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About Bing West
Bing West's novel, The Last Platoon, is the story of duty in savage, unwinnable combat. West served in Marine infantry in Vietnam. A graduate of Georgetown and Princeton Universities, he has served as both Special Assistant to Secretary of Defense and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security. Based on his own combat and dozens of embeds over the decades, he has written a dozen books about the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the co-author of General Jim Mattis's memoir, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, that is on the Commandant's Required Reading List. He has twice been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service medal, as well as numerous awards for his reporting on combat.
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“A four-star general’s five-star memoir.”—The Wall Street Journal
Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis’s storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas—and short-sighted thinking—now facing our nation. He makes it clear why America must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles but fighting inconclusive wars.
Mattis divides his book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. In the first part, Mattis recalls his early experiences leading Marines into battle, when he knew his troops as well as his own brothers. In the second part, he explores what it means to command thousands of troops and how to adapt your leadership style to ensure your intent is understood by your most junior troops so that they can own their mission. In the third part, Mattis describes the challenges and techniques of leadership at the strategic level, where military leaders reconcile war’s grim realities with political leaders’ human aspirations, where complexity reigns and the consequences of imprudence are severe, even catastrophic.
Call Sign Chaos is a memoir of a life of warfighting and lifelong learning, following along as Mattis rises from Marine recruit to four-star general. It is a journey about learning to lead and a story about how he, through constant study and action, developed a unique leadership philosophy, one relevant to us all.
In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.
With a brave driver at the wheel, Meyer stood in the gun turret exposed to withering fire, rallying Afghan troops to follow. Over the course of the five hours, he charged into the valley time and again. Employing a variety of machine guns, rifles, grenade launchers, and even a rock, Meyer repeatedly repulsed enemy attackers, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and provided cover for dozens of others to escape—supreme acts of valor and determination. In the end, Meyer and four stalwart comrades—an Army captain, an Afghan sergeant major, and two Marines—cleared the battlefield and came to grips with a tragedy they knew could have been avoided. For his actions on that day, Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Into the Fire tells the full story of the chaotic battle of Ganjigal for the first time, in a compelling, human way that reveals it as a microcosm of our recent wars. Meyer takes us from his upbringing on a farm in Kentucky, through his Marine and sniper training, onto the battlefield, and into the vexed aftermath of his harrowing exploits in a battle that has become the stuff of legend.
Investigations ensued, even as he was pitched back into battle alongside U.S. Army soldiers who embraced him as a fellow grunt. When it was over, he returned to the States to confront living with the loss of his closest friends. This is a tale of American values and upbringing, of stunning heroism, and of adjusting to loss and to civilian life.
We see it all through Meyer’s eyes, bullet by bullet, with raw honesty in telling of both the errors that resulted in tragedy and the resolve of American soldiers, U.S. Marines, and Afghan soldiers who’d been abandoned and faced certain death.
Meticulously researched and thrillingly told, with nonstop pace and vivid detail, Into the Fire is the unvarnished story of a modern American hero.
Praise for Into the Fire
“A story of men at their best and at their worst . . . leaves you gaping in admiration at Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer’s courage.”—National Review
“Meyer’s dazzling bravery wasn’t momentary or impulsive but deliberate and sustained.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] cathartic, heartfelt account . . . Combat memoirs don’t get any more personal.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A great contribution to the discussion of an agonizingly complex subject.”—The Virginian-Pilot
“Black Hawk Down meets Lone Survivor.”—Library Journal
“Bing West is the grunt’s Homer.” —L.A. Times
A platoon of Marines and CIA operatives clash in a fight to the death with the drug lords and the Taliban, while in Washington, the president seeks a way out.
A small team of CIA operatives and Marines commanded by Captain Diego Cruz are protecting a tiny base in Helmand—the most violent province in Afghanistan. In a series of escalating fights, Cruz must prove he is a combat leader, despite the growing disapproval of the colonel in overall charge. At the same time, the president has ordered the CIA to capture a drug lord. But with a fortune in heroin at stake, the Taliban joins with the drug lord to wipe out the base. As the president negotiates a secret deal, Cruz must rally the Marines to make a last stand. Bringing you into America’s longest war with vivid immediacy, The Last Platoon portrays how leaders rise or wilt under intense pressure. A searing, timeless story of moral conflict, savage combat, and feckless politics.
