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Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq [Hardcover]

Karl Zinsmeister
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2003
Includes 32 color photos taken by the author during the month he was embedded with the 82nd in Kuwait and Iraq.

This is a riveting account of the war in Iraq moving north with the 82nd Airborne. Units of the 82nd depart Kuwait and convoy to Iraq's Tallil Air Base en route to night-and-day battles within the major city of Samawah and its intact bridges across the Euphrates. Boots on the Ground quickly becomes an action-filled microcosm of the new kinds of ultramodern war fighting showcased in the overall battle for Iraq. At the same time it remains specific to the daily travails of the soldiers. Karl Zinsmeister, a frontline reporter who traveled with the 82nd, vividly conveys the careful planning and technical wizardry that go into today's warfare, even local firefights, and he brings to life the constant air-ground interactions that are the great innovation of modern precision combat.

What exactly does it feel like to travel with a spirited body of fighting men? To come under fire? To cope with the battlefield stresses of sleep-deprivation, and a steady diet of field rations for weeks on end? Readers of this day-to-day diary are left with not only a flashing sequence of strong mental images, but also a notion of the sounds and smells and physical sensations that make modern military action unforgettable.

Ultimately, Boots on the Ground is a human story: a moving portrayal of the powerful bonds of affection, trust, fear, and dedication that bind real soldiers involved in battle. There are unexpected elements: The humor that bubbles up amidst dangerous fighting. The pathos of a badly wounded young boy. The affection openly exhibited by many American soldiers--love of country, love of family and hometown, love of each other. This is a true-life tale of superbly trained men in extraordinary circumstances, packed with concrete detail, often surpassing fiction for sheer drama.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This account of one reporter's month with the 82nd Airborne Division is both a conservative polemic and a vivid portrait of American infantrymen in action. Zinsmeister, who was embedded with the army as a correspondent for The National Review, makes no bones about his unabashed support for the war, and for the American military in general. (He tells readers that he's always taught his own children "to think of military jet noise as 'the sound of freedom.'") The prospect of spending time rubbing shoulders with soldiers in the trenches clearly delights him even before he touches down on Iraqi soil. There is humor in the Zinsmeister's account of bartering for gear in Kuwait's "Body Armor Bazaar," and he provides useful insights into how many of the non-combat operations are actually performed by private civilian contractors. One of the best moments in the book movingly recounts how an Iraqi doctor worked with American soldiers to try to save a wounded boy, yet still refused to tell Zinsmeister his name for fear that his cooperation would draw reprisals later on. The author also gives heartening evidence of the genuine care taken by the troops to avoid civilian casualties. (Less agreeable is his evidence that guerrilla warfare was in full cry even before the formal end of the war.) But readers interested in this information should be prepared to wade through pages and pages of splenetic rants against the anti-war movement and Zinsmeister's fellow journalists, whom he dubs "left-wing, cynical, wiseguy Ivy League types." Such flaws, unfortunately, are not entirely redeemed by the book's outstanding array of color photographs.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Early Praise for Boots on the Ground

"Karl Zinsmeister's splendid report from within the maelstrom of combat demonstrates how the public can benefit when America's superb military is closely observed by a superb reporter."
--George F. Will, news columnist

"A fast-moving story of courage and competence, written by an observer who offers a far different picture from what was presented by our mainstream media. A moving tribute to what free soldiers united in a common cause can accomplish."
--Victor Davis Hanson, military historian

“The finest, most objective piece of war journalism I’ve read since Ernie Pyle in WWII. Tells the story after talking to all grades of soldiers. No one else took time to tell the full story.”
--Burton Poole, Lt. Col., USAF, Retired

“The most powerfully real ‘war experience’ I will probably ever have. I applaud its insight, voluminous factual information, the personal stories collected from many soldiers, and especially the discoveries about the power of love in extreme life and death situations. Karl Zinsmeister has done an invaluable service to America in getting to the heart and soul of this war.”
--Mary Lavato, a soldier’s mother

