 2011). "Seaside native Karl Marlantes follows up his celebrated novel Matterhorn". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "Seaside Reunion 1965". Seaside, Oregon: Seaside HS class of 1965. October 2, 2010. Archived from the original on February 18, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Q&A transcript 2011, "Well my dad was a high school teacher and then later became the principal, much to my chagrin".
  7. ^ "Six Fraternities Select Members". Yale Daily News. No. 24. October 15, 1964. p. 6. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  8. ^ "Ruggers close season against New York RC". Yale Daily News. No. 140. May 11, 1967. p. 6. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Q&A with Karl Marlantes | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  10. ^ "Yale Seniors Win Rhodes, NCAA Awards". Yale Daily News. No. 86. January 1, 1967. p. 3. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  11. ^ "Karl A. Marlantes". Military Times. Hall of Valor Project. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  12. ^ Q&A transcript 2011, "... after the war, I was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps".
  13. ^ Q&A transcript 2011, "... and when he finally got me back into some semblance of control he said you've got PTSD".
  14. ^ The Vietnam War at IMDb
  15. ^ Junger, Sebastian (April 1, 2010). "The Vietnam Wars: Matterhorn". The New York Times Book Review.
  16. ^ Gwinn, Mary Ann (September 15, 2011). "2011 Washington State Book Awards winners". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  17. ^ Kurutz, Steven (May 31, 2010). "Karl Marlantes On His 30-Year Quest To Publish 'Matterhorn'". The Wall Street Journal.
  18. ^ Samet, Elizabeth D. (September 16, 2011). "Coming to Terms With the Experience of Combat". New York Times Sunday Book Review. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  19. ^ "Deep River (Hardcover) | Politics and Prose Bookstore". www.politics-prose.com. Retrieved January 12, 2020.


External links[edit]