Fallujah: Iraq’s most dangerous city unexpectedly emerged as the major battleground of the Iraqi insurgency. For twenty months, one American battalion after another tried to quell the violence, culminating in a bloody, full-scale assault. Victory came at a terrible price: 151 Americans and thousands of Iraqis were left dead.
The epic battle for Fallujah revealed the startling connections between policy and combat that are a part of the new reality of war.
The Marines had planned to slip into Fallujah “as soft as fog.” But after four American contractors were brutally murdered, President Bush ordered an attack on the city–against the advice of the Marines. The assault sparked a political firestorm, and the Marines were forced to withdraw amid controversy and confusion–only to be ordered a second time to take a city that had become an inferno of hate and the lair of the archterrorist al-Zarqawi.
Based on months spent with the battalions in Fallujah and hundreds of interviews at every level–senior policymakers, negotiators, generals, and soldiers and Marines on the front lines–No True Glory is a testament to the bravery of the American soldier and a cautionary tale about the complex–and often costly–interconnected roles of policy, politics, and battle in the twenty-first century.
In Black Hawk Down, the fight went on for a day. In We Were Soldiers Once & Young, the fighting lasted three days. In The Village, one Marine squad fought for 495 days—half of them died.
Few American battles have been so extended, savage and personal. A handful of Americans volunteered to live among six thousand Vietnamese, training farmers to defend their village. Such “Combined Action Platoons” (CAPs) are now a lost footnote about how the war could have been fought; only the villagers remain to bear witness. This is the story of fifteen resolute young Americans matched against two hundred Viet Cong; how a CAP lived, fought and died. And why the villagers remember them to this day.
Aware of U.S. plans to withdraw from the country, knowing their efforts were only a footprint in the sand, the fifty Marines of 3rd Platoon fought in Sangin, the most dangerous district in all of Afghanistan. So heavy were the casualties that the Secretary of Defense offered to pull the Marines out. Instead, they pushed forward. Each Marine in 3rd Platoon patrolled two and a half miles a day for six months—a total of one million steps—in search of a ghostlike enemy that struck without warning. Why did the Marines attack and attack, day after day?
Every day brought a new skirmish. Each footfall might trigger an IED. Half the Marines in 3rd Platoon didn’t make it intact to the end of the tour. One Million Steps is the story of the fifty brave men who faced these grim odds and refused to back down. Based on Bing West’s embeds with 3rd Platoon, as well as on their handwritten log, this is a gripping grunt’s-eye view of life on the front lines of America’s longest war. Writing with a combat veteran’s compassion for the fallen, West also offers a damning critique of the higher-ups who expected our warriors to act as nation-builders—and whose failed strategy put American lives at unnecessary risk.
Each time a leader was struck down, another rose up to take his place. How does one man instill courage in another? What welded these men together as firmly as steel plates?
This remarkable book is the story of warriors caught between a maddening, unrealistic strategy and their unswerving commitment to the fight. Fearsome, inspiring, and poignant in its telling, One Million Steps is sure to become a classic, a unique and enduring testament to the American warrior spirit.
Praise for One Million Steps
“West shows the reality of modern warfare in a way that is utterly gripping.”—Max Boot, author of Invisible Armies
“A gripping, boot-level account of Marines in Afghanistan during the bloody struggle with Taliban fighters.”—Los Angeles Times
“One Million Steps transcends combat narrative: It is an epic of contemporary small-unit combat.”—Eliot A. Cohen, author of Supreme Command
“A blistering assault on America’s senior military leadership.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A heart-pounding portrayal . . . a compelling account of what these men endured.”—The Washington Post
“Stunning, sobering, and brilliantly written.”—Newt Gingrich
“One of the most intrepid military journalists, Bing West, delivers a heart-wrenching account of one platoon’s fight.”—Bill Bennett, host of Morning in America
“Bing West has reconfirmed his standing as one of the most intrepid and insightful observers of America’s wars. . . . One Million Steps reveals the essence of small-unit combat, the very soul of war.
When a fellow Marine is kidnapped, Captain Mark Lang and his recon team, the Pepperdogs, disobey orders and cross into snowbound Serbia to rescue him. A leader who can't quit, Lang is urged on by his team members. Five New York City reservists -- a trader, a fireman, an auto mechanic, a fitness trainer and a computer geek -- set out on an impossible odyssey. Superbly fit and equipped, they employ speed, ambush and the Internet to close in on their target.
