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Loon: A Marine Story by Jack McLean

Loon: A Marine Story (2009)

by Jack McLean

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7416162,398 (3.95)7
Title:Loon: A Marine Story
Authors:Jack McLean
Info:Presidio Press (no date), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:@requested: early reviewers, @wishlist: to read

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Loon by Jack McLean (2009)


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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
A disappointing purchase and way over-priced.

One of the really positive benefits of the self-publishing revolution has been the number of memoirs being published. Obviously many not polished, but interesting and of considerable historical value. Some are very good, indeed. Others less so. This one felt like a book one expects to have been self published; I looked, and was surprised to see the Random House imprint.

Mclean, who was at Andover with George Bush, (of National Guard and cocaine fame,) struggled through Andover and when he wasn’t accepted by Harvard or Yale, or Stanford, was at a loss as to what to do. So he enlisted in the Marines. He was born just a month before me, so the dates brought back many memories. Getting out of Parris Island, he was sent to California for a few months to learn supply, much to his relief, but everyone in the Marines eventually wound up in Vietnam, and, sure enough, his orders for that quagmire came through.

Mclean was urged to write this memoir when his wife discovered the letters he had written home over the months he was in Vietnam. The very short section, barely a couple chapters, dealing with the horrific, if futile, experience on LZ Loon, was seemingly thrown in almost as an afterthought, rather than the highpoint (or low-) of his experience, his life even. Clearly the experience of writing for him personally must have been necessary and cathartic, I hope.

There is a good story in here and perhaps with a good editor, it could have been teased out. Some chapters are very well written but often there was little transition to the next. The book as a whole lacked focus and at times wandered between being critical and stand-up-salute-your-flag bravado. Finding a theme was difficult. There are many other Vietnam memoirs out there that I feel are much better. And I got a little tired of hearing that Sid was dead six weeks, two days, several weeks, later. Once has devastating impact. By the fourth time, it brought a yawn. ( )
  ecw0647 | Jun 27, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jack McLean's Vietnam memoir looks at his tour as a Marine at the height of the America's involvement in the war. The book is from a fairly unique perspective; McLean enlisted after prep school, taking a route that most of his classmates avoided.

McLean splits his time between introspection and full-on machismo. The former lends some poignant moments to the narrative, especially near the end, as he looks back at the emotional wounds. The latter — which pops up mostly when McLean writes about his unit's action at LZ Loon — takes the form of rattling James Patterson-esque chest beating. It almost seems like McLean's terseness in the prose reflects his surroundings; that doesn't make it any easier to read, though.

The whole package works in the end, though, despite the shortcomings. It might not be as good as similar books by Tim O'Brien or Phil Caputo, but it's still a good effort overall. ( )
  wordsampersand | May 13, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'll be honest, when I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, I couldn't remember why I requested it. It's a book about Viet Nam, and I am not a reader of war stories. My grandfathers were both war veterans, but neither my parents nor any of my sisters were in the military. I have no real interest in the military or reading about war. I actually dreaded reading the book.

Until I opened it and read the first few pages.

I couldn't put it down. I started it last night before bed and finished it about a half an hour ago. I haven't sped through a book that fast in recent memory. The book isn't too long, about 250 pages, but it is intense, and it will keep you turning the pages. I was enthralled. It's a fictionalized memoir, I guess you could call it. The events are true, but some of the dialogue was created by the author, since it would have been all but impossible to recall the exact details of conversations held 40 years ago.

The book tells the story of McLean's enlistment in the Marines and his subsequent tour of duty in Viet Nam. McLean came from a place of privilege, private school and money. The kids in his graduating class went to college to avoid the draft, but McLean actually signed up for service. The story details his basic training, his first assignment in supply school, learning computerized inventory systems, and his eventual shipping off to Viet Nam to see action "in the shit."

I'll say it again, I was enthralled. Not being a reader of war stories, I haven't read anything about the Viet Nam war. My senior year English teacher in high school lived through Viet Nam and read us snippets of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, but that was the extent of my knowledge of the war. I don't even remember learning that much about it in history (except the mention of the domino effect theory in the book did ring some bells).

I'm so, so glad I read this book. It was touching and scary and fascinating, all in one. I cried at several points during the story. I give it five out of five Whatevers. LOVED it. I recommend this to just about anyone: those who remember Viet Nam or those who, like me, need to learn more about it. It is pretty scary, so it's not for young kids, but other than that, go for it. ( )
1 vote Lexi2008 | Mar 15, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The dialogue seemed trite and too well-worn, like you could drum up any war movie and hear the same conversations. Memoirs can be a tough sell and there are too many good ones out there to waste your time on the merely mediocre. If "war memoirs" are your one and only love then this is probably a good fit. ( )
  jadfair | Jul 26, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Loon is a memoir of the author's experiences in the Marine Corps from 1966-1968. It begins with a review of his life leading up to his enlisting in the Corps and the fact that boys like him did not enlist in the military, much less go to Vietnam. He made his way through Philips Academy in Andover, Mass. His classmates made their way to Ivy League schools. Jack McLean went to Parris Island and became a Marine.

In between tales of boot camp, his first year stateside involved in logistics work, McLean mixes in vignettes contrasting civilian experiences with his own. It provides a fascinating view of the spirit of the times.

