217 of 226 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best company/platoon/squad level book the Iraq War
I want to start by saying that you need to read this book.
Until a few hours ago, I felt that Colby Buzzell's irreverent but accurate "My War" was the best micro (that is company level or below) accounting of the Iraq War by the those who fight it. SSG David Bellavia's and John Bruning's account is a no-punches-pulled, politically incorrect infantryman's eye...
Published on October 27, 2007 by Kirk L.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glorifies War
The hint here is the word "Epic" in the subtitle. A large portion of the book is about the author singlehandedly taking a single house in the battle for Fallujah. If you want to get a feel for the reality of the Iraq war from an infantryman's viewpoint, read "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright.
Published 11 months ago by Sandy Gardener
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217 of 226 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best company/platoon/squad level book the Iraq War,
I want to start by saying that you need to read this book.
Until a few hours ago, I felt that Colby Buzzell's irreverent but accurate "My War" was the best micro (that is company level or below) accounting of the Iraq War by the those who fight it. SSG David Bellavia's and John Bruning's account is a no-punches-pulled, politically incorrect infantryman's eye view of the war in 2004.
My unit replaced Bellavia's in Diyala Province in 2005, several months after the Battle of Fallujah. I knew his fallen company commander, Capt. Sean Sims, when we were lieutenants together, so this memoir is something I as a military professional on my second tour here can relate to.
Bellavia's imagery and descriptions are amazing; and he deftly brings out the personalities of his comrades in arms like a master storyteller. One of the challenges in a book like this is trying to keep so many people straight as the story progresses, but he does this effectively by recounting key moments with each individual which serves to indelibly burn that person into the mind. From his fellow squad leader, mirror image and battle brother Fitts, to the hard-talking, no BS platoon sergeant, to the team leader who devoured at least three MREs at the attack position just before entering the city, Bellavia gives everyone their due diligence, yet keeps the story going.
The preface, titled "Coffins of Muqdadiyah" is as relevant to the kind of fight we're seeing in Southern Baghdad as it was more than three years ago in an area about 60 km to the northeast. From the first paragraph where he vividly establishes his setting by describing the heat and misery of "the Muq" as effectively as anyone I have ever seen write about Iraq, until the final passages where he reflects on the frustrations of fighting the Mahdi Army and its human cost when its members hide behind their own families to target US troops, you are pulled in.
From there, it is one wild ride. Bellavia writes with all of the passion and candor that is typical of many young combat arms NCOs and commissioned officers. His memoir is indeed worthy of the word "epic" and if you want a real glimpse into what the grunts like Bellavia experience over here, then you don't want to miss this.
If your tastes run more to the strategic, or "big picture" look at the war, then this is not for you. However, if you want to better understand what life is like for those who are on "the pointy end of the spear," then I'll say it again: read this book.
89 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RICK SHAQ GOLDSTEIN SAYS: " ** NOBILITY AND PURPOSE ** ** AMERICA'S WARRIOR CLASS! **",
As a Viet Nam era veteran, I am quite aware that the way wars are fought change from war to war. World War I was fought different than World War II, the Korean War different from Viet Nam, and as this savagely true account of the war in Iraq bears witness to, is unique with its own horrors. This first hand account by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia (Bell) summons up memories of the great book "Blackhawk Down". But in my opinion, the fact that the author is a participant in the horror described, gives it a more lethal punch in the readers gut.
Being a veteran, what immediately impressed me about Bell's writing is that no one was spared from his piercing truthful words. Including himself. It was reassuring to know that after all these years, there is still a societal clash between most officers and enlisted men. Bell shows he will bare his soul with divine honesty even when he is the one being stripped naked in a judgmental spot light. A perfect example, is when he owns up to the real reason he joined the Army, was because he froze up and didn't defend his mother and father during a home burglary by some crack heads. He realized he needed to become a man and felt the army would help him reach that goal.
