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Contact Charlie: The Canadian Army, The Taliban and the Battle that Saved Afghanistan [Hardcover]

Chris Wattie
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 10 2008

In the summer of 2006, a Canadian army patrol travelling through Afghanistan?s Panjwayi region?a densely packed maze of villages, fields and vineyards west of Kandahar?surprised an unexpectedly large force of Taliban fighters. The soldiers of the Princess Patricia?s Canadian Light Infantry had stumbled into a hornet?s nest, the largest buildup of Taliban forces in the region since their regime had fallen in 2001. The Canadians found themselves up against opponents who were suicidally brave, cunning at planting mines and roadside bombs, and experienced at disappearing into the scenery whenever they chose. As their commanders threw more and more soldiers into what became a gruelling, drawn-out struggle, the troops of the battalion`s Charlie Company found themselves at the forefront of every firefight and ambush in what became a desperate, two-month pitched battle. The 150 soldiers of Charlie Company suffered more casualties and earned more decorations for bravery than any other Canadian unit since the Korean War and came into contact with the enemy so many times they became known simply as "Contact Charlie."

In Contact Charlie, National Post reporter and embedded journalist Chris Wattie offers an intimate and harrowing look at the series of battles that would eventually take the lives of seven soldiers, including Captain Nichola Goddard, Canada`s first female combat casualty, and veteran soldier Sergeant Vaughn Ingram, who died trying to save one of his young troops. Based on Wattie?s own experience in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of post-tour interviews with the men and women on the ground, Contact Charlie is a rare piece of military writing, providing readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the stories that made headlines that summer?and continue to do so today.

Praise for Contact Charlie:

?In the summer of 2006 the Taliban were poised to take back their Jerusalem, Kandahar City. They didn?t figure on 1 PPCLI. Chris Wattie?s outstanding effort lets us eavesdrop on the intense battles that saved the city, the country and NATO itself, and should make every Canadian proud of our country?s sacrifice in the name of freedom.? ?Lewis MacKenzie, Major-General (ret?d), Commanding Officer 1PPCLI, 1977?1979

?Way beyond the perceived access of embedded reporting, Contact Charlie brings the boots on the ground view in Afghanistan closer than anyone outside the Canadian Forces has ever seen it. Wattie?s account of the battle for the Panjwayi is reminiscent of war correspondence from such giants as Ross Munro, Matthew Halton or Bill Boss?as close to the sharp end as one can get." ?Ted Barris, journalist and author

"Many journalists try to write about military life but few possess the ability, eloquence and sheer grasp of the fleshy reality of war and soldiering that Wattie has in obvious abundance. This is reporting, military history and political analysis of the first order. Splendid and memorable?a book that should carve an honoured place in Canadian literature." ?Michael Coren, Sun Media columnist, television and radio host and best-selling author

?Contact Charlie fills in the blanks between Canada?s military objective in Afghanistan and the dizzying transformation on the ground. It is a thorough, lucid account of how one company?s tour of duty altered so many lives. Like a magnet, Charlie Company is drawn into a fight behind every wall and Chris Wattie captures it all in meticulous detail. Each time they suit up for a ?routine? patrol, there is a sense of dread for what looms. Contact Charlie will survive as a testament to the soldiers who never came back and the friends who will never forget them.? ?Lisa LaFlamme, National Affairs Correspondent, CTV News


Product Details


Product Description

Quill & Quire

From May through August 2006, Canadian soldiers fought a running battle against Taliban insurgents in the Panjwayi district southwest of Kandahar, the Afghan provincial capital. In the most intense fighting the Canadian army has conducted since the Korean War, the Taliban offensive was defeated, checking their goal to break NATO’s tenuous resolve by occupying Kandahar, however briefly. Contact Charlie, by National Post reporter and army reserve officer Chris Wattie, recounts the Battle of Panjwayi, focusing on Charlie Company of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, with whom Wattie was embedded for eight weeks in early 2006.     Wattie’s book is an extraordinarily intense minute-by-minute account of the major engagements from the point of view of the Canadian soldiers who fought them. We tread familiar, but nonetheless inspiring, ground reading about courage, fear, determination, frustration, sorrow, and professionalism. Although clearly a battle narrative, Contact Charlie contains little history or true reportage, and is unrepentantly biased. Add in the breathless tone, and the book is, ultimately, a tribute to those Canadians who have chosen to fight on behalf of Canada.     Even a tribute, though, requires some sense of legitimacy, and Contact Charlie often strains credibility. The lack of annotation, and the apparently perfect recall of the soldiers, suggests that Wattie has amplified the tone, if not the facts, of the battle for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, the book will inform those interested about combat in Afghanistan, and about the lives and sacrifices of our soldiers.     But between the lines of heroism and professionalism is an uncomfortable truth: two years later, the Taliban are attacking Kandahar, NATO resolve is still tenuous, and Canadian soldiers are still fighting and dying in Panjwayi.

Review

“... an incredibly great book. It really does focus you on what occurred in southern Afghanistan in the summer of 2006 and it tells the story in a very personal manner. As far as I can determine, it`s all true and I think that`s the first time I`ve ever said that about a reporter who wrote anything in their entire life. It`s all true.” ?General Rick Hillier

“It is rare that a book about the Canadian military comes along that grabs your attention from the opening paragraph and holds it right to the last page. This is the case with the? best seller Contact Charlie.” ?Sergeant Kurt Grant, CD, Canadian Army Journal

“In the summer of 2006 the Taliban were poised to take back their Jerusalem, Kandahar City. They didn’t figure on 1 PPCLI. Chris Wattie’s outstanding effort lets us eavesdrop on the intense battles that saved the city, the country and NATO itself, and should make every Canadian proud of our country’s sacrifice in the name of freedom.” ?Lewis MacKenzie, Major- General (ret’d), Commanding Officer 1PPCLI, 1977?1979

“Way beyond the perceived access of embedded reporting, Contact Charlie brings the boots on the ground view in Afghanistan closer than anyone outside the Canadian Forces has ever seen it. Wattie’s account of the battle for the Panjwayi is reminiscent of war correspondence from such giants as Ross Munro, Matthew Halton or Bill Boss?as close to the sharp end as one can get.” ?Ted Barris, journalist and author

“Many journalists try to write about military life but few possess the ability, eloquence and sheer grasp of the fleshy reality of war and soldiering that Wattie has in obvious abundance. This is reporting, military history and political analysis of the first order. Splendid and memorable?a book that should carve an honoured place in Canadian literature.” ?Michael Coren, Sun Media columnist, television and radio host and best-selling author.

