One Million Steps
Battalion 3/5 suffered the highest number of casualties in the war in Afghanistan. This is the story of one platoon in that distinguished battalion.
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.Read More
Into the Fire
The story of what Dakota did… will be told for generations.” – President Barack Obama, from remarks given at Meyer’s Medal of Honor ceremony
In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisers 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 repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, 21 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, facing certain death. Employing a variety of machineguns, 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, Dakota 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, told in a compelling, human way that serves 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 US 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 Dakota’s eyes, bullet-by-bullet, with raw honesty in telling both the errors that resulted in tragedy and the resolve of American Solders, Marines and Afghan soldiers – abandoned and facing certain death.
Meticulously researched and thrillingly told, with nonstop pace and vivid detail, Into the Fire is the true story of a modern American hero.
“Sergeant Meyer embodies all that is good about our nation’s Corps of Marines…. His heroic actions …will forever be etched in our Corps’ rich legacy of courage and valor.” – General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine CorpsRead More
The Wrong War
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.
The Strongest Tribe
In Iraq, the United States made mistake after mistake. Many Americans gave up on the war. Then two generals—David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno—displayed the leadership America expected. Bringing the reader from the White House to the fighting in the streets, combat journalist and bestselling author Bing West explains this astounding turnaround by U.S. forces. In the course of fifteen extended trips over five years, West embedded with more than sixty front-line units, discussing strategy with generals and tactics with corporals. Disposing of myths, he provides an expert's account of the counterinsurgency. This is the definitive study of how American soldiers actually fought.Read More
No True Glory
A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah
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.Read More
The March Up
Granted extraordinary access across the battlefield, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West and retired MajGen Ray Smith, traveled with 18 Marine units, seeing combat on 16 days.
In this book, two combat veterans describe the modern battlefield.
Bing West was a member of the Marine recon team which ambushed a North Vietnamese battalion and initiated the behind-the-lines campaign called Operation Stingray. He is the author of The Village and The Pepperdogs.
Major General Ray Smith has commanded Marines on battlefields around the world, receiving thirteen medals for valor, including three Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross.
This book is a description of modern ground combat – who these young infantrymen are, how they fight and how they are led, from three-star generals to tough corporals clearing the trench lines.Read More
The Serbs behind them were preparing to attack, and in front of them lay open ground, flat and white as a shroud. We've run a hundred miles, Lang thought, to come up a football field short.
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?Read More
This is the story of fifteen Americans engaged in a fight for 485 days. No unit in Vietnam had a higher fatality rate.The odds of going home alive were fifty-fifty, a coin flip. More Marines died in the area called Chulai than in Desert Storm. The civil war in the village was as personally complicated, as staggering in its costs and as unyielding in its opposing beliefs as was our own Civil War. In Binh Nghia, the local guerrillas had relatives and protectors in the Viet Cong companies across the river and back in the mountains. The Marine squad walked into the village unaware of the personalities or politics, or how hamlet skirmishes caught the attention of forces ten times their size.
With an average age of twenty, the Marines were professional soldiers. Their authority stemmed from their rifles, just as the short sword distinguished the Roman legions. They brought their training, their rifles and themselves. Either they would defeat their enemy, or they would be driven out.
I patrolled with the Combined Action Platoon, as the Marine squad and local militia were called, in 1966 and ’67. I went back to the village in ’68, ’69 and 2002. I spoke with practically every Marine, village official and Popular Force militiaman. I also spoke with Viet Cong representatives after the war. In this book, I try to describe what it was like to live, fight and die in a village so far away from America yet so close in human values and spirit. The communists now rule Binh Nghia; yet the memorial to the Marines who fought there remains, and the villagers remember them by name, all these decades later.Read More
Call Sign Chaos
A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world, by General Jim Mattis—the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time—and Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine.
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.Read More
The Last Platoon
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.Read More