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Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War Paperback – 3 Jan 2006
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"A bayonet in the eye...brutal and unforgettable."
--"The Sacramento Bee"
"A brutally honest memoir...gut-wrenching frontline reportage."
"A searing contribution to the literature of combat."
--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
Author of "Any Human Heart"
A scathingly honest and bleakly powerful book. A hugely disturbing insight into the minds of the very young men who long to go to war.
Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D.
Author of "Odysseus in America" and "Achilles in Vietnam"
This memoir is not pretty -- but veined with beauty. It is as outrageous, irreverent, funny, and obscene as an Aristophanes comedy, and as rich in pain and moral understanding as the "Iliad." Anthony Swofford: remember this name.
Anthony Swofford's grandfather fought in WWII; his father fought in Vietnam; and he - a directionless, testosterone-battered teenager - became a scout/sniper in the marines and fought in the Gulf War. His account of that time is also part of a lineage - after Wilfred Owen, Norman Mailer, Michael Herr and Tim O'Brien, it brings the raw and searing tradition of soldiers' stories up to date. A harrowing yet inspiring portrait of a tormented consciousness struggling for reconciliation and peace, JARHEAD is authentic, revelatory and brilliantly crafted.See all Product description
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Anthony was always fascinated by the Marine force – perhaps the break-up of his parents marriage had something to do with his eagerness to fight in the Gulf War. There are echoes of the Vietnam war, too; their weapons were almost sacred, their condition and efficacy might save their lives. His girlfriends might be counted among the dozens, but his mind was forced by the Marines in another direction.
The friendships were rough, harsh, often mocking, but they disguised a true feeling of fellowship and camaraderie deeply honest and affecting. They showed their feelings in the time-honoured ways, respecting their leaders, roughhousing through a time of anxiety and fear.
The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment early in the year of 1991. Followed by a ground assault in February.This was a victory for the Coalition forces, who expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait and continued into Iraq. Arial and ground combat continued. What emerges from this book is no surprise. Another wave of young American men were persuaded to risk their lives. For some it was a profound shock, and this is the best book I’ve read about how the Marine soldiers actually felt, behaved and conducted yet another pitiless war.
What this book captures so convincingly is the sheer tedium of military life and the war for the footsoldiers involved rather than the Hollywood images that distort what really happens. In its early stages on early training etc the book is like the movie Full Metal Jacket in words, with the sheer brutality and discipline enforced to turn green recruits into soldiers on autopilot when required but often unable to turn that skill off, especially when getting into fights on leave or after leaving the forces.
Where this book neatly twists the normal soldier's tale and in so doing exceeds one expectations is how it communicates the growing disillusionment of the writer as time passes. Whether it is getting screwed over what the recruiting sergeant told him versus what military life is really like and the actual Gulf War where apart from one brilliantly described secret surveillance mission, the prior time spent in the desert preparing and the complete absence of using his sniper skills during the fighting, blow away the action image conveyed by the media at the time.
One suspects not too many comparable books of such quality will emanate from the more recent and longer second Gulf War
My own little twist on the review is this. If I were a parent of a teenager who said he was intending to join the armed forces, I would hand him a copy of this book and tell him to read it before making his mind up. And possibly The Forgotten Soldier too. If that didn't change his mind then at least I would feel comfortable that I had done my bit. It's that good.
Anthony Swofford is clearly far more than a "jarhead" (as he keeps referring to himself). A very intelligent man with a real talent for writing.
I only gave this 4 stars because I was expecting something different to what I got, as I suspect many other buyers have. If I could have given it 4.5 then I would have! However, this is an excellent account of what war can do to you as an individual and thereby deserves to be read by all and sundry.
This book does a good job of removing the fake gloss that is often put on being a soldier and I would recommend reading this book. While it is definitely no Catch-22 (regardless of the quote on the back) it is a good book, that is refreshing in its honesty.
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