“The March Up” by West and Smith

Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division

Just checked this book out from the library. I’m not far into it, but it’s already excellent.

Here are a couple snippets:

We asked them why they had chosen to join the Marines. They said they wanted to do what was tough. Most mentioned they needed more discipline, and everyone knew what happens in Marine recruit depots: the drill instructors either shape you up or throw you out. Lance Corporal Answitz, twenty-four, had served in the Spetnatz, the Russian special forces, before emigrating to the United States. Spetnatz had pushed the recruits harder physically, he said, making them exercise in T-shirts in subzero weather, but the Corps was mentally tougher; those Marine drill instructors got inside your head.


Two CH-46s were inbound for the wounded–three Marines who had been hit in different fights the day before, four enemy prisoners near death, and thirteen civilians. The helicopter pilots asked no questions. By the book, only Marines and EPWs–enemy prisoners of war–were to be given anything beyond on-scene emergency care. Civilians were supposed to be taken by other civilians to civilan hospitals. But Cmdr. Ken Kelly and other doctors throughout the theater persisted in putting seriously wounded civilians on the medevac helicopters whenever there was room. The system knew about it; it was one of those things no one wrote down.


The Amtrac stopped, the Marines looking every which way. Rifles snapped to shoulders when a boy, looking no older than fifteen, stepped out from behind the wall, waving a white flag. He looked into Crossen’s eyes and seemed to smile–more like a nervous tremble. The range was perhaps ten meters. Four riflemen had lined up on the boy, who had to sense he had no chance. Still, he dropped the flag and reached down into the grass. Crossen thought the boy must have been looking at the RPG the whole time, knowing right where he and his buddies had hidden it. Perhaps there was more than one weapon. Perhaps two or three friends had made a pact and only this boy had stuck to it. Crossen watched as the boy began to pick up the RPG. He never got it to his shoulder.

The book is great reading, and there seems to be the right mix of narrative and analysis. I wish it had more maps, especially of the an Nasiriyah area where the Marines fought against tenacious irregulars and suffered badly.

I’ll probably post more snippets as I make my way through it.