80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2005
I read this book over a weekend and was pleasantly surprised by it. I read "Not a Good Day to Die" a couple months ago and was waiting for this book to be published so I could compare the two. Of course, "Day" goes into much more detail regarding Operation Anaconda while "Ridge" focuses on the events on a single mountaintop, but I think both were well-written.
I prefer MacPherson's writing style in that he doesn't personalize the story at all. There is no reference to "me" or "I," only the story as told to him by the people involved. I feel that adding one's own voice to a work of non-fiction just makes the writer sound like a braggart and sometimes even discredits the account.
I do think that the target audience for this book is either military-related, or just very quick, because much of the terminology is not explained, especially when it comes to the "slang" style terms and phrases that the branches use in so much of their work.
As a book focusing on the events of Takur Ghar, it was great. However, if you have no idea what Operation Anaconda was about, I would recommend reading "Day" first, because "Ridge" does not go into the set-up of the Operation at all. "Ridge" is a wonderful way to delve further into the seventeen hours of combat operations of so many service members, and the characterization is much deeper than "Day" simply because there are fewer players involved.
I highly recommend this book, but read "Not a Good Day to Die" first if you have no frame of reference for Afghanistan or Operation Anaconda.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2007
Prior to Operation Anaconda, the less-than successful operation to trap and kill Al-Queda troops in the Sha-i-Kot Valley, a number of Special Operations Forces teams infiltrated the area in order to conduct reconnaissance prior to the operation and then direct close air support into the Valley to kill the terrorists. Mako 30, one of these teams, was sent to the most obvious observation point in the Valley - Takur Ghar mountain. Only problem was that the battle-hardened Al Queda terrorists, mostly Chechens, were quite aware of the military significance of Takur Ghar and made it their own before Mako 30 arrived. MacPherson makes a great argument for the pitfalls of relying on the best technology in the world - even our best "sniffers" never picked up on the terrorists on the peak. After attempting a landing and losing Neil Roberts, Mako 30 attempted to return to the same Landing Zone they had unsuccessfully tried to occupy the first time around. Mako 30's predictable defeat is followed by a Ranger Quick reaction Force that is also pinned down. Unbelievably, the Rangers landed in the exact place that Mako 30 did, losing their MH-47 in the process. A third reaction team lands, scales 2000ft on mountain, and the Rangers finally prevail over the enemy.
MacPherson has done a great job of capturing the details of the battle, but his account falls far short of "Not A Good Day To Die", a far more detailed and better-sourced account. Nonetheless, MacPherson's account captures the individual bravery and sacrifice of the U.S. soldiers on the mountain. A great compliment to "Not A Good Day To Die". A must read for any small unit commander and anyone interested in Al Queda tactics.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I really wanted to like this book as those who fought there did so with great courage and skill and made such incredible sacrifices. However, I felt the author let them down in two primary areas-a lack of background for the original insertion decision and the decisions made from afar during the fight.
I was also disappointed with the very limited indexing. There are also some critical inconsistencies in the book.
The Seals came to the area looking for a mission on very short notice. It was apparently not their decision, but from far up the food chain and thousands of miles away in a flat land. There was a failure to appreciate the need to adapt to the altitude.
Control of Takur Ghar was not seen as essential in the plan for the operation prior to the arrival of the Seals. However, the author appears to start with the premise that control was essential, but in the end accepts the view that it was not essential.
The decision imposed on the Seals to make a direct aerial assault on the position after experiencing delays, rather than delay 24 hours, was an imposition from above. One of the grave risks of the new information age is that those (both military officers and politicians) receiving satellite, UAV data and perhaps battlefield video will abandon their roles of strategic planning and information dissemination in favor of making tactical decisions without situational awareness. It's a recipe for disaster.
There's a reason that a great football coach is down on the field while the spotters and perhaps those who recommend plays are high above the stadium.
In some respects the limitations of the book are a reflection of that lack of shared information and situational awareness which plagued the fighters during the events. According to Blaber (The Men, The Mission and Me) he was in contact with the Seal team during their fight and also in contact with the AC-130. This account treats Blaber as being out of contact which appears most unlikely given his role in the overall operation. He was uniquely qualified to provide the Rangers with much needed situational awareness.
