Book Review: United States Army at War: 9/11 through Iraq

The U.S. Army has had a rough time since 9/11. Overstretched by a political-military strategy bereft of brilliance, foresight, and subtlety, it has been under continuous hostile fire abroad and friendly fire at home. But regardless of whether one agrees with the wisdom of the White House, there is no doubt that American soldiers have fought bravely and skillfully from Tora Bora to Baghdad.

“The United States Army at War” is their story. Penned by veteran military writer Berry, and featuring the expert work of Army Magazine photographer Dennis Steele, this book is an album of Americans performing dirty and dangerous jobs far from home. Especially striking is Steele’s photo of a comrade bending over stretcher-bound Private Christopher Nauman, who insisted on retaining his shotgun when he was wounded, and used it to shoot an Iraqi who ambushed him on the way to the aid station. Or the photo of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, sprawled atop a hillock, near the gaunt figure of a battered clock tower that belonged to a Baghdad amusement park.

However, many of the pictures are not of combat, but rather of men and women doing the thousand and one tasks that keep a modern army functioning. Seeing the intense concentration of young Americans as they lay signal wire or unload supplies is a reminder of the dreary but vital work that we ask our countrymen to perform. Gazing at a photo of Americans providing water to Iraqi civilians is reassurance that whatever the stain of the Abu Ghraib miscreants, most U.S. soldiers – like most Americans – perform their jobs with honor and dignity.

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