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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death Paperback – February 1, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
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—New York Times Book Review
“Meticulous. . . . Demands to be read.”
"Frederick, taking the story through to the surprising effect of the beheadings, the conclusion of the war crime trials and the impact that they had on the Iraqi relatives of the slain and the members of Bravo Company, tells the complex story in raw, compassionate and exact detail. Black Hearts should be taught at West Point, Annapolis, and wherever else the styles and consequences of combat leadership are studied."
“Gripping. . . . A model of extended reportage on a multifaceted subject.”
"Panoramic. . . . Gritty."
“Black Hearts shows how a broken system broke its men. . . . Engrossing and enraging, a chronology of combat and crime reported with compassion."
“Every military leader should read Black Hearts. With empathy and clear-eyed understanding, Frederick reveals why some men fail in battle, and how others struggle to redeem themselves. An absorbing, honest and instructive investigation into the nature of leadership under stress.”
—Bing West, author of The Village and The Strongest Tribe
"Intense. . . . Fast-paced and highly detailed, this volume is difficult to put down. "
—Publishers Weekly, starred review, "Pick of the Week"
"Frederick’s...compassion for all parties involved has enabled him to get an amount of cooperation from all of them that makes the book an exceptionally rich and valuable document of an aspect of the war the coverage of which is not always free from political bias or just plain sloppiness."
"Harrowing account of the atmospherics, commission and aftermath of a war crime. In March 2006, deployed in the south of Baghdad, the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division faced a countryside in uproar. Arguably the most dangerous spot in an extremely dangerous country, the Triangle of Death featured IEDs that made every Humvee ride “an exercise in terror” and a civilian population indistinguishable from the death-dealing armed militias. With too few men to mount proper patrols and suicide car bombings and videotaped beheadings circulating to instill an extra bit of horror, every soldier had to endure constant stress and resist hating the very people they were charged with protecting. Relying on scores of interviews with soldiers and Iraqis, journals, letters, classified reports and investigations, Frederick carefully reconstructs the events that led to the breakdown of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, when four soldiers raped and killed an Iraqi girl and murdered her family. War atrocities, of course, are as old as Achilles’ rage, and why particular soldiers succumb to madness and surrender their honor, while others who have undergone the same hardships don’t, remains a mystery. Still, the author answers the questions he can, plumbing 1st Platoon’s psychological isolation, a consequence of having three of their leaders killed in a two-week period, the resulting disarray compounded by a leadership vacuum and by constant, invidious comparisons by senior officers with Bravo’s other platoons. Their heightened sense of self-pity, the belief that they faced unevenly distributed risks and the perceived disrespect or indifference of high command—all these factors created the conditions that led to an unspeakable crime. While never absolving the four perpetrators of their individual responsibility, Frederick makes clear that the atrocity had identifiable antecedents and spreads blame much wider than four out-of-control GIs. A riveting picture of life outside the wire in Iraq, where '[y]ou tell a guy to go across a bridge, and within five minutes he’s dead.'"
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
To extend the conversation of comments:
Todd J. Harmon says:
so you agree with the facts of the book?
Yes, completely. It's funny when I was reading the book, I could have sworn that the guy who wrote this had to have been there with us, because it was the only way he could have been so dead on with everything. It is really a testament to how well he did his research. I haven't heard anything negative about the book from anyone who has read it and was actually there. I've read several books on Iraq and none go as far into the dynamics of the unit as much as this book does.
To explain one part of my initial review that said "But being in bravo during this deployment I had to know what really happened and most importantly, how it happened." I wanted to give some context. I was in Bravo company the entire deployment and in June of 2006 was moved to first platoon, two weeks before the attack on the Alamo and before the information about the crimes that were committed came out. We had such a high tempo in our company for meeting battalion's demands that the platoons rarely spoke to each other more than when we would pass guard at the TCP's and at the JSB.Read more ›
Well written, and no pulled punches. Everyone takes their lumps equally-- Ebel, Kunk, Goodwin, Norton, Fenalson-- all of them are part of this and no one gets off scot free. Even so, no one is painted as the only bad leader or the only good apple in the bunch. He captures the aspects of all of them-- Kunk's personality, Captain Goodwin sleeping in his plaid flannel pajama pants in his folding chair in the TOC, Fenalson's demeanor, the frustration of the platoon sergeants, the anger of the men, the sense of hopelessness...it is as real as it gets. I could almost hear the crackle of the radios, hear Sergeant Loper on the mic in the TOC or SFC Laskoski telling someone they were stupid or hear Biggers laugh as someone was caught doing something stupid on the J-Lens.
The criminals who raped and killed are portrayed accurately, too-- shown for all that they were and were not and the leadership decisions that were made or failed to be made that directly led to the events of February 2006.Read more ›
I had just returned from a combat tour in Iraq in late 2005, and was therefore intrigued by the backstory of the two events not so evident in the immediate news accounts and coverage of the soldiers' violent deaths and those of the Iraqi civilians. I hoped this book would put that unit's challenges and struggles in context. It does just that and more, telling an important story in what I feel is a balanced, even-handed manner.
Frederick interviewed just about everyone involved from the platoon level all the way up through brigade and while the actions of the leaders and individuals is often damning, one can never truly comprehend the kind of stress these men were under.
Frederick's book lays out the facts and details surrounding the platoon of Army soldiers involved, and how failures of leadership at nearly every level, exacerbated by a herculean and often undefined mission in one of the most dangerous places in Iraq at the time, came together to form an imperfect storm out of which one unit of about 30 troops found themselves at the center of a disastrous deployment, and one that had a negative strategic impact on U.S. efforts there at a time when the Iraq War was spiraling out of control.
The book is powerful because it deftly tells the story of an infantry platoon that seemed set up for failure from the get-go.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I purchased for my daughter and she loved the book. It's next on my reading list.Published 28 days ago by Denise L Nothey
Take a ride into one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Watch what happened when a brigade loses control of a platoon.Published 1 month ago
An unfortunate unfolding of events. Tragic on every hand. It reinforces the importance of discipline even in the worst of circumstances. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Sheryl Lloyd
This book is a must read for every military leader. I was in the same area two rotations after the 502nd, so the routes, TCP's, etc. were intensely familiar. Read morePublished 1 month ago by C. Sneed
Definitely a must read especially for those in the military. Very well written and shows you just how bad leadership can impact others and have disastrous results.Published 2 months ago by Andrew Carvalho
This is an amazing and very authentic description of what really happened in the area. I was a member of a MiTT in this AO at this time. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Yomama21
I read this book to get a better appreciation for a soldier's life.........my son for one......and Noah Galloway for two and all of the other brave souls.Published 3 months ago by Dianne Ziegler
so horribly depressing I had to put it down for days at a time just to maintain .......... good job of research. .... it's fascinating in a morbid wayPublished 3 months ago by Christopher C.