The reader is made aware immediately, of what all war veterans already know, but most media outlets don't emphasize near enough, and that is, "WAR IS HELL". As early as the second page of this powerful outpouring of the grim facts of what is today's kind of war we're told: "Shattered bodies litter the ground around us. Vacant corpse eyes, bulging and horror struck, stare back at us. The stench of burned flesh is thick in our nostrils." "While on our second patrol in Iraq, a civilian candy truck tried to merge with a column of our armored vehicles, only to get run over and squashed. The occupants were smashed beyond recognition. Our first sight of death was a man and his wife ripped open and dismembered, their intestines strewn across shattered boxes of candy bars.The entire platoon hadn't eaten for 24 hours. We stopped, and as we stood guard around the wreckage, we grew increasingly hungry. Finally, I stole a few nibbles from one of the cleaner candy bars. Others wiped away the gore and fuel from the wrappers and joined me." This book is obviously not for your Aunt Bessie, unless she really wants to know what modern war is about.
It is also about good Officers and NCO's that believe in what America stands for. It's meetings before dawn before heading to Fallujah, where the Officers that the troops respect give speeches that would make Vince Lombardi proud. Part of the speeches are also telling the troops that all of them won't be coming back. A great statement by Bell regarding a speech says it all: "A great speech is only partly about what is said. Often what matters more is who says it and how it is delivered." There are truths of war in this book, that a lot of people don't want to know or believe. The enemy is shooting themselves up with all kind of drugs ranging from Steroids to AMERICAN EPINEPHRINE - PURE ADRENALINE that will keep a heart pumping even after its owner has been exposed to nerve gas or chemical weapons. So if you see a reporter on TV demeaning an American soldier for smashing the enemy a few extra times in the face, it might not be extra, it might be what's minimally necessary.
This book is sure to go down in the annals of war literature as an all-time classic. I recommend it highly!
151 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wept freely,
I saw a photo on the 'net the other day. It showed handwriting on a whiteboard that read, "America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall." Staff Sergeant Bellavia would undoubtedly curse this as yet another example of Marine Corps historical revisionism, but with a few corrections ("The Army is at war; the Marine Corps is jammed up at the gates; and America is at the mall."), he'd likely agree with the sentiment. And even though my own son is a Marine and due to deploy to Iraq in the next six months, I wouldn't begrudge SSG Bellavia a bit. He has been to Hell and has the passport stamps to show for it.
This is a horrific, wrenching book that should be required reading for every high school civics class, for every Member of Congress, for every would-be Presidential candidate, and for all military brass above the rank of Lieutenant. Here in the States we talk freely of 'supporting the troops' and yet have no real clue of what they face and endure, in body, mind and spirit, for our security and for the freedom of other nations.
SSG Bellavia has done his best to show us what those costs are. He and his comrades -- those who lived and especially those who died -- deserve our attention and understanding, at least for the few hours and few dollars it will cost for each of us to read this book. ..bruce..
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "House To House" is strongly recommended for academic and community library collections,
On November 10, 2004, Staff Sargent David Bellavia was one of the American infantry making a direct assault on the Iraqi town of Fallujah, engaging tens of thousands of insurgent fighters in street by street, house by house, close-quarters combat. American media coverage was somewhat misleading as it focused on aerial assaults and high tech artillery attacks. Most of the fighting that took place was direct, direct, brutal, and lethal. This was combat that tested and revealed the strength, character, courage, and training of America's fighting men and women. A nominee for the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, Bellavia gives his readers a candidly detailed, informed and informative account of a sustained and vicious battles -- including his own ordeal of going into an explosives rigged house on a solo mission and finding himself face-to-face with six fanatical insurgents, all of whom he eventually killed, including one in a mortal, primal, hand-to-hand, personal fight to the death. "House To House" is a gripping battlefield memoir, but also provides the reader with analytical insights into the fanaticism and character of the insurgent opposition, and the hatred that enters into the heart of a soldier when fighting for his life and the lives of his comrades in arms. "House To House" is strongly recommended for academic and community library collections, and for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in what it is like to be in combat in Iraqi today.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From one Iraq Vet to another: Spot On. Finally a good read about Grunts in Iraq,
Just read House to House over Labor Day weekend. Couldn't put it down. I was an LAV scout team leader in OIF I and OIF III, so I was able to relate a lot to life in a Bradley and life in Anbar -Even though Bellavia was an Army type, and I was a Marine. This book was excellent and it differed from other Iraq books for mainly two reasons:
First, it felt like I was back there again. For example, one part of the book that I found truly compelling was the movement from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) staging area to the attack position in Fallujah. To the ordinary onlooker, could simply be seen as a preparatory road march preceding an attack. But Bellavia really made you feel like you were in the Bradley. The confusion of being in the bowels of a dark armored box, lurching back and forth with gear flying all over the place and too noisy to hear anything. The stench of unshowered sweaty grunts, and the horribly anxiety that you feel before going into the assault. It brought back a lot of memories- some good and some bad. But the author really makes it come alive. Few war books I have ever read are truly able to aptly describe true combat to the reader ("With the Old Breed" and "We Were Soldiers" come close), but Bellavia makes it seem as real as I have ever read.