Overall it is a worthwhile read but I recommend reading three other books Not A Good Day To Die , The Mission, The Men and Me , and First In to get a better perspective on the war in Afghanistan in 2001-02
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2005
This is an account of a group of US Navy SEALS who are ambushed on a mountain in Afghanistan and require rescue by Army Ranger rapid response team. The Rangers are subsquently ambushed requiring yet another rescue team. The story is told from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground, facing unbelievably cold weather, horrible terrain and a lot of determined enemies. Quite a few don't make it, but the story is more about the determination of these highly trained warriors to never leave a comrade behind. The action is quite detailed and the reader almost feels like he is there with the troops. Highly recommended.
53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2006
I was very disappointed in this book. Malcolm came to our family's home to interview us to try and capture what type of man my brother was. I must say he did a very poor job. In all the personal facts written about my brother, the only thing he got correct was the fact that he carried his daughter's ponytail ties in his pocket. Even though he tape recorded the interviews and took notes, he did not come close to portraying the essence of my brother. Malcom got names, facts and timelines incorrect. With so many errors written about my brother, I can only assume he did a poor job with the other fallen soldiers as well.
As for the facts about the battle, he got some of it correct but other areas he embellished or guessed.
I believe there was only one person in my family who read the entire book. The book was that far off, that it was not even worth finishing.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2006
Good reading and provides additional insight into what went wrong that cost seven men their lifes. Unfortunately, the author needed someone to do a "fact check". There are a number of sloppy factual errors - like how a particular Ranger was shot, mistakes about names of people interviewed, etc. It's the sort of thing that makes me wonder what was incorrect that I didn't know enough to catch.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2011
"Roberts Ridge" is the story of the battle for Takur Ghar, a mountain peak that dominates Afghanistan's Shahikot valley. The American military chose to invade that valley (Operation Anaconda) to trap and root out Taliban and Al Qaeda forces that, unknown to them, were deeply entrenched in the surrounding mountains. Relying on technological means, American commanders determined this strategic high ground was - against all military wisdom - unoccupied by the enemy. One helicopter after another tried to deliver assault, and then rescue, teams on what was actually a heavily defended enemy bunker complex. The book is primarily about what happened on that mountaintop over the course of about 17 hours.
I put this book down thinking I had just finished two books, one subpar and the other outstanding. The early sections of "Roberts Ridge," are very weak and in fact caused me to stop reading it for a while. One problem is evident right away: the author drops you right into the action of the first helicopter going onto the mountain, with barely any context at all. He provides a very brief introductory section on the grand plans of Operation Anaconda, but no lead up of events to this insertion. In fact, about 1/3rd of the book goes by before the author backtracks and provides the context that would've helped make more sense of the action. I understand wanting to grab the reader's attention with action right off, but the author waits far too long to explain the twisted circumstances that led to Takur Ghar.
For that issue alone, I would highly recommend that a potential buyer first read "Not a Good Day to Die," which gives all the context on the battle that you'll ever need. That brings me to my second criticism. Once he does delve into the background of the events, the entire section feels either hurriedly written or badly edited. He skips around and glosses over what a reader of "Not a Good Day..." knows are critical points. Some of the transitions between section are head-scratchingly abrupt. What was there felt, to me, like the author summarizing - badly - what he just read in "Not a Good Day..." Since I read that book just before this one, some of the dialogue and descriptions in the contextual sections sounded overly familiar. Presumably, "Not a Good Day..." had not been released while MacPherson was doing his research (indeed, it's not cited as a source here), so I'm not in any way accusing him of plagiarism, but rather it seems the two relied on many of the same sources, leading to what seems like a lot of repetition.
Just as MacPherson described one of the Rangers developing sharply-focused tunnel vision once the bullets start flying, the author does the same. The accounting of the battle on the ground as it unfolded covers the bulk of this book and is by far the best part. The author did numerous interviews with many of the participants and these first-hand accounts really pay off by bringing the reader down into the firefight. You get into the heads of some of the Rangers and other troops on the scene - what they were doing and feeling and why. Even though I knew what happened, it made for exciting reading. It is the skill with which the combat is told that saves this book for me.
