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The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq Hardcover – August 4, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1573223140 ISBN-10: 157322314X Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (August 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157322314X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573223140
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,566,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having joined the National Guard for the tuition benefits, Crawford, like many of his contemporaries, never expected to do any heavy lifting. Early on, he admits his is "the story of a group of college students... who wanted nothing to do with someone else's war." But when his Florida National Guard unit was activated, he was shipped to Kuwait shortly before the invasion of Iraq. Armed with shoddy equipment, led by incompetent officers and finding release in the occasional indulgence in pharmaceuticals, Crawford cared little for the mission and less for the Iraqis. "Mostly we were guarding gas stations and running patrols," he explains. As for Iraqi civilians, "I didn't give a shit what happened to any of them," he confesses after inadvertently saving an Iraqi boy from a mob beating. Crawford's disdain grows with each extension of his tour, and he leaves Iraq broke, rudderless and embittered. Unfortunately, Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clichés such as "truth engulfed me like a storm cloud" and "you can never go back home." Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans.
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Review

...a moving, harrowing, bold and bitterly beautiful vision of the horror of war and the Americans now dying in it. -- Florida Times-Union

...reading this book feels like climbing into a Humvee to go patrol [Crawford's] sector with him in 130-degree heat. -- Newark Star-Ledger

A tremendous book ... incredibly gripping and incredibly well-written... It's a remarkable story... I urge everyone to go...grab it. -- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Crawford tells tales that bring human dimensions to his situation. -- The New York Times

Crawford's writing pulses with urgency, and, gloriously, his story of being an American soldier in Iraq is shattering and relentless. -- David Amsden, author of Important Things That Don't Matter

I picked up Crawford's book and with the first paragraph I was hooked. -- Thom Jones, author of Pugilist at Rest

I read John Crawford's book twice this week. -- militarywife.blogspot.com

Reading it you get the sense that...Catch-22 was more real than fictional, and suddenly Vonnegut sounds less insane. -- prakope.com

[This] should join Catch-22 and The Things They Carried as this generation's defining literary expression of men at war. -- James Frey

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Customer Reviews

This book is the personal account of that war as seen by one of those soldiers.
L. F. Smith
While I did get some sense of this in Crawford's book, I didn't get as much out of it as I have with others I've read.
Loren w Christensen
I read mostly nonfiction war books penned by Marines but found Crawford's writing to be very fluid.
Quang Pham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

294 of 315 people found the following review helpful By D. G. Rosenthal on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I had the privilege of serving with Spc. Crawford in Iraq. His book tells it exactly like it was, with no holds barred. It covers everything from our supply inadequacies, to command mismanagements, to the reality of the war that the media never took the time to cover.

Crawford is a natural author, an expert at weaving an engaging story that grips the reader firmly and swiftly. In an age where the news media corporations are the only source most Westerner's have for news of the war, and the corrupt Arab news networks are the propaganda sources for the Middle East, Crawford's account of the Warrior battalion is a cutting, incisive, and TRUE representation of what REALLY went on over there. -
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251 of 272 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John Crawford's story might be something out of Hollywood (indeed, with the new FX series, `Over There', now playing, Crawford's story seems almost as if it had been lifted for that drama). Crawford is like many others - he joined the National Guard for college money, not to go abroad and fight a war (whatever happened to the days when the National Guard stayed at home? but I digress...) He was nearing graduation, newly married, and suddenly thrust into the middle of a war that was controversial at the start, and increasingly unpopular at home as it dragged on.

Crawford spent three years in the 101st Airborne division, and then enlisted in the National Guard as he entered college, primarily for the tuition assistance. In Fall 2002, he was activated and had to go. Like many, his expectation of a short tour of duty was frustrated - the promise of `three months, six at most' turned into more than a year abroad.

Crawford's tales are riveting and engrossing. Like many men and women abroad in the conflict, he had varying access to email and internet facilities, and was encouraged by an embedded journalist to submit his tales (those of his own experience, and his writing on the experiences of others who were also around him at the time) to places around the country.

Some stories are now familiar to people in the States - problems with equipment, problems with personnel, problems with understanding their role vis-à-vis the locals. Crawford says that his unit was so underequipped that they even had to get vehicles from other units; at one point, they had a confiscated SUV from which they'd knocked the doors out, and mounted a machine gun on it. Not military issue at all. Their flak jackets were Vietnam-era technology, and their rifles were decades old.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Airborne Soldier on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was attached to the 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, I remember when Johns unit came to relieve us. I can say, I bought this book today after watching The Daily Show. I have not been able to put the book down the entire day. I just now stopped to go online and see if I could find out more about John. But I am pretty sure I will finish this book this weekend.

The storytelling was remarkable, I felt as if I was back along that river watching those drunks yelling and screaming. I would 100% recommend this story to move directly to hollywood. It would translate totally to cinema.

Especially being there, I think it truely hit me deep down. Thank you for telling this tale, I can do nothing but recommend it to all readers.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Vickie Kinney on August 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book the day after it hit the shelves, see John is my youngest brother, and having heard stories about his time in Iraq, and knowing some of what he went through, but also knowing he kept morbid stuff out of his stories to me, I knew this would be a powerful story. John's life changed forever when he got deployed, and hopefully over time the anger and frustration he felt will subide, and he will be able to get past the bad times. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone, excellent story telling.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kaplan VINE VOICE on August 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After serving three years in the 101st Army Airborne Division, John Crawford joined the Florida National Guard as a way to pay his college expenses at Florida State University. On his honeymoon, only a few classes short of graduation, Crawford got word that his National Guard unit would be sent to Iraq to support the US and British invasion (which took place on March 20, 2003). Crawford was in Iraq for more than a year.

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell is structured as a set of short stories that recount some of Crawford's experiences in Iraq. This is a successful format for recounting an experience that had little logic while Crawford was living it and probably less in retrospect.

Generals and journalist try to write accounts that provide some global view of events. Crawford's account is that of an infantryman on the ground, in the dust, dirt and fear. The book opens with a story about the invasion. Crawford's unit was trapped with a few other units in a dust storm. As night falls, with zero visibility and no anti-tank weapons, they are told that an Iraqi tank unit is headed their way. The dust is everywhere, clogging their weapons, which in any case would do little damage to the Soviet era tanks used by the Iraqi army. Crawford never finds out whether the tanks pass by his unit or just never show up in the area.

Crawford's unit spends the rest of their time in Iraq attempting to provide security in Baghdad. Several of his stories involve the time his unit spent policing two Iraqi gas stations. The Iraq that Crawford describes is a shattered third world country. The Baghdad he inhabited was a city of hovels and crumbling apartments. A dangerous city of dust and filth. The overall color is the brown of desert sand, a city almost devoid of trees.
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