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The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan Hardcover – January 19, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 305 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The early, relatively heroic days of the conflict in Afghanistan are memorialized in this engrossing if glamorized war saga. Blehm (The Last Season, a B&N Discover Award winner) follows the exploits of Capt. Jason Amerine's Special Forces team Alpha 574, which choppered into Afghanistan in November 2001 to help future Afghan president Hamid Karzai organize anti-Taliban insurgents in the south. The team's mission—to turn chaotic and perpetually stoned Pashtun tribesmen into effective soldiers—seems impossible and, ultimately, proved unnecessary. Indeed, according to Blehm's account, the Green Berets' worst enemies were other Americans: meddling CIA honchos and army brass, a do-nothing Marine officer, and the air force spotter who mistakenly called in an air strike on 574's position, with ghastly results. The author overplays the comradely bond between Karzai and Amerine, who come off as a latter-day Washington and Lafayette, but doesn't quite succeed in wringing a military epic out of what was essentially a turkey shoot. Still, Blehm's warts-and-all account of the U.S. military machine in action is full of tension, color, and real pathos. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Jan.)
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Review

“The Only Thing Worth Dying For is not only brilliant, it’s the one book you must read if you have any hope of understanding what our fine American soldiers are up against in Afghanistan.” (Former Congressman Charlie Wilson)

“A skillfully reported and masterfully written account of one of the most crucial moments of the War Against Terror. Blehm reminds us of the perils, the triumphs and the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.” (Bob Woodruff, ABC News correspondent)

“Through careful reporting and crisp narrative pacing, Eric Blehm has given us a thrilling, forgotten drama from the opening chapter of the war in Afghanistan. The Only Thing Worth Dying For will become an enduring classic of this extraordinary theater, where so much hangs in the balance.” (Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder)

“Blehm provides powerful and unflinching insight into a real-life mission that ended in tragedy but left an indelible mark on history. From the comic moments to the bleakest hour, it’s a testament to how a small team of well-trained men can shape a nation’s destiny.” (Stephen Grey, award-winning author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA's Torture Program and Operation Snakebite: The Story of an Afghan Desert Siege)

“Eric Blehm has written a literary masterpiece about modern war. The whole witches’ brew is here: valor, honor, heroism, cowardice, incompetence, stupidity, triumph, blood, death and despair. That America has soldiers like these should fill every American heart with pride. Read this book!” (Stephen Coonts, bestselling author of Flight of the Intruder and The Disciple)

“No other book has gone to such depths in research, nor been so descriptive in recounting this critical mission during the earliest days after 9/11 when the US Army Special Forces successfully waged unconventional warfare in Afghanistan.” (Sergeant Major Billy Waugh, author of Hunting The Jackal and Isaac Camacho, An American Hero)

“The greatest story of a small unit’s battle through an untamed land since Lawrence of Arabia.” (Adam Makos, editor of Valor Magazine)

“A captivating account of our heroic warriors-a remarkable U.S. Army Special Forces unit’s hard-fought success against incredible odds. It reads with the thrill of fiction-but this is the damned deadly real deal.” (W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV, best-selling authors of The Traffickers and The Honor of Spies)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061661228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061661228
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (305 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a lot of books in this particular genre, and this is the first time I've been compelled to post a review--the book was THAT good. While sticking to the historical facts as to the events which transpired in the build up to and initial invasion of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Eric Blehm presents a fascinating page-turner. I absolutely couldn't put the book down, and at times had to remind myself I was reading a non-fiction book. If you're interested in how low-level, tactical leaders in our armed forces truly influence the nations of the world, this is a must-read. Blehm clearly did his homework and must've conducted hours of interviews with the surviving members of ODA-574, as his insight and account of the harrowing ordeal read as if I was there with them. Read this book--you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
As a reader addicted to military history and accounts of warriors who have actually fought the battles, I am blown away by this book. The author has done exhaustive research and portrays the events that took place with this SF team with very detailed descriptions of technology, tactics, mission planning all as if these men were friends of yours. Eric Blehm takes you inside their lives, their personal conflicts and triumphs, and let's you understand how men can do exceptional things with exceptional commitment to their mission and themselves! The men under Captain Jason Amerine depict why the Green Berets and their other SF brothers are capable of overcoming adversity that couldn't be planned for through constant preparation and unwavering committment. Given the ability to think on their feet and to take action as required when required time after time. I couldn't put this book down. I encourage you to pick this book up, strap yourself in, and be prepared to feel tired, dirty, sweaty, and completely exhausted as SF Team ODA 574 accomplish great things under the leadership of a young captain who believes in his men and trusts them to protect each other...and Hamid Karzai, from the Taliban and the 11th century tribal system inside of Afghanistan that could become a civil war destroying everything.
My heart felt thanks to the men and women of our armed forces and to those capable of earning selection into the special forces. You truly stand above the average man...and I'm glad you do!
Now it's time to pick up more Eric Blehm...he is a wonderful author.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I've read by author Eric Blehm. I was absolutely impressed by his ability to spin war history into a story you can't put down. In my opinion everyone should read this book to gain a better understanding of the war in Afghanistan. More importantly; with the current state of conflict it reminds us of how it all began.

I found the story insightful both politically and humanistically; the type of novel that is discussed in history class or thoroughly enjoyed at home. Mapping the big picture area of operations following 911 down to small team tactical decisions and finally the personal stories/relationships of the Special Forces Team ODA 574. The team members are developed to an extent that I internalized their experiences, family and know them by first name. The book also gives an interesting, candid first hand understanding of Hamid Karzai's journey to the presidency, focusing on his faithful deep connection with Afghanistan.

This book is very real, I laughed and cried. As a brutally, touchingly honest story of men at war, I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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Format: Hardcover
I have just finished this book and must say that I am still stunned and appalled by the behavior of the senior
officers who forced their way into the mission of ODA 594. This is the story of how our brave Special Forces
soldiers were caused to agree to the whimsy of those who thought they knew better just because they were senior
in rank to Capt Amerine and his team. Due to their need to play with what they saw as toys for field grade officers to use, members of ODA 594 and uncountable friendly Afghan soldiers were killed by "friendly fire", many others wounded,and to the disgust of a combat veteran like me, the senior officers tried to blame the authorization on
Karzai. I guess they thought they could get away with that lie. I hope they rot in a very hot place for this behavior.

I am an ex-officer and Vietnam Combat Veteran.
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Format: Hardcover
Eric Blehm is a marvelous and immensely talented writer. He lays out the background story of The Only thing Worth Dying For in the beginning chapters, quickly running through a huge number of people's names and military jargon.

Blehm's talents are many and difficult to describe in a review - much better to read in person. But #1 amongst his talent is Blehm's ability to concisely interpret interviews and reports into a coherent whole. His depiction of events involving evaluation of wounded soldiers is graphic and real. Blehm is a researcher who digs deeply into his subject, reading and interviewing and tracking every bit of information to its source.

Another of Blehm's talents for those of us without a military background is the way he takes military jargon and reduces it to just the important concepts. He also succeeds in helping readers follow the ever-expanding cast of characters.

Nothing in Blehm's writing is extraneous. Nothing is wasted.

The best part of The Only Thing Worth Fighting For is that, though written in the genre of creative non-fiction, Blehm is scrupulous in keeping himself out of the story. He lets the ODA team, and what happened to them in Southern Afganistan, stay front and center throughout the book.

Eric Blehm is writer we should keep an eye on. He is young, though experienced. He is talented. His next project will be greeted with much anticipation. I'm sure it will be as great as The Last Season and The Only Thing Worth Fighting For.
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