Academic journal article Military Review

HOUSE TO HOUSE: An Epic Memoir of War

Academic journal article Military Review

HOUSE TO HOUSE: An Epic Memoir of War

Article excerpt

HOUSE TO HOUSE: An Epic Memoir of War, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia with John R. Bruning, Free Press, New York, 2007, 321 pages, $26.00.

When searching for one word to describe this book, "raw" comes to mind. The language is raw, the descriptions are raw, and the judgments passed by the author on those who did not share his experience are raw. In the first chapter, David Bellavia gives the reader an indication of what is in store when he describes pressing his boot onto the skull of an Iraqi insurgent. Bellavia had just shot the man in the head at close range. This is not a book for the squeamish.

Instead, it is a book about war up close. The author served as an infantry squad leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division. He and his men fought in what, to date, has been the biggest and bloodiest battle of the long Iraq War, the assault on Fallujah in November 2004. During that battle, Bellavia's squad saw house-to-house combat as intense as any experienced by American fighting men since the Battle of Hue, against enemies as suicidally tenacious as any Americans have encountered since Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The cost was high. Both the commander and executive officer of Bellavia's company died in Fallujah. So did the battalion sergeant major. Bellavia himself came out of the battle with a Silver Star, a recommendation for a Medal of Honor, and a story that is impossible for a reader to put down.

Bellavia's account has the immediacy of today's newspaper or Internet accounts, yet it reflects the experiences and outlook common to Soldiers since Greek hoplites marched to battle in close-ordered phalanxes. Like most combat leaders, the author is desperately protective of his men and contemptuous of clean-shaven staff officers with no experience of intimate combat. …

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