10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Inept
After watching the mini series on DVD I ordered this book with no small amount of trepidation, the actual series was fantastic, I was totally enthralled by the characters and the often life threatening situations they found themselves in, so when I ordered the book I hoped it would live up to the series... It did and them some, the level of detail, the realism you could...
Published on 8 Sep 2008 by David Mcdonald
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Passes the time but it's all been said before...
I bought this as a background to the upcoming run on TV and it kept me out of trouble for a while. Most of what it says; most bombs and bullets miss their targets, some leaders can't lead, some people enjoy the rush of a good firefight, our troops die because the equipment we give them is either second rate or runs out of batteries, lots of innocent people get killed and...
Published on 8 Mar 2009 by J. H. Jones
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Generation Inept,
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new classic,
Some of the things that set this book apart is Wright's proximity to the fighting - recklessly close - in addition to his use of First Recon's unofficial nicknames for certain officers, which allows Wright to expose their misjudgements or downright incompetence in some cases.
The battle plan is to put the doctrine of "maneuver warfare" into practice, with First Recon leading the charge straight into and through enemy positions, destroying any resistance and then moving on without bothering to secure the area. The idea is to move quickly and wrong foot the defending forces and in this the plan is a stunning success.
Not that the Marines of First Recon have any idea what the plan is. Wright chronicles a story of chronic equipment failures, constantly changing orders and stimulant-fueled extreme violence. Just make sure you're clean shaven when you enter Bagdhad. There is no plan for what happens after that.
A good compliment to this book is "The March Up" by Bing West and Major General Ray L. Smith, which tells the story of the entire 1st Marine Division's invasion of Iraq and capture of Baghdad from the point of view of a senior career Marine officer.
Keep in mind that both of these books are about the invasion of Iraq. There are hints of the coming chaos of the occupation, but both books end with the capture of Baghdad. Highly recommended.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding War Reportage,
This review is from: Generation Kill (Hardcover)If in relation to the two Gulf Conflicts, you were left feeling the news coverage (TV and media) and subsequent "military history" copy was too removed from what actually happened on the ground and the few personal stories by actual combatants either were too much ex-SAS adult Boys Own stories or when they were honest depictions of the experience(notably "Jarhead"), were limited in helping you understand the wider context in which events unfolded at the front, then this book is likely to answer your prayers.
The writer was a US journalist on assigment from the unlikely source of Rolling Stone magazine sent to the Gulf before the most recent Conflict occurred. He was allowed to be a full team member of a platoon of the elite US Marine Reconnaissance Group from the beginning to the end of the fighting (for reasons that are not fully explained given his non-combatant experience and the personal risks he would face). This unit was used by the US military command to operate as a mobile Humvee motorised group and continually probe forward of US lines to identify Iraqi military defences and engage them in firefights as the main US forces advanced to Baghdad. This in itself was a role reversal for an elite unit trained as the name implies to operate like the SAS and usually observe in secret enemy positions and only engage in fighting when deemed necessary (which had been their immediately preceding role in Afghanistan).
This book is outstanding for many reasons, including:
1. It is extremely well written by a correspondent who both observed and recorded the many different elements and forces at play, and is thus not just a record of what he saw. In so doing, he succeeds in conveying what it was like to be in the front line in this Conflict.
2. By being a constant passenger in the Platoon Leader's Humvee he saw how the fighting affected the team members plus can provide a unique insight of how command chains operate and decisions get made in the rapid unfolding of such mobile conflicts. Prime targets are the poor ground radio telecommunications systems (despite the hi-tech gloss given to the war in formal military briefings) and a number of more senior staff who for obvious reasons to any reader are referred to by nickname only!
3. He objectively covers the endless military errors and mistakes from chickens imported to detect chemical attacks but who all die in the first sand storms before the fighting started to poor equipment supplies (lubricant for the Humvees main guns given the constant sandstorms faced making them inoperable at several critical times and batteries for the body heat scanning detectors, which all upped the risks for the platoon in fighting) plus the experience of "friendly fire" (both US airforce and artillery) and the CIA's botched effort at using a sponsored Iraqi emigre army sadly reminiscent of the Bay of Pigs.
4. Given how events have unfolded in Iraq (and elsewhere) since this conflict ended, the book shows a number of warning signs that were ignored from the start of the war - the continual disappearing of the Iraqi army into civilians dress whenever they are attacked, with little attempt made to capture them; the main fighting being with foreign Jihad volunteers as a result (with little attempt from the start to try and identify and isolate them as they moved freely around the country) and the immediate collapse of order and ensuing anarchy and domestic violence as the Saddam regime infrastructure was removed at each town and village level.
