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Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War Paperback – September 26, 2006
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“Pritchard’s excellently reported narrative details the bloodiest American military operation of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the fight for Nasiriyah. Impossible to put down, it is a gripping account of SNAFUs, chaos, and heroism in a savage fight between U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces in the heart of a densely populated city, with several hundred thousand civilians caught in the crossfire. Ambush Alley offers a disturbing view into the down-and-dirty level of warfare which at the time was largely hidden from the American public.”
–Evan Wright, bestselling author of Generation Kill
“Tim Pritchard writes about men in war like very few dare to try. By the tenth or so page into his book you are no longer simply observing the action from your couch potato ass, you are with the young Marines, riding along with them in the back of an AMTRAK troop transport, sensing the ‘feel’ of combat, taking indiscriminate RPG rounds, and fired on by misdirected, fearsome A-10 ground attack jets. Ambush Alley truly takes you into the crucible of battle. It gives a new meaning to ‘kicking ass’ and true sensitivity to the term ‘fear factor.’ ”
–Richard Marcinko, bestselling author of Rogue Warrior
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Tim Pritchard is a London-based journalist and filmmaker who has made several award-winning documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. This is his first book.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
The whole time I'm reading the book I was wondering why there was no AWAC planes (or even helos) available to assist in comms and to help coordinate the mission. I was furious reading of our guys dying in one hellish 24 hour period all basically due to a lack communications. When the brass saw that there was a problem getting comms they could have sent an aircraft up from Saudi Arabia and it would have been there in two hours or less.
Air support could have been used more effectively, artillery in between sortes, and troop movements made more effective if only the radios worked.
I liked this book a lot for the way it told our brave Marine's story. And anyone interested in what our men and women go through in war will appreciate the story. But from my own military background I know at a very basic level what could have and should have been done for mission success. Unfortunately, like Black Hawk Down it shows how politically managed operations end up being one big SNAFU. Happens all the time - and when they make a movie of it, the average person ends up coming out of the theater marveling at how we manage to win any wars, and thinking less of the poor guys lying on the battlefield. This book may end up being a movie someday. Hopefully if enough people see how missions micromanaged by pinhead politicians get screwed up things could change. But then again .... I doubt it.
Things did not go according to plan. The Companies got out of order, the tanks were sent back to refuel at an inopportune time, communications broke down, one company was strafed by USAF pilots in a "blue on blue" incident and ultimately the Marines ended up making several trips up and down Ambush Alley, including a stand at building in the middle of the route they called "The Alamo".
It's exciting stuff, but the part that makes this book stand out for me is how clearly laid out everything is. The Author does an amazing job of describing the confusion and chaos the individual Marines are experiencing, while never leaving the reader confused. I was able to clearly follow the action and understand who was where throughout the engagement, which was something none of the participants were able to do. Being able to build and hold a mental image of the battlefield really enhanced this book for me. That Tim Pritchard was able to do it with only one map is a real testament to his writing skill.
But while the reader can maintain situational awareness, the book also conveys how impossible that was for the participants. Their fear, confusion and frustration comes through clearly, and it's easy to see the causes and chain of events that made things so difficult. As the tragedy of the blue on blue unfolds, it's all too clear to the reader what is going to happen, while all too easy to emphasize with the individuals operating on their limited, and sometimes, faulty intelligence.
The only thing this book lacks is a good After Action Review. While the book gives you the facts as they happened, well arranged so you can follow the chronology, there is no analysis. The list of things that went wrong is long and it would be interesting to read both how the participants and the Marine Corps itself looks back on this day and what lessons can be learned. But that is left to the reader, or perhaps other authors, this is just a straight forward reporting of what happened. And darn good reporting at that. Highly recommended
The action in both books pivots around the allied attack on Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. The British Pathfinders were tasked with establishing a landing zone in a small airbase north of Nasiriyah. The US Marines were tasked with seizing and holding two important bridges in city itself.
I recommend reading both books in tandem. They create many interesting perspectives on tactical thinking, kit and differences between the UK and US forces. Both actions involve immeasurable courage and resourcefulness. They also illuminate how crucial communications are in actions of this type. The Brits missed a scheduled transmission and had problems with lack of air evacuation. The marines suffered a serious blue on blue through lack of accurate information and communications. The Brits were critical of their kit and deeply admired the resources and armour of the US forces. The marines were just as crtical of the unsuitablity of their own kit. The Americans heavy armour became impossibly bogged down with tanks and APVs at the start of their action and were ground to a standstill. The UK Pathfinders zoomed up and down roads behind the lines in Iraqi territory using speed, daring and aggression as defensive ingredients. Both the Pathfinders and the Marines ended up admiring the properties of each other.