House To House by David Bellavia and John Bruning is a gripping account of Bellavia’s experiences as a squad leader in the First Infantry Division in Iraq (Bellavia has been awarded the Silver Star and has been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service). The book is an awesome look at combat and leadership under extreme stress.
This is a gut-checking, put-your-squeamishness-to-the-side kind of book. Bellavia speaks frankly in a way only an infantryman can speak – profanity-laden rants about the horrors of combat and the idiotic decisions made by his leaders. Although gruesome, his accounts of battle are the kinds of accounts we need to take away the veil of romanticism many have of combat. He speaks honestly of what a body looks like when it has been riddled with dozens of bullets.
Bellavia is a good example of all that is right with our armed forces. He is courageous, loyal, and honest. He dodged many a bullets to help out his comrades, but was truthful when his actions or decisions came up short.
The best part of the book centers on his unit’s fight in the second battle of Fallujah. If you recall, it is the second battle because politics halted the first one. Bellavia compares Fallujah with Normandy – some may think this is hyperbole, but I would disagree because Fallujah was probably the most intense, extended period of combat in this era of fighting of American armed forces.
Fallujah tests the bonds of friendship and sanity of the participants. Bellavia’s unit fights its way through its designated sector and then is ordered to go back and clear out infiltrators in their rear. Many times they were at risk of being over-run, Bellavia’s unit responded with wonderful teamwork and fire discipline. During the fight, the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) proved their worth by keeping the men calm and focused even during the most trying of times.
During one of these times, Bellavia and his men are tested beyond measure when they enter into the perfect ambush set-up in a house. Bellavia at first freezes up and almost “loses it” in front of his men, but seeks redemption when they withdraw from the house. He then narrates a classic wartime account of his fight to gain back his honor of leading men.
After reading this book, I cannot understand how anyone can think poorly of our Iraq War veteran. The men and women who served (and continue to serve) deserve the greatest respect from civilian Americans – not their disdain as so many have been apt to do. They are the force behind our democracy. God Bless them.