Monday, June 12, 2023

Winter Marines, The (aka Winter's Coming, Winter's Gone)

Allen Glick served two tours of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps during America's involvement in the Vietnam War. He survived the 1968 TET Offensive and the siege of Khe Sahn. After the war, he became a master carpenter, and a high school English teacher. During this time, Glick was also a writer, penning four original novels. Based on his Vietnam War experience, he authored the fictional novel Winter's Coming, Winter's Gone. The book was originally published in 1984 as a hardcover by Eakin Press, but thankfully was reprinted as The Winter Marines, a mass market paperback by Bantam in 1987. It is now available in ebook format. 

At nearly 350-pages, The Winter Marines, is divided into two time periods featuring protagonist David Schrader. The first-half thrusts the nineteen-year old Schrader into the steamy, war-torn jungles of Vietnam in 1966. The book's second-half focuses on Schrader's post-war civilian life in Austin, Texas in 1979. Separating the two halves is a 20-page layover with Schrader in Florida in 1972. 

In Vietnam, Glick's experiences are conveyed to the reader through the fictional, battle-weary eyes of young David Schrader. Through the grueling patrols, intense firefights, bombings, and death, the narrative explores Schrader's resolve in battle and his camaraderie with his fellow soldiers. The author focuses on Vietnam's history, with a South Vietnamese family man named Li relaying his family's role in Vietnam's military campaigns, including the violent French involvement, to Schrader and his brothers-in-arms. There is some racial tension in the book's opening half which explores the Latino, African-American, and Caucasian bitterness, both a disturbing plot point and a reminder of just how far from home and far apart the Americans were despite the togetherness during the battle.

Post-war, Schrader's job as a bartender in Texas is a stark contrast to commanding soldiers and coordinating airstrikes using multi-million dollar equipment. Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, Schrader is suffering with PTSD. Exhausted from nightmares and a lack of sleep, Schrader's life is a cycle of lethargic, pointless activities that challenge his ability to simply rise and exist each day. Thankfully, he has a love interest and a close friendship with one of his war buddies. This second-half of Glick's narrative explores the fringes of drug abuse, alcoholism, and criminality, but shines a spotlight on the unfair condemnation heaped on Schrader and his fellow soldiers back home. Sadly, it's an accurate, historic look at a dark place in American history. 

If you are a military-fiction or non-fiction scholar, The Winter Marines is an obligatory read. There are plenty of autobiographies and accounts of the Vietnam War from many different perspectives. But, from the little I've read, Allen Glick's is one of the most realistic and alarming. While sometimes a tough read, it can also be an encouraging one. Highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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