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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death [Kindle Edition]

Jim Frederick
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

This is the story of a small group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regiment—a unit known as “the Black Heart Brigade.” Deployed in late 2005 to Iraq’s so-called Triangle of Death, a veritable meat grinder just south of Baghdad, the Black Hearts found themselves in arguably the country’s most dangerous location at its most dangerous time.

Hit by near-daily mortars, gunfire, and roadside bomb attacks, suffering from a particularly heavy death toll, and enduring a chronic breakdown in leadership, members of one Black Heart platoon—1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion—descended, over their year-long tour of duty, into a tailspin of poor discipline, substance abuse, and brutality.

Four 1st Platoon soldiers would perpetrate one of the most heinous war crimes U.S. forces have committed during the Iraq War—the rape of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and the cold-blooded execution of her and her family. Three other 1st Platoon soldiers would be overrun at a remote outpost—one killed immediately and two taken from the scene, their mutilated corpses found days later booby-trapped with explosives.

Black Hearts is an unflinching account of the epic, tragic deployment of 1st Platoon. Drawing on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with Black Heart soldiers and first-hand reporting from the Triangle of Death, Black Hearts is a timeless story about men in combat and the fragility of character in the savage crucible of warfare. But it is also a timely warning of new dangers emerging in the way American soldiers are led on the battlefields of the twenty-first century.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This painstaking and balanced book studies the experience of one airborne platoon in Iraq’s deadly “Black Triangle,” where U.S. forces have racked up a larger number of casualties than in any other area of the country. The stress of combat on the platoon eventually led to what can be described only as a war crime, in which rape and murder overtook an entire Iraqi family. Frederick’s thorough research makes this a dense book, one not for the novice in studying the Iraq War or any other, but his compassion for all parties involved has enabled him to get an amount of cooperation from all of them that makes the book an exceptionally rich and valuable document of an aspect of the war the coverage of which is not always free from political bias or just plain sloppiness. Although not for the beginner, this is a valuable addition to any serious study of this war. --Roland Green


"Riveting. . . A narrative that combines elements of 'In Cold Blood' and 'Black Hawk Down' with a touch of 'Apocalypse Now' as it builds toward its terrible climax....Frederick's extraordinary book is a testament to a misconceived war, and to the ease with which ordinary men, under certain conditions, can transform into monsters. . . . Extraordinary."
New York Times Book Review
“Meticulous. . . . Demands to be read.”
Washington Post
"Frederick, taking the story through to the surprising effect of the beheadings, the conclusion of the war crime trials and the impact that they had on the Iraqi relatives of the slain and the members of Bravo Company, tells the complex story in raw, compassionate and exact detail. Black Hearts should be taught at West Point, Annapolis, and wherever else the styles and consequences of combat leadership are studied."

“Gripping. . . . A model of extended reportage on a multifaceted subject.”
Chicago Sun-Times

"Panoramic. . . . Gritty."
Chicago Tribune

“Black Hearts shows how a broken system broke its men. . . . Engrossing and enraging, a chronology of combat and crime reported with compassion."
Army Times

“Every military leader should read Black Hearts. With empathy and clear-eyed understanding, Frederick reveals why some men fail in battle, and how others struggle to redeem themselves. An absorbing, honest and instructive investigation into the nature of leadership under stress.”
—Bing West, author of The Village and The Strongest Tribe

"Intense. . . . Fast-paced and highly detailed, this volume is difficult to put down. "
Publishers Weekly, starred review, "Pick of the Week"

"Frederick’s...compassion for all parties involved has enabled him to get ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 2404 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036FOGTM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,189 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
112 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW. February 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I started to read this book I wasn't sure if I would like what i was about to read. But being in bravo during this deployment i had to know what really happened and most importantly, how it happened. I wondered if my memories of the deployment would differ from what was in the book. i was so relieved to see the truth, however horrible it was. i literally couldn't put it down. I think this book will help people to understand what everyone in battalion had to endure throughout the deployment, especially Bco.

To extend the conversation of comments:

Todd J. Harmon says:
so you agree with the facts of the book?

Yes, completely. It's funny when I was reading the book, I could have sworn that the guy who wrote this had to have been there with us, because it was the only way he could have been so dead on with everything. It is really a testament to how well he did his research. I haven't heard anything negative about the book from anyone who has read it and was actually there. I've read several books on Iraq and none go as far into the dynamics of the unit as much as this book does.

