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Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood Hardcover – March 10, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 253 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Campbell decided as a junior at Princeton that attending Marine Corps Officer Candidate School would look good on his résumé. Three years later, in the spring of 2004, he was in Iraq commanding a platoon known by its radio call sign, Joker One. Campbell tells its story, and his, in an outstanding narrative of the Iraq War. Joker One counted around 40 dudes: country boys and smalltown jocks; a few Hispanics and a single black. Some were college men with futures; some had pasts they preferred to forget. The battalion was assigned to one of Iraq's worst hot spots: the city of Ramadi, where faceless enemies found shelter among 350,000 Iraqi civilians. Joker One fought from street to street, house to house and ambush to ambush for seven straight months. By the end of the tour, even the Gunny's hands had started ceaselessly shaking, Campbell writes. Faced with urgent life-and-death decisions, Campbell had learned that there are no great options... you live with the results and shut up about the whole thing. For all his constant self-questioning, Lt. Campbell brought Joker One home with only one KIA—a record as impressive as his account. (Mar. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics praised Campbell as a gifted and deft writer who retells his Iraq tour in “powerful, exacting detail” (Dallas Morning News). While Campbell avoids much analysis of the war overall, or even his platoon’s specific mission, most critics found this to be a virtue. As the New York Times noted, Campbell “never quite puts his finger on the meaning, if any, of the extraordinary violence,” but he does “[lay] it all out for anyone else who wants to have a try.” Only the Denver Post found Campbell’s unreflective style trying, citing that the author “seems awkwardly obtuse when it comes to ascertaining the needs of other people.” Most reviewers, however, admired the book’s honest day-to-day look at attempting to quell the Iraqi insurgency.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

A Marine's Story
Read an excerpt from Donovan Campbell's memoir of his time in Iraq [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067732
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

Donovan Campbell graduated with honors from Princeton University and Harvard Business School, finished first in his class at the Marines' Basic Officer Course, and served three combat deployments-two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and a Bronze Star with Valor for his time in Iraq. He is now working for PepsiCo and living in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Describing Joker One by Donovan Campbell in one word is a difficult task but if forced to do so the word would be poignant. Joker One is the story of the individual Marines who comprised one of the platoon's deployed to fight in Iraq. More than a story about a war, Campbell slaps the "Human Condition" on the face of the Iraqi War, and for good measure nail guns it in place. His story is one that needed to be told, not to sway your opinion of whether the United States occupation of Iraq is justified, but rather to put names and faces to the individuals who served their country. It doesn't matter whether you are pro or anti war what matters is that you understand the struggles of the individuals involved. The men in this story didn't wage the war but rather carried out their mission with courage, bravado, and outright selfless determination. If you are not touched by the words between the bindings of this book than I might suggest you send out a search party for your soul.

The Stateside news reports of the Iraqi War have been meaningless rhetoric up to this point. We have been feed the gruesome details of body counts and have seen the anti-American sentiments of the Iraqi people, but up until the story of Joker One these stories have been a benign representation of the actual happenings in Iraq. We haven't been told the stories of the "so-called" US allies who when forced with the decision of standing up for their own free society or their own mortality immediately switch their alliances and begin to open fire on our troops. Nor have we seen firsthand, the cowardly Iraqi insurgent's complete disregard of their own countrymen as they use them as human shields as a means to an end.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The raw emotion that Campbell has laid bare in this poignant telling bluntly demonstrates his own passions and concerns for his men of Joker One and their return commitment and love for him. Donovan Campbell has in simple terms defined what it is to be a Marine.

The story begins with a brief encounter during Campbell's first stint in Iraq. From there he returns to the United States and begins to cover the short pre-combat training regimen for his next insertion into real combat action again in Iraq. This section of the book is extremely engaging, as Campbell describes his first days with his new platoon and battalion. Never having been in the Armed Services, it was overwhelming for me to begin to understand what a Marine believes and how he perceives his world. Campbell opens doors into the day to day training and the mindset of Marines that it is impossible to obtain without such a wonderfully written first hand account. From there this unit arrives in Iraq and begins the trials and tribulations of trying to keep a city from falling into the hands of insurgents.

Campbell has written a heartfelt, honest, incredibly readable and moving biography of his time with the U.S. Marines in Iraq. It is difficult to write about something that is so recent without emphasizing various experiences and then "over writing" these experiences. Campbell has such balance in this book that it is difficult to find any fault concerning the topics of his choosing. From beginning to end, I was totally engaged. By the end of the book, I couldn't find the words that would fit the sacrifices made by these young men; their commitment to their unit and to their mission is simply incredible.

His explanations are crisp, clear and concise.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been an avid reader since the 6th grad, and during my life I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of books. I have ordered from Amazon since the beginning, but this is the first time I have decided to write a review.

I found this book to be a deeply moving experience. I have always been a sucker for war stories but this one is different. I really felt that this was the most honest presentation of one man's experience of war that I have ever encountered.

If you are looking for a cold clinical discussion of battle with diagrams and notes on troop deployment this is not it. This book puts you at street level from the POV of one man commanding his troops. The depictions of battle in this book are gritty, bloody, and real.

Donovan Campbell served his country well as a Marine and also by writing this book. By reading this book I came to a greater understanding of what our men have been through. I gained a profound respect for our combat forces and veterans. This book was so poignant at times that it reduced me to tears. It was a brutal read but the hours I spent reading this book where more than worth it. I have never been as moved in my life by a storey as I was by this account. It is well worth your time. Buy it! Read it! You will not regret it!
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Format: Hardcover
Joker One is the story of one man's experience on a tour of duty in Iraq---beginning with preparation and training at home and in Kuwait.

I was a little concerned about getting through this book, as military writing is not my favorite. This one, however, held me throughout. This book provided me with what will undoubtedly be one of my favorite and most moving reading experiences.

Campbell tells his story with honesty, humor, and dignity. I'm (ALMOST) old enough to be his mother, and I found myself feeling very maternal toward this young man. Every time he questioned himself or worried about failure, I wanted to comfort him. He and his men performed their duties with remarkable courage and honor. And this book conveyed their experiences well. I feel proud and grateful for their service.

It was refreshing to read a book about Iraq that wasn't steeped in politics. Campbell "simply" told the raw tale of life on the ground in Ramadi. Having read it, I have a better idea of the hardship facing the fighting man than ever before. I've always had a healthy amount of respect and deep gratitude for the American military---those feelings are deeper and stronger in the aftermath of this story.

I often find with books like this that there is a compelling story that is written poorly. This book, however, tells a compelling story and is also written in a compelling fashion. Campbell has tremendous talent to convey deep emotion, humor, and create a "scene" that captivates.
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