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Loon: A Marine Story

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  50 reviews
“Kids like me didn’t go to Vietnam,” writes Jack McLean in his compulsively readable memoir. Raised in suburban New Jersey, he attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, but decided to put college on hold. After graduation in the spring of 1966, faced with the mandatory military draft, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for a two-year stint. “Vietnam at the t ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Larry Bassett
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Larry by: Terry
Shelves: war, memoir
My daughter Anna and author Jack McLean had something in common. They each decided that there was something important s/he wanted to do before beginning college. Anna wanted to go to Cambodia and work in an orphanage. Jack wanted to join the Marines and serve in Vietnam. Each one took the time to pursue and reach their goal. Eventually, with the goal achieved, Anna went to the University of Virginia and Jack went to Harvard.

This is another story about Vietnam. It is not a novel. It is nonfiction
Its style is hard to get into, as this author is not a writer. Most of it seems in a voice rather detached and stilted, from decades later than the events. And that aspect and affect dropped my interest considerably by the half way point of this book. Still, it is a very easy read, although I found that I could not linger in the Loon stand.

Being of that era and prime year for nearly every male of my age that I knew to be drafted, I found some of his judgments and conclusions about who went and
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam
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,)
Scott Whitmore
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having finished Loon: A Marine Story by Jack McLean just a few hours ago, I was frankly at a loss as to how to start this review. Adjectives such as “exceptional” and “sublime” are accurate enough, and yet somehow do not convey the depth of my enjoyment and admiration for this memoir of a young man who left a life of comfort and privilege to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at a time when combat duty in Vietnam was all but certain.

Finally, I decided to rely on my own years in uniform and
Nick Vanderwal
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I did not read this book in order to publish a critique on the author's literary style or lack thereof. I am completely baffled why anyone would bother to do that. I did read this book in order to gain a perspective on the author's experience. We are/were contemporaries. I wore a different uniform and was in a nearby country. I had high school friends, two very close, several just casually close who wore his uniform and were in the same area as the author was and during the same time frame. All ...more
Ron Wroblewski
Another book that I can totally identify with. Jack was in Vietnam a year before I was. We covered a lot of the same territory. I too was at bases along Rt 9 - Camp Carroll, VCB, Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Khe Sanh. I too had to leap out of the back of heliocopters who wouldn't set their wheels down on the earth, I too walked through elephant grass that was 8 feet or more tall. I too was mortared by the NVA and I too served in the 4th Marines. I could picture in my mind all his movements. Because of th ...more
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great look at the Vietnam war. It is told in a personable voice that makes you root for Jack the whole way through. This book was one of the better memoirs I have ever read.
Brinn Colenda
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I have seen a lot of war movies and read a lot of war books...Loon ranks up there with the very best.

In 1967, Jack McLean enlisted in the Marines right out of a prestigious prep school rather than go to college. The book is about the path he took at the height of the Vietnam War which took him into combat as an infantryman.

McLean is an articulate and perceptive writer (having later attended Harvard) and spins a great memoir. He captures the essence (and dissonance) of what the war was like
Apr 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McLean pulls you right into the jungles of Vietnam with his memoir. It is compelling, gripping and humbling to read of the horrors of a war that was played out by our young men. No matter what you think or thought of the Vietnam War, this is a must read. The only way to sum it up is to say thank you to McLean and all of the others that answered the call to duty.
John Roy Dampier
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Agenda or just ignorant...

"Lém arrested Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Tuan with his family and forced him to show them how to drive tanks.[6] When Lieutenant Colonel Tuan refused to cooperate, Lém killed Tuan, his wife and six children and his 80-year-old mother by cutting their throats. There was only one survivor, a seriously injured 10-year-old boy.[7]

Lém was captured near a mass grave with 34 civilian bodies. Lém admitted that he was proud to carry out his unit leader's order to kill these peopl
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking book. I was born in 1954, female and pretty sheltered but I did live through this time. I have a brother who is 6 years older and I can still remember the collective family sigh of relief when the draft #s were published in the paper and we all realized his was very high and he was relatively safe. Many thanks to the men and women who went to Vietnam and served. They were treated badly when they came home. Books like this help me understand that ...more
Allan Macmanes
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

This was a great book of a difficult time in USA history. A very good account of what it was like to grow up 18 years old in 1967. I would like to thank the author for his service (about 50 years) to late. God bless you and all who have served and will serve our country.
Pat Appel
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It brought back to many memories

I come to realize that I was at Parris Island in the 3rd Bn the same time as Jack McLean. My tour in Vietnam paralleled his exactly. His description of Vietnam was exactly the way it was.
Brian O'mahony
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greater than the sum of its parts

Mostly about the mundane involved in the Vietnam experience. It accentuates the stark difference when things went off the rails. Worth your time. I figure that’s what matters most though, right?
Elizabeth Kuhn
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A vivid and important story

We still may not understand why we were in this war, but it is important to understand why so many are willing to sacrifice in service of our country.
Incredible detail in a very relatable story from Jack as a young man.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read.