One of the things I liked about this that I didn't like about "Not a Good Day to Die" was that he finishes the book out by exploring what happened after the battle. He tells you, in brief, about the outcomes of some of the main characters, and, more importantly, what the meaning of the battle was and what impact it had. He concludes that Takur Ghar was irrelevant to the success of Anaconda, but that the battle for it drew an inordinate amount of resources and attention away from the main effort. In other words, the assault was done for no military gain and was in fact a failure for the Americans, despite overall success in the battle. His conclusions were drawn largely from an after-action report and study done by the military, from which MacPherson quotes at length and is even included in part at the end of the book.
Because of its problems, I hesitate to recommend this book, but if you gloss over the weak parts and watch the guys in combat like a circling Predator drone, you'll enjoy it a lot more.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2006
Author does an excellent job of telling the story of the action on Robert's Ridge and brings in the human side by introducing the readers to the soldiers themselves. He obviously did a lot of research and tried to find the truth through all the haze. I only found a few factual errors.
This book is NOT an attempt to introduce political scandal or blame individuals like Sean Naylor's "Not a Good Day to Die", it is a story about the battle, period.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Military history can be tough to write about when you weren't personally there, especially when the forces involved were special forces. Robert's Ridge would have been no different except for the fact that the army made an inquiry in order to relay to the families exactly what happened to the soldiers on that fateful day. Add to that the interviews with some of the soldiers and you can to a third person account and make in to a readable narrative. MacPherson did just this with Robert's Ridge.
When I originally picked this up I had though it was a predominantly Navy SEALs account of an operation gone bad. In the beginning you are following the highly trained and qualified SEAL Team 6. Flying in for an insert to take a ridge to better assist Operation Anaconda seems straight forward. This mission seemed doomed from the beginning, though, as communications failed and short cuts failed, ultimately leading to MAKO 30 (SEAL Team 6) and the helicopter they were flying in to be shot up and destroyed. Surprisingly no one was injured as the crippled helicopter dropped over the edge of the cliff, but not before the unharnessed SEAL Roberts fell out of the open hatch. Thus the saga of Robert's Ridge started.
After the SEALs went back and landed, again with their helicopter being shot up, they endured casualties before withdrawing. This is where their saga ends, which was strange because it was the beginning of the book. The real saga was the Ranger QRF unit that was coming in to assist and extract, yet they had no intel and were not in communication with the original 2 helos that were shot up. You can imagine their surprise when they too were shot out of the sky and landed on the hot LZ in a battle for their life. The remained of the book is the Rangers struggle to not only survive, but to clear the mountain top from a horrible defensive position. Ultimately I found the story enjoyable and definitely readable as you are able to follow the action as though you were right there.
This is also part of the downfall, though, because MacPherson went into such detail, as in telling where the bullets hit the helo, what the soldiers were doing, what al Qaeda was doing and so on. Detail that he couldn't have possibly known, or the soldiers he interviewed, and yet he had to include them to make the narrative more accessible. When reading military history I like some narrative, but not so much to the point that it begins to read like fiction. Additionally, and this is understandable, MacPherson tended to paint the soldiers as though all of them were all American heroes, that they were destined for great things, that they were geniuses, or sports stars, or the most kind and caring guys in the world. Its understandable to paint them in the best light, but a lot of times that degrades who they were/are. It's okay to be a normal everyday soldier, you don't have to paint a picture with a distorted image.
Other than the few writing devices he used to make Robert's Ridge more accessible, I really did enjoy reading this account and following the SEALs and Rangers as they struggled for life and mountain top. You began to become invested with who they were and what they were going through, which is ultimately what I look for in any bio or history. A recommend.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2005
I picked this book up in Dulles while waiting for a plane ... needed something to keep me occupied and put me to sleep. I read the whole book between Washington and San Francisco. A great book ... and true story that is riveting as well as spell-binding.