Following along with my recent interest in the current Iraq War, I just finished We Were One by Patrick O’Donnell. This is your typical combat book that follows a unit through its combat tour. Saying that, I love these kinds of books because you get to know the individual soldiers and appreciate a little of what they went through rather than dry narratives of which unit where and what they accomplished.
O’Donnell is embedded with the first platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment â€“ known as the “Thundering Third”. His book details how a core of combat veterans transforms a bunch of new recruits into a unit fit for combat. Once in Iraq, the men go through the daily grind of patrolling and trying to avoid IEDs (improvised explosive devices). After a few months, O’Donnell explains that Lima Company’s unit has been designated to take part in the recapturing of Fallujah â€“ a sanctuary for foreign insurgents. Once in Fallujah, O’Donnell provides a blow-by-blow description of the street fighting. This fighting nearly wipes the entire platoon out through injuries and deaths.
This is a hard-core book about the cost of combat. For example, the platoon had four sets of best friends and, by the end of the battle; each set had lost one man. O’Donnell does not sugar coat the men in the platoon or the combat they survived â€“ or in some cases, did not survive. Some may think that O’Donnell glorifies the Marines too much, but I contend that he describes the weaknesses of these men as much as he highlights their strengths. The men were not angels by any sense of the word, but they were some of the best that we as a country could send into combat.
Although O’Donnell does not spend much time analyzing the insurgents the Marines fought, I don’t think that was his intention. If you are looking for a balanced account of the Battle of Fullujah, read something else. I think the purpose of the book is to portray the life and death of the Marines who willingly went to Iraq and fought for their friends and comrades. There is no need to describe the insurgents other than that they were drug-crazed fanatics who were willing to give their life for the life of one Marine â€“ they were clever and resourceful fighters (especially the Chechens) that were respected by the Marines.
This book is a wonderful tribute to the Marines who fought and died in Fallujah.