I was with 3rd battalion 9 th Marines. in Vietnam in August of 67. Great book as I can relate to the authenticity and accuracy of this book.
greg mcqueen
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible le

You will always wonder why me and not the other guy enjoyed the book temper fi, you kept me up all night
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book. Interesting to hear about the author's experience in Vietnam. ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compelling read by a member of my generation. Vietnam was our war and Jack McLean describes the war and his part in it in precise, gripping prose.
Jwt Jan50
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, biography, vietnam
A number of the guys I went to school with chose this option. All but one were fortunate to return. So I try to read at least one of these every year.
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very succinct. Avoids political comments (for the most part). Would have been better with a map or two.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Loon" is short, considering it's compilation of Viet Nam experience, conveyed initially in letters home that the author had let marinate for 35 years before typing up as memoir. It is a uniquely American story--from the privileged Baby Boomer adolescence through elite prep school, with station wagons and "Leave it to Beaver"--right up to the moment McLean opts to enlist in the Marine Corps. There he finds moral dilemmas and the "cooperate and graduate" socialization of Basic Training, as well a ...more
Steve Woods
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam-war
This is a very straightforward memoir by an infantry corporal. There are no histrionics but it has none the less impact for that, it's honesty carries it. The man was no doubt a matter of fact soldier who knew his craft and simply got on with it like so many I knew. There is no crying in the beer but reading between the lines, his tour of duty cost him as it did almost anyone who saw combat there. I did not serve in the area of the country where he saw his service though having spent time in tho ...more
8/9/2012: "Loon" is fascinating as much for what it DOESN'T tell as for what it does. McLean published this memoir in 2009, about his experiences as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War (1966-69). He says that he leaned heavily on letters he'd written home for a lot of the narrative--which makes sense, since he's writing 40 years after the events he describes. But there is so much he glosses over; while he marvels at the horror and terror and grief he experienced, and even gives some gory detail ...more
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Loon. It's a pretty typical memoir, told from the eyes of Jack McLean who was the first Vietnam veteran to attend Harvard after serving in Vietnam. It's a very well written book. It doesn't dwell on anything too long and does a great job of mixing informative back-story with compelling firsthand narrative. Many times, memoirs get bogged down in one area of the author's history that he really wants to explore, and consequentially the entirety of his reading audience is forced to ...more
An very well written look at the Vietnam war through the eyes on one young Marine. I was born in the late 1960's, so was just a baby and toddler during Vietnam, but I have always been interested in this time period and in this war. Mr. McLean's book gives an insider's look at one part of this war, and shows with honesty what life was like before, during and after this time. All of our veteran's from Vietnam deserve our honor and respect, something they were not given when they returned home year ...more
The Skinny:
A book about a Marine fighting for his life during the Vietnam War.

The Fat:
This book was sad. It's about the Vietnam War, so many people died and the soldiers have to consistently fight for their lives. McLean started readers off right in the middle of the action before backtracking to tell people the how and why he was in Vietnam during the war. As many other readers will say, writing is not necessarily McLean's strong point. I had to read this book for class, and overall it wasn't a
Jason Panella
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
Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone over age 10
Recommended to Su by: first reads
I was fortunate to receive this book as a "first reads" and probably would not have picked this off the bookshelf.After finishing this book, I find myself wanting to discuss what the author so eloquently writes in the last chapter.I was old enough to know what the news told me about Viet Nam, but not really engaged in what was going on in 1968. Jack McLean's account of his experiences are heartfelt and gripping. Although his descrption of the battle at LZ Loon are realistically sickening, his n ...more
Walter Stevens
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
It covers McLean's 2 years in the Marines (1 year in Vietnam), as well as a smattering about his schooling prior (Andover) and his entering Harvard after.

The writing style isn't bad - it communicates his experiences well. Given the hints he drops about how it carried this history with him form any years, I expected some coverage of that, or some reflection on the experience beyond some hints of why it may have been not a great war for the US to have jumped into. Although perhaps this is because
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