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They were called a generation without heroes.
Then they were called upon to be heroes.
Within hours of 9/11, America’s war on terrorism fell to those like the twenty-three Marines of the First Recon Battalion, the first generation dispatched into open-ended combat since Vietnam. They were a new pop-culture breed of American warrior unrecognizable to their forebears—soldiers raised on hip hop, video games and The Real World. Cocky, brave, headstrong, wary and mostly unprepared for the physical, emotional and moral horrors ahead, the “First Suicide Battalion” would spearhead the blitzkrieg on Iraq, and fight against the hardest resistance Saddam had to offer.
Now a major HBO event, Generation Kill is the national bestselling book based on the National Magazine Award-winning story in Rolling Stone. It is the funny, frightening, and profane firsthand account of these remarkable men, of the personal toll of victory, and of the randomness, brutality and camaraderie of a new American War.
leave him in peace and go over to another section of the storm drain. As I’m about to settle over it, I notice that on this side of the complex the wall separating us from the street is an open-stake fence. Marines had been told the complex was surrounded by a solid concrete wall, but in this corner you can look through to the street and shops just a few meters beyond. I decide to perch down anyway, but as I’m about to do so, a gun battle erupts on the street, maybe ten meters in front of me. Red
on top of their position at Ar Rifa. Since that episode, Fick and Gunny Wynn have persisted in questioning Encino Man’s orders, most recently in Baghdad when Fick declined to send a patrol out at night. Casey Kasem has complained vociferously about the “lack of obedience to orders” displayed by the leaders of Second Platoon. “Their job is to execute whatever the commander tells them,” he’s fumed, “and they don’t.” While following orders is at the heart of good military discipline, the men have
Lieutenant General James Conway (Maj. Gen. Mattis’s boss, commander of the entire First Marine Expeditionary Force in the Middle East), who urges him to take action, Dowdy finally decides he will send RCT-1 through Nasiriyah at midnight. First Recon is ordered back from the bridge. Their mission to serve as a quick-reaction force has been scrubbed. The six hours they spent at the bridge under fire was basically a waste of time (though Marines in Alpha and Charlie did take out perhaps two dozen or
out. Marines in First Recon nickname one corpse Tomato Man, because from a distance he looks like a smashed crate of tomatoes in the road. There are shot-up cars and trucks with bodies hanging over the edges. We pass a bus, smashed and burned, with charred human remains sitting upright in some windows. There’s a man in the road with no head and a dead little girl, too, about three or four, lying on her back. She’s wearing a dress and has no legs. Twenty-one-year-old Lance Corporal Jeffrey
obsessed with mustaches and the Grooming Standard, as a commander, he possesses a bold streak verging on recklessness. When I later ask him why he sent his lightly armed battalion through a hostile town—one that a better-equipped force dared not enter—he says, “I thought we’d cause some problems for those motherfuckers in that town.” When the Marines in Alpha are told to jump in their vehicles and get ready to drive through the town, they are incredulous. Capt. Patterson, who’s found what looks