While not an enjoyable or pleasant story, I have not read such an outstanding example of front line war reportage since Michael Herr's "Despatches" on Vietnam - I hope the book enjoys great success and recognition for its achievements as a result.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid war book,
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like the cover says - up there with Dispatches,
Well, I'm half way through this book and it's fantastic. It's well written and intelligent. It tries to show the war as it really was, not only for the soldiers who fought in it but also the civilians. Wright spent the war in the back seat of a recon Marine Hummvee and had little or no access to the bigger picture. So, writing from the grunt's point of view, he conveys the confusion, boredom, irritations and occasional mind numbing fear of the ordinary squaddies' experience of a fast moving mechanised conflict.
There is a tendency for non-Americans to think of the US soldier as a dimwitted trigger happy moron - a Mickey Mouse soldier as one reviewer here put it. It is quite clear from Evan Wright's treatment that, while the military takes what it gets in terms of manpower, the cliche can be discounted. Some of the people he spent his two months with were, perhaps dim-witted or trigger happy but many were thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive, coming from a variety of backgrounds and there for a variety of reasons.
Yes, this is a record of the MTV generation at war, but I don't think that, at heart, the soldiers were that different from the ones written about by Michael Herr or photographed by Tim Page. Generation Kill is a valuable record, but perhaps also a reminder that, maybe we haven't really come that far in the last 40 years. It's also a bl00dy good read!
By the way, the TV series seems pretty faithful to the book, to the point that some of the main actors even look like the real life characters in the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Read,
This review is from: Generation Kill (Paperback)To sum it up in a brief sentence; I've never read a book like it. Every page, paragraph, sentence and word I was hooked from start to finish. Evan Wright is a truly gifted writer that managed to capture the raw brutality of War and the mixture of emotions that come with it to create a book that taught you so much whilst entertaining you at the very same time. Laughter, horror and raw sadness were just some of the emotions I was put through as a result of reading this book. In its context, I struggle to find a flaw with this perfectly crafted, deeply honest account of Wrights time accompanying the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the United States Marine Corps during the invasion of Iraq.
Initially released as a three part series featured in Rolling Stone magazine, author Evan Wright was placed with Recon Marines to follow them and take an account of the invasion of Iraq. As with most journalists, you would expect Wright to be placed at the back out of the way of any danger, but during the entire book, Wright is smack bang in the middle of the war which has undoubtedly won him the respect he gained. Throughout the time Wright spends with the Marines, he reveals a purely brutal atmosphere that is both comical and frightening at the same time.
The team Wright spends most of his travelling time with in a Humvee consist of Sergeant Brad `Iceman' Colbert, Corporal Josh Ray Person, Corporal Harold James Trombley and Corporal Gabe Garza (switched a short time after with Corporal Walt Hasser). Although these are the main team, there are a lot more secondary characters mentioned in the book drawn from Second Platoon and some come across a bit more interesting. Sergeant Antonio Espera or First Lieutenant Nathaniel `Nate' Fick are the two more interesting secondary characters whose parts I really enjoyed reading. The incompetence of the higher ups in Second Platoon comes across quite shockingly to consider exactly how people, with such blatant lack of ability, can reach a position to be in command of an entire fleet.
When you first start reading, it's fairly easy to misunderstand the humour and actions of the Marines as being cold, callous and uncaring and you can very easily mistake that as being the Marines core personality. However, when you read on, Wright reveals that the dark humour or the supposed uncaring nature of the Marines is simply a coping measure as a way of dealing with the sheer horror of seeing mangled corpses of Iraqi soldiers, civilians and even in some cases children. The banter between Marines is as laugh out loud funny as it is childish as it almost entirely consists of racial, gay or some other kind of insult that in the civilian world would have no place.
War is a horrible thing. I don't think anyone would deny that. And in this book Evan Wright gives the anti-war protestors some ammo they could use to enforce their cause, but he also presents a lighter side that you would really struggle to sincerely understand unless you were in the position yourself. He presents the beautiful camaraderie formed between the Marines who, in some senses, through the time spent with Wright, have formed a kind of unbreakable brotherhood that is only strengthened by the horrors that surround them. The stories told in this book are of sincerely good men. They're men who find themselves in a truly alien situation that no amount of training and rules can really prepare them for. You understand their humanity and their hatred. You understand their purposes and their ideologies. And you understand that regardless of what we think of the war, they're over there putting their lives on the line and they deserve praise and respect for the job they're doing, and Wright deserves praise for telling their story.
