Matterhorn (novel)

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Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
Matterhorn (Karl Marlantes novel) cover art.jpg
AuthorKarl Marlantes
CountryUnited States
GenreWar novel
PublisherEl Leon Literary Arts / Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication date
first edition (May 2009) / revised edition (March 2010)
Media typeHardcover
Followed byWhat It Is Like To Go To War 

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War is a novel by American author and decorated Marine Karl Marlantes. It was first published by El Leon Literary Arts in 2009 (in small quantity) and re-issued (and slightly edited) as a major publication of Atlantic Monthly Press[1] on March 23, 2010.[2]

Marlantes is a graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar. He is also a highly decorated Marine who served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten Air Medals. He spent 30 years working on the novel, which was rejected for publication numerous times.[3]


The book is set in Vietnam in 1969 and draws from the experiences of Marlantes, who commanded a Marine rifle platoon. The novel looks at the hardships endured by the Marines who waged the war on behalf of America.[4] It concerns the exploits of second lieutenant Waino Mellas, a recent college graduate, and his compatriots in Bravo Company, most of whom are teenagers. "Matterhorn" is the code name for a fire-support base in Quảng Trị Province, on the border between Laos and the Vietnamese DMZ. At the beginning of the novel, the Marines build the base, but later they are ordered to abandon it. The latter portions of the novel detail the struggles of Bravo Company to retake the base, which fell into enemy hands after it was abandoned.


Matterhorn received high praise from many critics. In the New York Times Sebastian Junger called it, " of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam—or any war."[5]

Matterhorn was Amazon's "Book of the Month" for March 2010, and debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in April 2010.[6][7] It won the 2011 William E. Colby Award, was ranked No. 7 Fiction in Time's Best Books of the Year (2010). It was one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year (2010). It was an ALA Notable Book (2010), won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award (2011), won the Indies Choice Book Award (Adult Debut, 2011) and won the 2010 John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize.


It is probable[citation needed] that the fictional Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division of the novel was Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. The engagement at "Matterhorn" was probably the attack on "LZ Mack" Hill 484, and Hill 400 on 1–6 March 1969. With Lima Company 3rd Battalion 4th Marines in reserve (and its battalion commander, Lt. Col. Donald taking charge), two platoons from Charlie Company fought several times to reach and secure the summit, taking 15 or more casualties with at least seven killed in action, including a Canadian Marine, CPL George Victor Jmaeff, acting as platoon sergeant, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.[8][9] The author, First Lieutenant Karl Marlantes, who was the Executive Officer of Charlie Company, was also awarded the Navy Cross.[10] Hills 484 and 400 had been occupied at a cost of 20 killed in action, and many wounded, by companies of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in September–October 1966 and then abandoned.[11][5]


  1. ^ "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War". April 2010. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  2. ^ Marlantes, Karl (2010). Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (9780802119285): Karl Marlantes: Books. ISBN 978-0802119285.
  3. ^ Steven Kurutz (2010-05-31). "Karl Marlantes On His 30-Year Quest To Publish 'Matterhorn'". WSJ.
  4. ^ "Amazon page for Karl Marlantes". Amazon. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  5. ^ a b Junger, Sebastian (2010-04-04). "The Vietnam Wars: 'Matterhorn'". The New York Times.
  6. ^ New York Times, Best Seller, Fiction (hardcover), [1]| Matterhorn, April 23, 2010| accessdate=27 April 2010
  7. ^ "Karl Marlantes: The Long Road to Publication". 2010-03-07. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  8. ^ "Virtual Wall". Virtual Wall. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  9. ^ U.S. Marines In Vietnam, High Mobility And Standdown, 1969 by Charles R. Smith History And Museums Division Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps Washington, D.C. 1988
  10. ^ "Navy Cross Citation". 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  11. ^ "USMC Combat Helicopter Association". Archived from the original on 2010-12-03. Retrieved 2010-10-29.

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