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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MADISON COUNTY, NEW YORK, MARCH 1-In four days, I have just confirmed with the Pentagon, I will depart for Kuwait. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended July 8 2004
By A Customer
This was highly recommended to me by some pilots and soldiers I know who actually served in Iraq, so I decided to try it.
Now I see why they like it. A dynamic read. Rich in information. Tremendously interesting and inspiring. And, they tell me, accurate.
So now I'm passing on the recommendation to others. I'll also be giving this book as a gift. Especially to people who think Americans have become nothing but self-absorbed couch potatoes, wimps, etc.
Meet some bold and brave souls.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, and very timely right now July 8 2004
By A Customer
I suspect this book will have a classic appeal for many years among any Americans interested in knowing just what it is like to be under fire in combat. It is an exciting, dramatic, and vivid picture of a soldier's life.
But I am especially impressed how timely and relevant it is right now. The Iraq War has turned out to be the biggest issue in American public life in 2004, including in our Presidential election, and this book has some fascinating, and very fresh, things to say about the war, how it has been prosecuted, where it is heading, how the Iraqis are reacting, and so forth.
The main appeal of this book, however, is its human story. This is not a history or textbook. It is storytelling about human beings under ferocious pressure, and the wonderful, horrible, amazing, heartbreaking, brave, funny ways they react. I found it very memorable.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been Better May 12 2004
By jerry
The author works very hard at giving the reader a feel for the action, an "I was there" impression of actual combat and what was going on in his book. Unfortunately, I don't think his prose is much better than mine in too many cases. :( I sometimes that the feeling he had some auto style or theasaurus turned on to phrase his ideas. Quite frankly I think he is in desperate need of an editor if this is to go to a 2nd edition. I was also a bit turned off by some of his conservative ranting, but the liberals turn me off with their ranting too. I think he also maybe rushed this book a bit too quickly and needed a peer review. There were some factual errors regarding the 1991 Gulf War, usually numerical in nature, although these might be linked to a conservative viewpoint. Example: I believe he used a 100+ casualty figure for that bunker that had the civilians in it and was hit by mistake in 1991. I believe the correct total is more like 400+. He also gets off on a rant about the treasures looted from the museum that doesn't seem to jibe with the actual quotations of the director, etc. extensively quoted elsewhere. I think he does take a correct view of the library and some of the other damage (from fires and such). On the whole I'd call this average, although the "color," i.e., "I was there," might make it worth while. I think there are some better choices.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Tale of Soldier Stories April 23 2004
If your looking for a high-level review of the strategy or tactics of the Iraq War -- look elsewhere. This is not the "General's War" (an excellent book on the 1st Gulf War but told exclusively from the highest levels). If you're interested in a gripping tale of how individual soldiers fought the war and their day-to-day experiences (at least for the 1st month of the war)... this is definitely your book. Excellent reporting by Zinsmeister. I literally finished the book cover-to-cover in a single day. You'll clearly get an appreciation for the sacrifice, hardships, and professionalism of the soldiers who are defending our freedoms!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some good stuff - but light. April 12 2004
I think the best thing about this book is that the author took a sincere effort to detail both the diversity of not only the Army as a whole - but also the sheer complexity of the soldiers that serve with the 82nd Airborne.
After serving for 5 years with the 3/325 - it always struck me how so many different people could be drawn from so many disparate backgrounds and still work so *well* together.
If Zinmeister's book does one thing well - it captures this aspect of life as a paratrooper.
There are other Gulf-War 2.0 books out there that are better - but I enjoyed the authors sincere respect for the men - and his obvious desire to relate to them on an individual basis. So many writers focus on the command staff - and forget the rank and file that give the All American's their color, strength, and tenacity.
There are times where you get the feeling that the author is being a bit of a tool for the conservative, republican mindset - but it comes and goes.
A *longer* book might have allowed him to develop things a little more - but a longer book would have required and longer war - and I think we're all going to be happy when we don't have to deal with *that*
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1.0 out of 5 stars story is weak April 9 2004
By A Customer
this book explains nothing for the tactics involved and why certain objectives needed to be met. book is weak in story with only a third of the book covering the war.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A wanna be March 28 2004
By A Customer
As a cadet at West Point, who is intending on going to the 82nd Airborne when I am commissioned, I was terribly dissapointed in this book. The author in this book does not tell a story of the 82nd Airborne. The book is more full of his personal life, and his political views on the war. Out of 213 pages, I would say that only about 60 of them are really about the people he met and the events he witnessed. The rest of the book is him detailing his life (much of it at home in New York), bragging about how he is right in his justification for the war, and how hard it was for him to get time to write his stories. He writes more about the time he spent writing, than he does anything else. It is so obvious that he felt that he had become a soldier. He tells of how he "was instructed on the use of the M-9," and the picture of him is in U.S. Army desert cammo. This guy is a joke. I would agree with what a previous reviewer wrote; the author may have been in some dicey situations, but there are no details of the events, it is all boring. Most of the information that he writes about involving what happened in Iraq is just headlines that were already told in the news, and almost all of those don't even include the 82nd. The bottom line is that this is a horrible book written by a horrible author who seems to think that he was transformed into a soldier.
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