In the end, the author ends up in Vietnam serving in a quiet locale for the most part, until ending his term involved in fierce fighting at Landing Zone Loon. McLean spends little time speaking of his own experience of the battle, rather focusing on the other men of his company and their acts of leadership and courage under fire. One gets the sense that he underplays his own experience to give a wider view of the battle. It is, ultimately, more a tale of people and only briefly scans the tactical and strategic situation.

I enjoyed the book very much. The author provides a view of the Vietnam War in America that seamlessly contrasts between the military and civilian viewpoint and his own thoughts at the time and in retrospect. It is very readable and a solid addition to any collection covering Vietnam. ( )
  AIM-54 | Jul 23, 2009 |
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For my mother,
Martha Lamb McLean
First words
June 6, 1968. It had been a long day, and dawn had yet to break.
My lesson for that day was that the line between life and death was random and arbitrary. I elected not to shre that revelation with my mother.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345510151, Hardcover)

Book Description
A lyrical memoir of a prep school boy who creates his own path to higher learning: enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, fighting in Vietnam, and then studying at Harvard.

Kids like me don’t go to Vietnam.

Raised in suburban New Jersey, Jack McLean attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, with George W. Bush. After graduation, and eager for change, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. At the time, Vietnam was a country and not a war.

In Loon, McLean takes readers from Andover’s privileged campus, to the infamous Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, to the battle at Landing Zone Loon in the rugged hills along Vietnam’s Laotian border. During that period, Jack transformed from a sheltered boy, into a Marine, and ultimately into one of a handful of survivors of a horrific three-day assault during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War.

Richly textured and full of action-packed battle scenes, Loon is a piercingly honest and beautifully written story of an infantry Marine and his comrades as they face the challenges of boot camp, stateside service and, ultimately, war. It neither glorifies nor mystifies. It simply tells the story, and in so doing, teaches us a great deal about courage, honor, sacrifice, and is a powerful portrait of a period of American history.

An Essay by Author Jack McLean

The seeds for Loon: A Marine Story were planted in 1993. I was working in Washington, D.C. Bill Negron, our company commander in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Division, was teaching English as a Second Language to Vietnamese children in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I’d had no contact with my marine buddies since I departed Vietnam in July 1968. I had been a corporal serving out the final weeks of my enlistment. Negron had been a captain beginning his second tour in Vietnam.

Over time, I was able to locate him and write the following letter:

Dear Skipper,

There must be little in you that could recall me after twenty-five years back in the world, but your memory rekindles in me often in a most positive way.

I was visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial last night saying yet another fond good evening to our many friends. It’s been twenty-five years since those awful three days that we spent in June 1968 on LZ Loon. The Wall has a lot of black marble dedicated to the memory of our company mates.

I have lost touch with everyone that was with us. I pushed the experience out of me for many years. Time has smoothed out the rough edges, however, and I am increasingly interested in trying to figure out what in the world was going on over there and how others of us have reacted over time.

What happened with you? Perhaps you were awarded a Navy Cross or a Silver Star. I can think of no one, Skipper, who upheld higher standards of character under fire than you did. You were an exceptional leader and I owe you my life for getting us off that hill.

Bill’s reply arrived several weeks later.

Dear Jack,

There is still a part of my memory left that recalls you, not many of my troopers left Vietnam to go to Harvard. I haven’t heard from more than two or three guys who survived “Loon.”

I’ve only been to the wall once; it was one of those snowy cold winter days that shuts D.C. down. My tears froze on my face. Yes, Charlie Company is well represented in black marble. It is up to us, the living to keep their memory alive. We must remember them as they were, laughing, talking, having a beer.

I returned to Vietnam in 1973, my third tour. I guess I got pretty burnt out and became a real problem for my family and the Cops. I did manage to eventually retire in 1981 as a Lieutenant Colonel. My first wife divorced me because she thought I was a little “f***ed up,” she was probably right.

P.S. I was nominated for a Navy Cross, but it was downgraded to a Silver Star. I’m very proud of my Silver Star.

Several days later, I was surprised to receive the following letter from Bill’s wife Myrna:

Dear Jack,

The letter you wrote my husband, Bill Negron, brought him to tears. He believes very strongly that his kids from Vietnam may be suffering. He feels responsible for every man that served with him that didn’t make it home.

Seeking Bill out was important to him. He is proud of you, and I think that’s important for you to know. I wish he could hear from other men that were with him. I never fully understood the meaning of closure or PTSD until I met Bill and other Vets from Vietnam. If you know of any other men that served with you, I’m sure Bill would like to know they made it home.

Bill Negron is probably the toughest, kindest, gentlest man on earth. This is the man I married and the man you fought next to in Vietnam. He is a proud American, and very proud of you too.

From that moment, Bill Negron and I began to track down the lost boys of Charlie Company one by one. Tens years later, I was driven to write our story. It has been at once the most glorious and humbling experience of my life.

A Look Inside Loon

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Combat Boots A View of LZ Loon A Young Jack McLean

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Nothing could have prepared privileged-boy Jack McLean for the horror of Landing Zone Loon--a three-day battle that took place on a remote hill tucked into the border of North Vietnam and Laos in June 1968, killing twenty-seven men, wound nearly one hundred others, and leave several dozen survivors to defend an ever-shrinking perimeter with little water or ammo. A powerful coming-of-age portrait that defines some of the most tumultuous events in our history, both in Vietnam and back home.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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