Contact Charlie fills in the blanks between Canada’s military objective in Afghanistan and the dizzying transformation on the ground. It is a thorough, lucid account of how one company’s tour of duty altered so many lives. Like a magnet, Charlie Company is drawn into a fight behind every wall and Chris Wattie captures it all in meticulous detail. Each time they suit up for a ‘routine’ patrol, there is a sense of dread for what looms. Contact Charlie will survive as a testament to the soldiers who never came back and the friends who will never forget them.” ?Lisa LaFlamme, National Affairs Correspondent, CTV News

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Every Canadian Feb. 12 2009
Format:Hardcover
What an amazingly well written book.

Chris Wattie did an amazing job of telling a story that every Canadian should read. He brings to life for the reader what it was like for the Canadians serving in Afghanistan during this period. Their challenges, successes, and failures.

He brings together amazing details and personal stories that read like a novel. From major plots to minor sub-stories surrounding the individuals who were there.

This book is an eye opener. It lets one see beyond the newspaper, beyond the statistics and beyond the propoganda.

A very easy read, which makes it a must read for anyone who cares about what we are doing there, and why.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb piece of narrative journalism April 1 2009
Format:Hardcover
This book is an engrossing and informative read on incidents in the Panjway district in 2006. Although definitely not authoritative, it illustrates in a manner comprehensive to the lay reader the point of view of the soldiers fighting during that period. I highly recommend it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Chris Wattie presents a readable fast paced story of one tour of duty to Afghanistan by Charlie Company of the PPCLI in the spring and summer of 2006. Having read Christie Blatchford's 15 Days, I found Wattie's book as well to be from the soldier's perspective. As well, Wattie admires the skill and planning of the commanders, the bravery of the troops and the frustrations of the conflict. As the parent of a soldier who served in another rotation, I found Wattie's book descriptive of what our soldiers lives are like while deployed. The reader feels the emotions and energy of the soldiers as different missions and situations are described.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! July 6 2010
Format:Paperback
As a retired member of the Canadian military, my first interest in this book was to read about the experiences of our soldiers serving in Afghanistan. I was pleasantly surprised at how accurately the author conveyed the "feel" of the situation, as most journalists seem to miss that aspect of military service.

My thoughts go out to those whose sons, daughter, husbands and wives gave the ultimate sacrifice during their service their. It was difficult to read about a couple of them in particular because of my connection to their families. However, it was inspiring to read of the courage and leadership shown by our soldiers in this time of trial.

Thank you Chris Wattie for this tribute to the soldiers of 1 PPCLI and their supporting units, and for taking the time and effort to so accurately convey how they felt about their service. Far too often, those of us at home forget what our military does for us. On behalf of all those who have served, thank you!

To those of you considering this book, I highly recommend it, as both a history of a partiuclar unit's actions, and more importantly, as a look into the hearts of our amazing military men and women.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The book is well written and I found it an easier read than another great book, 15 Days. It is an outstanding testimony to our Armed Forces. Chris Wattie does a great job describing the mission, the equipment and the soldiers who represent Canada at war. He well represents and describes acts of bravery that cannot be understood by the bystander.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. John W. Chuckman's review of this book.
Whether you like the mission or not, is not the topic here. These soldiers and their leaders are not there to implement or doctor politics but rather to do their jobs, and do their jobs they do. I wonder what his review of any First World War, Second World War and Korean War books would have been like. In each of those wars, Canada went to a foreign land to fight an enemy, that while not on Canadian soil, represented values that were not aligned with general world public opinion. Further,I'm not certain what Canadian's smoking habits have to do with this either.

Mr. Chuckman delves at length into who is the best soldiers on the ground. He makes it seem like we're (Canadian soldiers) big, bad, over equipped street bullies picking on the poor Taliban. The reference of "not very good" is used once or twice in regards to the Taliban's aiming of their AK-47 assault rifles. There are several references to their cunning, planning and execution of war. I found no disrespect for the Taliban in his writing. They (the Taliban) have the advantage of being in their element and that is more than an equalizer. Consider the Americans in Vietnam fighting an enemy that looked no different than their ally on the ground. Firepower is actually THE equalizer in Afghanistan.

These ARE stories of battles. One man fighting hand-to-hand with another is a battle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book May 31 2010
Format:Paperback
In my opinion, Contact Charlie is another must read book on the war in Afghanistan. I especially appreciated the way it describes what really happened in Southern Afghanistan during Fall 2005 and over the first half of 2006. I am writing essays on the conflict under way - collecting almost everything is written about it in US, Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Italy - and I always supported the view according to which it was the entry of the Canadian and British troops to Kandahar and Helmand to alter for the worst the dynamics of the war. Wattie explains brilliantly what made it possible to happen. I found precious what the book states about the role played by Mullah Dadullah in shaping the battlefield in Southern Afghanistan. You know? My be that reading Canadian authors is better than resort to American ones, when you want to get a clear view about what is going on in Afghanistan....
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