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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars


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The author weaves a well-written, gripping narrative of two worlds colliding, that of NFL football player turned Army Ranger, Pat Tillman, and that of the US government and its war against Al-Qaeda. It is a uniquely American story straight out of the heartland.

Based upon Pat Tillman's journals and letters, as well as interviews with his wife, family, and friends, the book reveals that Pat Tillman was an interesting, introspective, and complex man, an alpha male with an inquiring mind and a good heart. He embodied the best of the American man, while at the same time was somewhat of an enigma and an intriguing juxtaposition of contrasts, admirable yet flawed.

When he decided to turn down a lucrative multi-million dollar NFL contract and do his bit for his country, he most certainly considered the possibility of dying in combat when he was sent to the war zone. What I doubt he envisioned was the possibility at dying as a result of "friendly fire", though this is often a reality of war. Nor did he envision the perfidy of his government in the event that this did happen.

Pat Tillman was a good soldier who had his doubts about the war but remained committed to keeping his word and serving his country, despite being presented with the opportunity to get out of the Army, while the going was good. It was an opportunity that he declined, as he chose, instead, to be true to his word. The government, on the other hand, went to tremendous lengths to fuel pro war propaganda in order to bamboozle the American public into thinking that one and one equaled three.

Unfortunately, Army, as well as Bush administration officials, chose to act without honor when it came to Pat Tillman, using him as propaganda against his wishes and lying to his family and to the American public about the circumstances surrounding his death. Their perfidy is a clear contrast to the values cherished by Pat Tillman. The actions of the Army and Bush Administration officials are a stain upon the honor of this country. They should be ashamed, but I somehow doubt that they are. Pat Tillman stands in marked contrast to these officials, as he was everything that they are not.
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VINE VOICEon 14 April 2011
betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians." Chris Hedges, A Culture of Atrocity, quoted by Krakauer.

This story of an American NFL star killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan isn't exactly light reading, but it is thought-provoking. Krakauer creates a strong cause-and-effect narrative detailing the growing up of a young American, Pat Tillman, interspersed with concurrent events across the world in Afghanistan. There is no real connection until the fateful occurrences on September 11 2001 whose impact would be brought to bear upon a generation of soldiers, and families, of which the Tillman's were just one.

What was special about Pat Tillman's death, is the way in which it was part of an army cover-up, sanctioned at the highest levels. It was only after tireless campaigning primarily by his mother, who refused to be placated by the conclusions of numerous flawed internal investigations, that the "truth" finally emerged. Krakauer makes a telling comparison with the Jessica Lynch story: the bottom line being that both she and Tillman became unwitting "heroes" of a propaganda machine that was never going to let ideas such as truth and reality get in the way of good publicity.

The fact that, once the deliberate cover-up emerged, those who perpetrated it escaped with perhaps a slight tarnish to their careers, doesn't sit well with our author who finds it: "deeply disturbing, in no small part because one of the most culpable malfeasants turns out to be an exalted military leader who's been shielded from accountability or punishment". Ironically, the man in question, McChrystal, was promoted by President Obama to Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan in June 2009. In a weird twist, he was dismissed a year later for "mocking" the Obama administration; the President alerted by an article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Where Men Win Glory is characteristic Krakauer, combining the same skill for bringing a subject to life that we find in Into the Wild, for re-creating times and places with insider knowledge (he spent 3 months with ground forces on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border), and for delivering it to us in a package that, in his own words, applauds: "clarity, economy and subtlety (to say nothing of substance) more than literary flash."

Krakauer is part of a small but significant journalistic tradition that immerses the writer in the world they are reporting, and he aspires to "persuade readers to regard old truths in a sceptical light" by trying to "shed light on the truth" even if the truth is "always in flux and often contradictory." His sources listed by chapter, a detailed bibliography and an index make up the final 40+ pages of the book: the author feels like someone we can trust.

This work could have been written as an effective pacifist polemic, but Krakauer refrains from any such agenda; he would have been guilty of betraying his subject otherwise - Tillman was adamant that his status as a NFL star should not be used by the army for promotional purposes. The result of this, of course, is that the facts speak for themselves, and the reader is left to make their own judgements. Krakauer, maintains a difficult balance between intimacy and distance; this might cloud the waters somewhat, although who would argue that this is anything other than how it should be?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 February 2011
I have read and enjoyed all of Jon Krakauer's previous books and I think he has excelled himself here. You will know the gist of the story by now - read some of the other reviews if you don't - but if you want to read a book that conveys the connections and disparities between the civilian world and the military, a book that quite eloquently shows why young men want to fight, a book that describes the mayhem and ferocity of modern warfare, a book that confirms what we all suspect about the political machinations that go on in Washington and elsewhere or a book which portrays the effect that a death in combat has on friends and family then this is the book for you. In turns heart-warming and harrowing and never less than enthralling, this is a quite excellent and different take on modern warfare and its consequences and with any justice will join the likes of A Rumor of War, Chickenhawk and Dispatches in the canon of great modern American War books.
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on 24 April 2014
Here follows the story of someone which every man should aspire to be like. Pat Tillman was known to me for a while, i first leaned about him a number of years ago on a documentary show which briefly mentioned his story, his decision to turn down a massive sporting contract so he could fight for his country and his tragic death in Afghanistan by friendly fire. Yet it was not until recently when i began reading 'Into Thin Air' that a friend also recommended this book that i remembered his story.

Krakauer is at his usual best here with a gripping take that follows this mans whole life and what an inspiring life it was. Right from the start i was struck with admiration for this mans character, his total self-confidence, his loyalty to his friends, his determination to always push himself to his limits, his intellectual side and his compassionate side. Krakauer shows his usual obsession with a story and has charted Pat's whole life as well as the disgusting cover up and campaign of lies by the government after his death. It truly is an odyssey and i felt deeply touched by the story of this man who had the best intentions of the world and always kept to his deepest principles yet was betrayed and used by his government to serve as a 'fallen hero' to drum up support for the war and recruitment. it left me with a sick feeling in my stomach by the books end.
Pat Tillman himself will always serve as an inspiration to me in every walk of life and a person i aspire to be just like.
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on 26 September 2010
I know Jon Krakauer very well, by now, but he's always able to surprise me. I had loved "Into the wild", I've been astonished reading "Into thin air" as it were a thriller. Things are not different here.
The story of Pat Tillman is told with a skill very few writers have. Krakauer describes the man at the center of the story, his background, the way he is, what he believes in, what he cares for. At the same time, he tells the story of Afghanistan and Iraq, the whys and the hows America got involved with them and, consequentely, the reason why Pat was involved in these wars. Every detail is important, every degression is, even when it doesn't seem so.
Through his powerful writing, Krakauer leads us to know the great man Pat was, in the words of many of the people who have known him, telling us about his choices, revealing pages of his journal. You think you're going to read about an all-American type of guy, a sportsman, a champion, a guy with lots of muscles and a little more else, while you discover an educated, deep, complicated, caring man, who was faithful to the choices he made and never regretted them. That same powerful, rich-in-details writing that tells us about the series of circumstances, mistakes, misunderstandings, lies, bad faith that followed Pat's death.
Thanks to Mister Krakauer, once more, for being the great writer he is.
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on 5 March 2010
This is a crazy sad story that you wouldn't believe if it was fiction. Pat Tillman gave up a $3.6m contract with the Arizona Cardinals to go and fight in Afghanistan after 9/11 and he died on a desolate Afghan hillside behind a bolder having been shot needlessly by one of his own, trigger happy fellow Rangers.