The second thing I liked about this book is that it was authentic. I have read most of the Iraq books that have come out over the past few years and many seem to be whine-a-thons by guys that nothing really happened to in Iraq. After a while I got a little tired of reading about POGs -who never fired a shot in Iraq- making their books self aggrandizing political statements. Bellavia certainly bitches....but he bitches about things that all grunts bitch about: namely field grade officers, POGs (Bellavia calls them REMFs), the opposite branch (i.e. Army vs. Marine) and diarrhea. He doesn't victimize himself or his fellow soldiers. And the book is about his platoon and his buddies.....Not about him and his politcal views.
This book is the real deal. His story made my palms sweat and made my heart beat fast again. American grunts are hard, and this is the story of one of them. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know what life is really like in an infantry squad in Iraq. It ain't pretty, but its spot on. Also, great professional reading for NCOs.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honor, Duty, Country is Alive and Well,
The birds were twittering outside and the sun rising when I was finally able to put Ssg Bellavia's book down this morning. Ouch! What a gripping story it tells of the near-death experiences our combat infantrymen must still suffer despite our high-tech arsenal of cruise missiles, space-borne sensors and UAVs.
From page 1, the Ssg presents a raw, gritty picture of battle that he lifts not one finger to water down. From each bullet hole, shrapnel splinter, knife battle and cussword, Bellavia succeeds in putting his reader inside a soldier's webgear to show him what it's like fighting house to house to rid an Iraqi town of insurgents.
I am an A-10 pilot and this book is disturbing to anyone who is used to killing things from a mile away. Bailing out and duking it out forehead-to-forehead with a drug-crazed fanatic like Ssg Bellavia's final foe is a fear I (and my wingmen) don't want to contemplate. As long as there are hoohah bullet-catchers like Bellavia, I shouldn't have to look my enemy in the eye when I splash him. But if I did, his story gives me courage to find a way to succeed.
I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It am pleased with Bellavia's writing style and pacing. Not bad for a ground-pounder. And I love how he is able to turn a phrase. This is a tale of brutality, animalism, sacrifice and patriotism. It is about not an inbred heroism, but a heroism that struggles to subdue the nightmare of cowardice found in all of us. Bellavia's central theme is this: War is bad. War is wrong. But war is necessary and it's not going to go away any time soon.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FALLUJA FROM THE EYES OF A RAMROD,
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia is a true American hero. Others must have thought so, too, since he was awarded the Silver Star and has been recommended for both the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor. HOUSE TO HOUSE shows why "Bell", as he was known to his fellow soldiers, amply deserves that recognition. It is the story of the battle of Falluja from the point of view of a "ramrod" or infantryman. The fighting is house to house, dangerous, dirty and exausting. No detail is spared: the reader is made aware of the fatigue, the stench, the pain, the fear, the heroism, and the heartbreak of close quarter combat. Mr Bellavia and Mr John R. Bruning have written an absorbing, dramatic and informative account of a great American battle. HOUSE TO HOUSE is an excellent read and highly recommended.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss or ignore this one,
He doesn't try to pretend he's a "cleft chin superhero". He admits to some errors (angry temper tantrums which puts both doubt and fear into the men/boys soldiers that are suppose to follow him) and (freezing in a fire fight). After feeling guilt, he becomes mad at himself,then he comes to terms with what needs to be done; this anger gives him the focus and courage to do a phenomenal act of bravery.
He also shares his personal battles, questioning his religion, his sense of "duty", "honor", and "morals" how can god and war co-exist as a soldier? The enemy kills for their god, so does that make Jesus stronger than Mohammad? Also repairing the damage he has done to the relationship with his family repeatedly being separated for so long & briefly returning just to leave again. This breaks their heart and his, so scar tissue is developed making it harder to repair and re-bond.
I admired the way he told the story of the brutal fighting with ruthless enemies without going on any political tangents. I have a better understanding of how bad the bad guys are. I also enjoyed the occasional humorous stories and banter shared with the other soldiers.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look into the abyss,
You can tell the author is a theater guy, there is much more than just soldiering going on in this book.
The soldiering is impressive enough, it gives you look into things that you can't find out elsewhere, but what makes the men do what they do is just as interesting. It's also not for the faint of heart or stomach, you will find out what combat is all about as well as is possible without actually experiencing it.
As for the Editor & Publisher review, pay no attention to it. They say this:
"...featuring repeated heroic feats and brave sacrifice from Americans but none from the enemy, contemptuously dismissed as drug-addled, suicidal maniacs..."
Ummmm, no. Drug-addled and suicidal yes (they are often high on epinephrene, an adrenaline) and are surely suicidal (they attack tanks with only AKs), but no heroic feats? I'll repeat, they attack tanks with AKs, they might be suicidal, but that's brave. Bellava also discusses how he respects the fighting ability of his enemies and even respects some (not the older ones who sent the younger ones out to die), in one battle scene he's trapped in a house with 4 or 5 jihadis and he shows that he respects all but the oldest one who hid while the younger ones showed their courage.
As for this from E&P:
"and a U.S. media that fails to support soldiers"
He shows how much he respects and owes Michael Ware, the journalist who's embedded with his unit.
As for this:
"a glorious victory that, in Bellavia's view, will go down in history with the invasion of Normandy."
Ummmm, no. He thinks the bravery involved is just as much as that shown in Normandy, Hue and Saigon, and it is. But "a glorious victory"? Why the hostility?
I would only add that the only battle I've read about that comes close to this is Stalingrad between the Russians and the Germans. That was another, close-quarters, no mercy, no room for error, urban battle.
As for this
"Anyone expecting an overview of strategy or political background to the war has picked the wrong book"
Well, duh. I wonder, in review of a book about building a deck do they write, "Anyone expecting an overview of how to plant bulbs has picked the wrong book."?
He's also not ashamed to show when he had a test of nerves and felt he didn't come out of it on top and that drove him even harder in the future. It puts a human face on this war, both sides.
Buy the book and make sure you have some time to read it, you won't want to put it down.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brutal, remarkable read,
Perhaps the most authentic and brutal book on war, any war, that I have ever read. Bellavia and Bruning capture the honor and insanity of combat with such clarity it leaves you shocked.
This is a book you will talk to and about. The initial chapters are relatively light and you may find yourself shaking your head or even laughing (ex: in one FUBAR tale, a squad of soldiers infiltrates a position by swimming underwater in raw sewage). Then the book accelerates. The action becomes more chaotic, the pacing increases and, unbelievably, it does not let up. Rather, it just goes faster. By the end of this autobiographical work we see the author teetering on the edge of insanity. You, too, will be swearing and muttering to nobody in particular. Upon finishing the book, you'll be talking about it to anyone who will listen, lending it to your nearby friends, and gifting it to those who live further away.
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House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by David Bellavia (Mass Market Paperback - December 30, 2008)