To explain one part of my initial review that said "But being in bravo during this deployment I had to know what really happened and most importantly, how it happened." I wanted to give some context. I was in Bravo company the entire deployment and in June of 2006 was moved to first platoon, two weeks before the attack on the Alamo and before the information about the crimes that were committed came out. We had such a high tempo in our company for meeting battalion's demands that the platoons rarely spoke to each other more than when we would pass guard at the TCP's and at the JSB.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Accurate, Raw April 14, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was assigned to MiTT Team 4 (2nd BCT, 101st ABN) and lived/worked/fought with all the men in this book from 2005-2006; I knew them well enough to know they wouldn't pull any punches and Jim Frederick did a great job of capturing the madness of the 2005-2006 deployment. What matters to me more than anything is that the fight that those guys fought was recorded for posterity while it was still fresh; their sacrifices and their risks and their love for each other were overshadowed by the awful events of a few, and all of their hard work was overshadowed by what followed. We hear Fallujah and Tal Afar talked about as household names but no one knows about Rusdi Mullah, the JSB and Route Sportster-- no one who wasn't there and suffered through it...except those who read this book.

Well written, and no pulled punches. Everyone takes their lumps equally-- Ebel, Kunk, Goodwin, Norton, Fenalson-- all of them are part of this and no one gets off scot free. Even so, no one is painted as the only bad leader or the only good apple in the bunch. He captures the aspects of all of them-- Kunk's personality, Captain Goodwin sleeping in his plaid flannel pajama pants in his folding chair in the TOC, Fenalson's demeanor, the frustration of the platoon sergeants, the anger of the men, the sense of is as real as it gets. I could almost hear the crackle of the radios, hear Sergeant Loper on the mic in the TOC or SFC Laskoski telling someone they were stupid or hear Biggers laugh as someone was caught doing something stupid on the J-Lens.

The criminals who raped and killed are portrayed accurately, too-- shown for all that they were and were not and the leadership decisions that were made or failed to be made that directly led to the events of February 2006.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
By Kirk L.
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jim Frederick's "Black Hearts" chronicles two headline-grabbing, extremely negative events from the Iraq War in 2006: the ambush and murder of three 101st Screaming Eagles soldiers near Yusufiyah and then the news of a horrific murder-rape of a teenage Iraqi girl, who was murdered along with her parents and five-year-old sister by four troops from the same unit.

I had just returned from a combat tour in Iraq in late 2005, and was therefore intrigued by the backstory of the two events not so evident in the immediate news accounts and coverage of the soldiers' violent deaths and those of the Iraqi civilians. I hoped this book would put that unit's challenges and struggles in context. It does just that and more, telling an important story in what I feel is a balanced, even-handed manner.

Frederick interviewed just about everyone involved from the platoon level all the way up through brigade and while the actions of the leaders and individuals is often damning, one can never truly comprehend the kind of stress these men were under.

Frederick's book lays out the facts and details surrounding the platoon of Army soldiers involved, and how failures of leadership at nearly every level, exacerbated by a herculean and often undefined mission in one of the most dangerous places in Iraq at the time, came together to form an imperfect storm out of which one unit of about 30 troops found themselves at the center of a disastrous deployment, and one that had a negative strategic impact on U.S. efforts there at a time when the Iraq War was spiraling out of control.

The book is powerful because it deftly tells the story of an infantry platoon that seemed set up for failure from the get-go.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Small unit leadership
Excellent study on small unit leadership, the effects of combat stress, the importance of discipline, and the necessith for engaged keadership. Must read for any small unit leader.
Published 16 days ago by James Woods III
3.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting and at times truly gruesome account of ...
A very interesting and at times truly gruesome account of some events that occurred during wartime. However, it focuses heavily on politics and seems at times to almost scapegoat... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced
A balanced accounting of what can go wrong at the tip of the spear when an incompetent Secretary of Defense was allowed to go to war with he thought was an adequate force to face a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David F Thayer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and compelling book
Excellent and compelling book, but the story it chronicles is so disturbing on so many levels that each reading session left me feeling upset. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Angela T
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, and a gripping read
A great book, and a gripping read. I literally couldn't put it down. The author did a great job of covering the environment which lead up to the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Alan Crane
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Platoon Leader Should Have To Read This
Great book. Some chapters are definitely not for the faint of heart or weak stomachs.
Published 1 month ago by Brandon
3.0 out of 5 stars too repetitive could have been 30% shorter and more effective
too repetitive could have been 30% shorter and more effective
Personalities not adequately developed
Excessive vulgarity, beyond needed to portray language of war.
Published 1 month ago by Gary Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 stars If you've ever wondered what it's like to serve in a modern war zone
If you've ever wondered what it's like to serve in a modern war zone, this is the book for you. I purchased this book primarily because Jim Frederick was a relative of a close... Read more
Published 2 months ago by William T Pfeiffer
4.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading Before Launching a War
This should be required reading at the National War College, in the Oval Office, and on the Hill, where such madness begins.
Published 2 months ago by Neal Powers
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book
Eye opening, sad & real.
Published 2 months ago by Mooma
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More About the Author

Jim Frederick is Managing Editor of and an Executive Editor at TIME Magazine. From 2006 to 2008, he was a Senior Editor in TIME's London office and, before that, TIME's Tokyo Bureau Chief. He is co-author, with former US Army Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins, of "The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea," (University of California Press, 2008). He graduated with a BA in English Literature from Columbia University and has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. He lives in New York City.

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