War by Sebastian Junger
Published in 2010 by Twelve ISBN 9780446556248
Make sure you have plenty of time ahead of you when you start this book, because you'll probably find yourself reading it through in one sitting.
This may well go down as one of the best books written about war.
Sebastan Junger, probably best known as the writer of the book The Perfect Storm, spent twelve months "embedded" with a company of US Military in a remote valley in Afghanistan.
During his time there, he grew to know and like several of the soldiers he met, spent time with them on patrol, in their fire bases, and on one occasion being blown up by an IED with them.
His account of the group's contact with the enemy are raw, shocking, and disorientating, and give a good impression of what it's like to experience combat.
He intersperses his reportage with chapters that discuss the psychology of small unit fighting and why soldiers do what they do despite the risks. While some of this material may be familiar to some readers, it's valid to include it here, as many of the people who will read this book may not actually know that much about World War Two, or for that matter Vietnam. I actually get the impression that Junger writes about this to help HIM understand why the soldiers do what they do.
What comes home to the reader is the futility that is inherent in war. Time and again the troops go down the valley on patrol, only to walk into ambushes and firefights. And when they return to their fire bases the Taliban reoccupy the areas just patrolled.
The final part of the book presages the difficulties the troops of Battle Company will have when they return to "normal" army life, and the civilian world. Once you have shared a tour of duty such as these boys have served, your life will never be the same again.
Part paean to heroism, part reportage, part political commentary, and part psychological survey, War must be read by anyone who wants to try and understand what war in Afghanistan is like. highly recommended.
War is available from Amazon, or check out your local library.
Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell