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Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles Paperback – November 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Media Tie-In edition (November 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287210
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (441 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A witty, profane, down-in-the-sand account of the war many only know from CNN, this former sniper's debut is a worthy addition to the battlefield memoir genre. There isn't a bit of heroic posturing as Swofford describes the sheer terror of being fired upon by Iraqi troops; the elite special forces warrior freely admits wetting himself once rockets start exploding around his unit's encampment. But the adrenaline of battle is fleeting, and Swofford shows how it's in the waiting that soldiers are really made. With blunt language and bittersweet humor, he vividly recounts the worrying, drinking, joking, lusting and just plain sitting around that his troop endured while wondering if they would ever put their deadly skills to use. As Operation Desert Shield becomes Desert Storm, one of Swofford's fellow snipers-the most macho of the bunch-solicits a hug from each man. "We are about to die in combat, so why not get one last hug, one last bit of physical contact," Swofford writes. "And through the hugs [he] helps make us human again." When they do finally fight, Swofford questions whether the men are as prepared as their commanders, the American public and the men themselves think they are. Swofford deftly uses flashbacks to chart his journey from a wide-eyed adolescent with a family military legacy to a hardened fighter who becomes consumed with doubt about his chosen role. As young soldiers might just find themselves deployed to the deserts of Iraq, this book offers them, as well as the casual reader, an unflinching portrayal of the loneliness and brutality of modern warfare and sophisticated analyses of-and visceral reactions to-its politics.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

In 1990, Swofford, a young Marine sniper, went to Saudi Arabia with dreams of vaporizing Iraqi skulls into clouds of "pink mist." As he recounts in this aggressively uninspiring Gulf War memoir, his youthful bloodlust was never satisfied. After spending months cleaning sand out of his rifle—so feverish with murderous anticipation that he almost blows a buddy's head off after an argument—Swofford ends up merely a spectator of a lopsided battle waged with bombs, not bullets. The rage the soldiers feel, their hopes of combat frustrated, is "nearly unendurable." Swofford's attempts at brutal honesty sometimes seem cartoonish: "Rape them all, kill them all" is how he sums up his military ethic. He is better at comic descriptions—gas masks malfunctioning in the desert heat, camels picked off during target practice—that capture the stupid side of a smart-bomb war.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

I will say it seems honest, The author certainly doesn't try to make you like him or empathise with him.
tlouis
The sub-title says that this is "a marine's chronicle of the gulf war and other battles" but the book is really only about the marine - Swofford.
Cinnamon Girl
I remember seeing this movie when it came out a few years ago and not thinking much of it, then decided to read the book over the holidays.
Vincent J. Pagnoni

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

346 of 387 people found the following review helpful By "bradseed" on March 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I served in the other Scout/Sniper platoon that was part of Task Force Grizzly, STA 3/7. Later I joined STA 2/7 for a brief time and got to know Cpl. Swofford as much as anyone could whose sole purpose at that point was liberty on the beaches of southern California.
I bought this book as soon as I heard about it and finished the last page seven hours later. It brought back so many feelings and memories that I couldn't have written it any better. Swofford captured the paradox of war as well as any book I'd ever read. Not many Marines talk about their love/hate relationship with the Corps outside of our circle and he related this sentiment remarkably well. His analysis of the difference between combat marines and the rest of the Corps sounded like recent phone calls between me and my buddies.
If you want to know what war is REALLY about, the day to day uncertainty, fear, boredom, glee, hate, love, and insanity, the BS of politics, incompitant brass leadership, then this book is for you. This isn't some rah rah book written by some REMF pogue either. Patriotism may get you to the front but your buddies will keep you alive so you can make it back home.
W.Scott Albertson
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140 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Moto 0331 on November 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Wow, surprised at all the emotion here. I didn't think this many people read books like this.

Couple of bullet points after reading the book and the reviews.

1. Swofford really downplays the honor of being a marine sniper. I was a line company machinegunner in 2/5 and all of the snipers I knew were a cut above. Not only that but if someone was deemed immature they would be dropped back to their line company platoon, no matter how well they did in sniper school.

2. I agree that the book is rife with innacuracies, exaggerations and downright lies. Then again, it is a memoir, not a history book.

3. The story about the guy watching a videotape from home that shows his wife having sex with another guy is the biggest urban legend in the Corps. Second-place going to the oft-repeated Mr. Rogers was a sniper story.

4. I am not wanting to sound like a tough guy but I don't know once person who pissed their pants in combat or talked about being afraid. By the time you've gone through boot camp, SOI a work-up for deployment and a trip to Oki, you're going to be ready to eat nails, if for no other reason than that all of the hard and miserable training has made you mean.

Pissing your pants in boot camp is very common because of all the forced hydration and few chances to use the bathroom.

5. His whining is actually pretty common, especially in the grunts. I know I'm guilty of it. What is uncommon is his lack of sense of humor. The funniest people I met were in the Marines. if you don't have a sense of humor, you won't be able to laugh off all of the bad things that happen to you.

6. Raunchy tales of whoring and drinking are 100% accurate.

7. His story about pulling a rifle on another Marine is probably false.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Grant Waara VINE VOICE on March 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was in the Seventh Marines like the author. I was in Kilo Company, 3/7 (3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment for those not in the know), some five years before the events experienced by Mr. Swofford. I also knew some of the guys in our own Battalion's STA platoon. While I don't know anything of their indoctrination, their training regiment or what else, it seemed to me like they spent a lot of time on working parties or just plain skating their way through their enlistments.
Gulf War memoirs are beginning to pour forth from publishers. I wonder about the timing sometimes, but it wouldn't surprise me that Swofford's slim volume is the best of the lot. Like James Webb's classic "Fields of Fire" Swofford catches the lingo of Marines perfectly, but he also discusses the ups and the many downs of being one of the Few and the Proud (sometimes I felt like pride had little to anything to do with my own enlistment). I don't necessarily agree with whomever wrote the dust jacket in comparing this book to Caputo's "A Rumor of War" or "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien. "A Rumor of War" is still probably the best Vietnam memoir out there, and Caputo's experiences are as far from Mr. Swofford's as they get. Tim O'Brien's book is a work of fiction, something "Jarhead" is not. If they tried to compare it to say, "If I Die in a Combat Zone," I feel that would have been more appropriate.
Swofford's book entails his peacetime experience as well as the Gulf War. He shows how his fellow Marines wage war on each other long before the Iraqis intrude. The deployment ("Desert Shield") is a long and monotonous one, and despite some brief but terrifying moments, 2/7 STA platoon's war is frustratingly short.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
'Jarhead' by Anthony Swofford is bound to make some people angry. A Marine sniper (STA) during Desert Storm I in the early 1990s, he recounts his experiences there with vivid emotion, weaving in his experiences of boot camp, adolescence, and civilian life after the Corps in the process.

Swofford has a chip on his shoulder - something he'll most likely readily admit. He has a 'bad attitude', and in fact revels in it. One wonders if this is a product of his war experiences, his Marine Corps training, or his upbringing. At one point his mother, who never really liked the idea of her son being in the Marines, but who wouldn't stand in her son's way, said 'I lost my baby boy when you went to war.' She described Swofford as being sweet and gentle prior to that, and angry and unhappy afterwards. One wonders how much of a change is there - if one can take the stories at face value, this is the same boy who had a fist-fight with his father over going in the Corps at the age of 17, and who had Marine Corps decals put on his shirts as a child. One of his drill instructors even gave Swofford what he considered a great compliment - 'you'll be a great killer someday.'

I make the caveat that one might not be able to take all of this at face value, because like many men in this kind of situation, Swofford is likely to exaggerate - making some pieces more dramatic and other pieces less so. Swofford recounts many tales of men in his sniper platoon who had adjustment problems after the war; one can but wonder if that is true for Swofford, too. Also, Swofford admits to being willing and able to lie if the cause is, in some internal sense, justified - his dealings with brother, in the Army in Germany who later died of cancer, is a case in point.
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