Finished “The March Up”

Finally finished “The March Up” by Bing West and Ray L. Smith. As I’ve said before, it’s an excellent account of the 1st Marine division’s sprint up to Baghdad. Here’s a final excerpt:

The Aziz mansion was located near the underpass of a large highway bridge, and as we waked to the vehicles, we heard a short burst of shooting near the up ramp. Conlin had left a platoon–call sign “Animal 3”–at a circle that controlled traffic on and off the bridge. After sitting for a few hours, the Marines of Animal 3 had become bored and decided to shoot up an abandoned Iraqi military truck–just as the platoon walked outside the mansion. Nighttime fireworks were nothing new–with arms caches seemingly in every school and ammo on every truck, Marines never lacked for something blow up. But this one was a doozy. The truck had been carrying heavy artillery shells, and soon shrapnel was whizzing in all directions and pinging off the concrete pillars supporting the overpass. As the Marines scattered for cover in the darkness, a few mistook the shrapnel for incoming bullets and fired their M-16s. A CAAT joined in with their two .50-calibers, firing at the exploding truck mainly but also inadvertently into Animal 3.

With much screaming the sergeants imposed a cease-fire before the intramural firefight did any damage. Ray, who had been screaming cease-fire as loudly as anyone else, added a reprimand. “You’re crazy,” he yelled to the CAAT. “Don’t you see that’s Animal 3 you’re shooting at?”

There was a moment of silence, then came a response out of the dark: “Well, they shot first.”

The book is a good mix of battle reporting and stories about the daily life of the Marines between the fighting. The writers, both former Marines themselves, are unabashedly pro-Corps. Lefties hoping to find stories of abuse and incompetence are going to be disappointed.

One thing that stood out to me were the number of times that local Iraqis cheered and aided the Marines. Those opposed to the administration and/or the invasion like to pooh-pooh the pre-war claims that Iraqis would cheer our arrival, but there seems to have been a fair amount of it in the Marines’ neck of the woods. Maybe not cheering throngs like Holland in 1944 (which slowed the armor’s advance and cost Allied lives) but certainly not the open distrust and clear hatred that Lefties like to claim we met.

Check the book out. It’s a good, easy read and definitely worth the time.