After a team member sends back e-mails describing their firefights, the Pepperdogs become front-page news. Once Weekend Warriors, by the end of their mission they are the most feared unit in Europe, fighting anyone who stands in their way. The press calls them "The Wild Bunch on technological steroids." Lang, haunted by memories of his missing buddy's dying mother, knows the horrific costs they are inflicting but won't turn back. Their rescue mission, condemned by the military, slowly escalates into a standoff between the Oval Office and NATO Europe with the world watching.
A razor-sharp storyteller and Pentagon insider, Bing West unleashes a blistering techno thriller that probes the limits of physical and mental endurance. Drawing on firsthand knowledge of combat, West fuses the grit of Blackhawk Down with the behind-the-scenes intrigue of The West Wing, showing how in the near future a squad can become wired to the White House, to the dismay of the traditional chain of command. The Pepperdogs is a gripping story about American reserves, conflicting loyalties and devotion to comrade. What price will a nation pay to save one life?
In this definitive account of the conflict, acclaimed war correspondent and bestselling author Bing West provides a practical way out of Afghanistan. Drawing on his expertise as both a combat-hardened Marine and a former assistant secretary of defense, West has written a tour de force narrative, rich with vivid characters and gritty combat, which shows the consequences when strategic theory meets tactical reality. Having embedded with dozens of frontline units over the past three years, he takes the reader on a battlefield journey from the mountains in the north to the opium fields in the south. A fighter who understands strategy, West builds the case for changing course. His conclusion is sure to provoke debate: remove most of the troops from Afghanistan, stop spending billions on the dream of a modern democracy, and insist the Afghans fight their own battles. Bing West’s book is a page-turner about brave men and cunning enemies that examines our realistic choices as a nation.
With a new Afterword by the author.
The Guerilla Warfare in the jungles and paddies of Vietnam was unlike the previous wars that the United States had been involved in for the past hundred years; there were no frontlines, no rest areas, few uniformed enemies and a terrorized population unwilling to help. The tactics, strategies and experiences that would show the way forward were often developed by the small units; squads, platoons and outposts who saw the most of the hard fighting in isolated engagements with their elusive enemies. To ensure that this valuable resource of knowledge and experience was disseminated to all the men of the Corps, the Marine Intelligence department plucked Captain Francis J West Jr and sent him to join the 5th Marines on their day-to-day engagements, patrols and ambushes. What he learnt and recorded, frequently under fire, were the actual experiences of the USMC at the sharp end of the fighting during the Summer of 1966. Aimed at the men of the Corps he wrote of the tense ambushes, long range patrols, 15 second engagements, artillery support, airstrikes and even battalion level sweeps through the awful conditions of the war.
A vivid and visceral account of the struggle of the U.S. Marines during the summer of 1966.
In the course of 14 extended trips over five years, West embedded with more than 60front-line units, discussing strategy with generals and tactics with corporals. He provides an expert’s account of counterinsurgency, disposing of myths. By describing the characters and combat in city after city, West gives the reader an in-depth understanding that will inform the debate about the war. This is the definitive study of how American soldiers actually fought--a gripping and visceral book that changes the way we think about the war, and essential reading for understanding the next critical steps to be taken.
With unprecedented access and previously unreported detail, here is a first hand account of the 22-day march to Baghdad that takes you behind the scenes and to the front line...
No one reporting on the war in Iraq had the unique battlefield clearance afforded the authors of this dramatic eyewitness account. Unlike embedded journalists confined to a single unit, West and Smith acquired a captured yellow SUV and joined with whatever unit was leading the assault every day of the fight. The result is a report of what really happened from the heart of the action unlike anything you’ ll read anywhere else.
“While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam’s oppression.”—Major General J.N. Mattis, 1st Marine Division, Commanding
Here is the story that can be told only by those who actually witnessed the action of the famed 1st Marine Division’ s march on Baghdad, from the shaky beginning of U.S. operations in southern Iraq to the capture of U.S. prisoners, the misreported “fierce Iraqi resistance,” and the aggressive assaults that led to a quick and decisive victory.
With over a half century of military and combat experience between them, bestselling author F. J. “Bing” West and Major General Ray L. Smith, USMC (Ret.), combine expert military analysis with dramatic battlefield reporting. They bring the reader on a march that ended in victory—but was shadowed by second-guessing, unexpected reversals, and the threat of catastrophe.
With access to three-star generals in the command centers and to privates in the field, the authors reveal how the strategic plan played out in battle, showing what went well and what failed, and detailing power struggles for military and political control never reported. The result is destined to become the definitive account of ground warfare in Iraq.