Brilliant book. Buy it. Or give the HBO Mini-series a watch as it stays very close to the story told in the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life with an invading army; raw and violent but not macho or stupid,
This review is from: Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War (Hardcover)Embedded journalists? Too close to their subject; lacking distance and perspective; likely to produce a flattering, uncritical report, sycophantic even; will identify to an unhealthy degree with the subject matter. All of these things I had in mind, when approaching Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright's Generation Kill, his account of life with the United States Marines of Bravo Company, First Recon, as they spearhead the invasion of Iraq in the Autumn of 2003.
My initial skepticism was ill-founded, thankfully. Wright lives and travels with the Marines and they are responsible for his safety but even so, his book seems to honestly report events as they appeared on the ground. For every gung-ho episode where the Marines punch the air and shout, "Get some!" as something blows up, there are many more vignettes where the Marines express very real and serious doubts about what they are doing. "When I get home" one of the Marines says, "people will probably ask me to speak at high schools about this. I don't know how I'm going to explain all the dead women and children I've seen, the things we've done here."
The above is not an uncommon expression in a book filled with horrendous images. Evan Wright manages to capture the chaos and random violence of life on the ground as well as the incompetence of those 'managing' the war. Wisely avoiding the lyricism of Michael Herr's Dispatches, Wright gives a plain, clear voice to those at the destructive end of the 'War on Terror' - the teenage and twenty-something American youth - who are not the ignorant rednecks of popular image but often quite thoughtful young men, sometimes proud, often times confused or simply ashamed of what they are being tasked to do.
The violence Wright captures is often sickeningly brutal: Whole hamlets are bombed to dust, along with their civilian populace. Houses with women and children in them are knowingly destroyed with grenades. As passengers in cars, children are shot in the head. It is not the Marines themselves who are guilty but their superiors and obviously, their Commander in Chief. The Rules of Engagement are a spurious attempt to impose a moral framework where it simply doesn't exist; this book is testament to the simple truism that all war is a crime.
In Generation Kill, Evan Wright has written not only a great book but a valuable document of what it is like to be part of an invading army. The military machine is not something geared towards democracy promotion or nation building; it is good - exceptional, even - at two things: killing people and blowing stuff up. As one Iraqi says, "You have taken this country apart and you are not putting it together." Not bad for a book that won the General Wallace Greene Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid reportage but the same old tune.,
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A human story in a time of war,
This review is from: Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War (Hardcover)Having read Evan Wright's original Rolling Stone series "The Killer Elite" last summer I could not wait for this book to hit the shelves - and I wasn't disappointed. Mr Wright takes the reader into the true heart of darkness that exists in any combat situation - the dirt and bullets, the long spells of ennui punctuated by the teeth-chattering adrenaline rush when facing enemy fire - but adds to this the human face of the soldiers involved. This is the real beauty of the book, when Wright describes the men of 1st Recon with whom he rode shotgun. They are fleshed out beings, not mere cyphers, with all the grace and failing of any of us, and I found it impossible not to empathise with them at certain times throughout the book. Wright also avoids depicting a one-sided view of this conflict - one particular incident, involving a young Bedouin shepherd and a possibly fatal gunshot wound, stuck in my mind for weeks after I read it.
I enjoyed this book above the many others I've read about the war in Iraq for the very reasons I've outlined above - a beautifully descriptive narrative which places the reader smack-bang in the Humvee along with the team; and characters - no, real people (Person, Espera, Fick, Garza and Colbert - gentlemen, it was an honour to make your acquaintance) whose humanity in a warzone has stayed with me ever since.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowel wrenching incompetence,
In this work, Evan Wright, a staff reporter with Rolling Stone spends two months with a tough group of Recon Maries spearheading the invasion of Iraq. On several occasions, Wright's group is the northernmost tip of the entire Iraqi invasion.
Wright paints a vivid, compelling, bowel-wrenching and at times hysterically amusing portrait of contemporary US armed forces at war. It is a picture of frightening incompetence compounded by a an astounding level of naivity. Although the soldiers themselves are highly trained professionals, it seems the command structure, the supply structure and the communications structure are all completely SNAFUd.
The Recon Marines ride around in Humvees blasting the ess-haich-one-tee out of anything that is a remote sign of resistance. I kept on expecting to read of briefing sessions, foot patrols, covert observations, silent infiltration - the image we have of special forces. There is none of that. Wright paints a picture of an army whose only tactic is brute force and plenty of it.
No one can fault Wright's prose. His writing flows naturally and he documents the most intimate events in the men's lives in an honest and non-judgemental way. He draws in the reader bit by bit until one almost feels complicit with the actions of the marines he is shadowing.
However, I wonder just how much the US public will be ready to accept a depiction of the US military which leaves the reader astounded, ashamed and often outraged.
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Generation Kill by Evan Wright (Paperback - 27 Feb 2009)