Tillman was a remarkable personality and overachiever. Too small to play in the NFL at the positions he played in college, he worked tremendously hard to win a position at Safety. Having succeeded, and signed with the Cardinals for NFL "minimum wage", he then turned down a massive contract with an opposition team, a further contract with the Cardinals and then left to join the Army Rangers because football seemed meaningless to him in the aftermath of 9/11.

The ensuing story is multifaceted. We learn of the history of Afghanistan, Pat's early life, the real and true love for his family and wife, the reasons for the war, the machinations of the Bush administration's media and marketing, what it takes to become an NFL star, the rise of Osama Bin Laden ... the mix is shocking and beautiful and confusing. But my enduring feeling was sadness and helplessness. Sad and helpless to help those marines and rangers that were the victims of "fratricide", much like Pat Tillman's last words on that hillside.

Krakauer doesn't pull any punches. He is scathing of the Bush administration, particularly when it comes to the cover up regarding Tillman's death and the attempts to create a martyr out of Tillman against Pat's own stated wishes. Krakauer also provides evidence of how other Rangers that witnessed Tillman's death, were ordered to lie about the cause and withold information from the moment he died, keeping it from Tillman's brother and close family.

In the end, Krakauer brings us as close as we could be to understanding Tillman's decision to go to war through the inclusion of a beautiful passage taken from Tillman's journal. It is difficult not to admire Tillman and his family as you read this book.

In the end, for all of Tillman's belief that he was doing the "right thing", the abiding feeling having been on Tillman's odyssey, is that he was the victim not of some great Greek tragedy, but that his death was caused by a cheap institutional incompetence and egotism that leaves one frustrated and angry not just for him but for all those that suffered a similar fate.

An excellent book.
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on 26 November 2010
well, this book is one of best books I ever read. Jon Krakauer did a great job in telling the story of Pat Tillman and of the Afganistan war.
this book is compelling and passionaite. And is highly recommended to anyone who interested in Aphganistan War, the US goverment and polacy and in hearing about great people.
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on 26 June 2015
Sensational. A superb and tragic story that is beautifully written. Krakauer has a great sense of pace and rhythm and a wonderful vocabulary. The story of Tillman is just a few stray bullets away from being a quintessential American hero story. A pro athlete turned special forces soldier is almost comic book perfect, and should have been the ultimate chest-puffing source of pride for the United States Army. Fate turned out differently for Tillman and his family, and Krakauer's efforts do the memory of Pat Tillman a wonderful service. A must-read for anyone with the vaguest interest in the military.
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on 7 January 2010
Pat Tillman joined the US army after 9/11. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. As he had been an NFL football star his story was hijacked by the White House. This book reveals the truth behind all of those things.
This is a story on par with Sassoon and Owen during ww1.
At first it seems to be tale of the perfect example of any Empire's vision of manhood fighting for his country. As you read you become suspect of the facts as they are presented. Was this guy really that pure of spirit and intellect? Krakauer parrallels his "biography" with the ongoing terrorist and political activities as they impinge on America. This keeps you interested, yet still sceptical.
It is only when we are given examples of Tillman's diarys do we realise that yes this guy is for real. Yes he did have an interrogative, active, sharp intellect, as well as the physique that brought him to a position of starting on an NFL football team.
There are so many aspects to this book. A love story. A conspiracy tale. A war story. A biography of a man that transcends time in his attitudes and morals.
This book is to be read.
It helps that it is written in such a lucid, yet at times harrowing, style.
Buy it now.
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on 30 October 2010
The book is well documented and narrates the strange story of Pat Tillman - a professional fooball player who gave up a $3.6 million dollar contract to enlist in the U.S. army as a ranger and fight for his country after 9/11. Pat Tillman will never be an NFL football star - he was burned with a purple heart and a silver star. Yet, these U.S. army decorations were part of an army cover up because Tillman did not do any heroic deed on the battlefield - as the U.S. army first claimed. Pat Tillman was in fact killed by friendly fire. The only 'bold' aspect of the book is from the writer himself - namely, using philosophy and Homer to make sense out the Tillman character.
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