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Jarhead : A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles Paperback – November 11, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
A witty, profane, down-in-the-sand account of the war many only know from CNN, this former sniper's debut is a worthy addition to the battlefield memoir genre. There isn't a bit of heroic posturing as Swofford describes the sheer terror of being fired upon by Iraqi troops; the elite special forces warrior freely admits wetting himself once rockets start exploding around his unit's encampment. But the adrenaline of battle is fleeting, and Swofford shows how it's in the waiting that soldiers are really made. With blunt language and bittersweet humor, he vividly recounts the worrying, drinking, joking, lusting and just plain sitting around that his troop endured while wondering if they would ever put their deadly skills to use. As Operation Desert Shield becomes Desert Storm, one of Swofford's fellow snipers-the most macho of the bunch-solicits a hug from each man. "We are about to die in combat, so why not get one last hug, one last bit of physical contact," Swofford writes. "And through the hugs [he] helps make us human again." When they do finally fight, Swofford questions whether the men are as prepared as their commanders, the American public and the men themselves think they are. Swofford deftly uses flashbacks to chart his journey from a wide-eyed adolescent with a family military legacy to a hardened fighter who becomes consumed with doubt about his chosen role. As young soldiers might just find themselves deployed to the deserts of Iraq, this book offers them, as well as the casual reader, an unflinching portrayal of the loneliness and brutality of modern warfare and sophisticated analyses of-and visceral reactions to-its politics.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
In 1990, Swofford, a young Marine sniper, went to Saudi Arabia with dreams of vaporizing Iraqi skulls into clouds of "pink mist." As he recounts in this aggressively uninspiring Gulf War memoir, his youthful bloodlust was never satisfied. After spending months cleaning sand out of his rifle—so feverish with murderous anticipation that he almost blows a buddy's head off after an argument—Swofford ends up merely a spectator of a lopsided battle waged with bombs, not bullets. The rage the soldiers feel, their hopes of combat frustrated, is "nearly unendurable." Swofford's attempts at brutal honesty sometimes seem cartoonish: "Rape them all, kill them all" is how he sums up his military ethic. He is better at comic descriptions—gas masks malfunctioning in the desert heat, camels picked off during target practice—that capture the stupid side of a smart-bomb war.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I bought this book as soon as I heard about it and finished the last page seven hours later. It brought back so many feelings and memories that I couldn't have written it any better. Swofford captured the paradox of war as well as any book I'd ever read. Not many Marines talk about their love/hate relationship with the Corps outside of our circle and he related this sentiment remarkably well. His analysis of the difference between combat marines and the rest of the Corps sounded like recent phone calls between me and my buddies.
If you want to know what war is REALLY about, the day to day uncertainty, fear, boredom, glee, hate, love, and insanity, the BS of politics, incompitant brass leadership, then this book is for you. This isn't some rah rah book written by some REMF pogue either. Patriotism may get you to the front but your buddies will keep you alive so you can make it back home.
Couple of bullet points after reading the book and the reviews.
1. Swofford really downplays the honor of being a marine sniper. I was a line company machinegunner in 2/5 and all of the snipers I knew were a cut above. Not only that but if someone was deemed immature they would be dropped back to their line company platoon, no matter how well they did in sniper school.
2. I agree that the book is rife with innacuracies, exaggerations and downright lies. Then again, it is a memoir, not a history book.
3. The story about the guy watching a videotape from home that shows his wife having sex with another guy is the biggest urban legend in the Corps. Second-place going to the oft-repeated Mr. Rogers was a sniper story.
4. I am not wanting to sound like a tough guy but I don't know once person who pissed their pants in combat or talked about being afraid. By the time you've gone through boot camp, SOI a work-up for deployment and a trip to Oki, you're going to be ready to eat nails, if for no other reason than that all of the hard and miserable training has made you mean.
Pissing your pants in boot camp is very common because of all the forced hydration and few chances to use the bathroom.
5. His whining is actually pretty common, especially in the grunts. I know I'm guilty of it. What is uncommon is his lack of sense of humor. The funniest people I met were in the Marines. if you don't have a sense of humor, you won't be able to laugh off all of the bad things that happen to you.
6. Raunchy tales of whoring and drinking are 100% accurate.
7. His story about pulling a rifle on another Marine is probably false. Marines like to screw around and bend the rules but he went way past the line. No one I knew would have put up with that and not reported it.
8. His lack of aggressiveness is pretty shocking. When he talks about his buddies moaning that they are going to die before any mission is hard to beleive. The Marines I fought beside were all raring to go. If you've spent three years training to do something, you want to do it no matter how dangerous it was.
9. The infidelity of Marine wives and girlfriends is sadly true. then again, I can count on one hand the guys I knew who stayed faithful when we went to Oki.
10. The love/hate of the Marine Corps is a very tense subject for all Marines. When he talked about being embarrassed by other Marines while out in town, I was right there with him. I avoided Marines like the plague whenever I was on libbo. I started counting the days until I got out when I still had a year left, but I am more proud of being a Marine than anything else. It's a very strange life, being a Marine.
Jarhead captures the military culture from the bottom up and records the day to day events of the life of a Marine leading up to the first Gulf War. The actual combat like the war itself seems almost anticlimactic after the tremendous buildup. His descriptions of the corpses of Iraqui soldiers that are seemingly everywhere at the close of the war are graphic and shocking.
Swofford has a great abilty to blend historical and factual experience with literary talent. This book will be considered a classic of the military memoir genre for years to come.
Reading this now as another war rages in the same terrain brings home the reality in a way that news broadcasts even with embedded reporters does not.
Swofford writes with the insights and skeptisism of an insider and does show the Corps. warts and all. However unlike some of the other reviewers I found nothing offensive in that. His writing also reveals an implicit pride in having been a Marine and an acknowlegement that the training and equipment of the US military is unsurpassed.
This is also a coming of age memoir written by a young soldier who is forced to mature and learn to make split second decisions that may or may not jive with his old life, his younger self. It is hard to read this one without thinking deeply about what war does to every soldier who goes into battle, day after day. No book can recreate the actual experience but this one comes about as close as any.
By the way, as of this writing (Nov 1, 2005) the movie is about to be released and I'd STRONGLY suggest the book be read before seeing the movie.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
No fluff...just details.