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Thunder Run: The Armored Strike To Capture Baghdad (2004)

Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad (2004)
4.03 of 5 Votes: 5
080214179X (ISBN13: 9780802141798)
grove press
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Thunder Run: The Armored Strike To Ca...
Thunder Run: The Armored Strike To Capture Baghdad (2004)

About book: I read this book because I wanted to find out how the decision was made to ignore doctrine and send columns of tanks through Baghdad. It didn't directly answer the question because it is written mainly from the point of view of the companies that executed that decision--which surprised them as much as anyone. They had destroyed Saddam's armored forces on the way to the capital and expected some rest while the infantry cleared the city. No such luck. I surmise that the decision came about because aerial recon showed none of the usual preparations to defend a city--roadblocks, blown bridges, and so forth. So a reconnaissance in force was sent through the city to test the defenses, entering from the south, driving to the center, and exiting eastward to the airport. It found that Saddam and his sons had prepared a new means of defense, startling in its originality, simplicity, boldness, insane wastefulness of life, and almost complete ineffectiveness. They relied on hordes of ill-trained militia and volunteers, armed only with assault rifles, obsolete rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), and cars packed with explosives, sent in swarms at the American force. Except for occasional freakishly lucky hits, the rifles and RPGs had no effect at all on American armor. The suicide vehicles were always destroyed before getting close. But Saddam's dupes kept coming in their hundreds, without skill, military knowledge, coordination, sensible tactics, or learning from experience, to be mown down. Perhaps never in history was so much cold-blooded contempt for death wasted to so little purpose and in so poor a cause. The swarming tactics reminded me of the British retreat from Lexington at the beginning of the American War of Independence. They also were swarmed by hordes of militiamen from all around the countryside. The difference is that the American militiamen had some notion of sound tactics, and their weapons were just as effective as those of the British, who were lucky to make it back to Boston at all.It is hard to praise too much the quickness and boldness of the American commanders at Baghdsad, who realized at once the possibilities of the unexpected situation, or the fortitude and skill of the troops who executed thier orders and thereby shortened the war by weeks. No doubt in the end they saved Iraqi as well as American lives. The second thunder run went into the center of the city to stay, occupying Saddam's palaces and the surrounding central area. Three additional objectives were also held at intersections 1-2 miles apart on the route into the city center. Here the swarming tactics were not so completely ineffective, and over the course of a day ammo ran low and there was real anxiety that the positions would be overrun and destroyed. They had fewer tanks, and since they stayed in one place more militiamen could be sent against them. The four positions were not secure until a resupply convoy made it through in the late afternoon, carrying fuel and ammunition in unarmored trucks with a few lightly-armored escorts. The convoy took significant losses, but enough made it through to allow the Americans to stay overnight, and the Baathist regime disintegrated.The book reads like an epic. It begins in media res, with the Americans on the outskirts of Baghdad. Every few pages a new soldier is introduced with a brief background and character sketch, just has Homer gives a few lines to to every Greek hero who faces Hector, or Trojan who faces Achilles. It has relatively little about the war as a whole or about its consequences. It is a story of three days of men at war: the best-trained and best-equipped soldiers in the world.

For most of us, our memories of the two gulf wars are represented by little more than smartbomb camera footage. The awesome power that the USA was able to deploy in Iraq was overwhelming - to the defenders, as well as the global audience. There seemed no doubt that military might would win a clear victory. In this frontline account of the armoured column entering Baghdad, the author brings us a much more harrowing tail of personal bravery, fear and loss.It rapidly becomes clear how far the US war machine was stretched, and how close they came to perhaps encountering their "bridge too far".And I suspect quite unintentionally, it exposes an unsettling realisation of the degree to which religion - Christianity - plays in the minds of US troops. While no means universal, I was struck by the number of times which religion pops up in this book - or soldiers seeking guidance from Army Chaplains that "what they have to do is allowed by their god", of all the prayers that are offered to save the living or commemorate the dead. The message I took away from this is that the US - like virtually every other country that has ever gone to war - clearly exploited religion both explicitly and implicitly in order to exhort their troops to maximum effect on the battlefield. I do not think this is what the author intended, but the main thought in my head at the end of the book was the surprising similarity this realisation brings to our understanding of the people holding the line on both sides of the war.
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This book was very personal to me. As a wife of a soldier who actually was with the Tusker battalion at the time and went with them on the second Thunder Run and who didn't want to talk about his war experiences for nearly 9 years, I very much appreciate this book that helped me to better understand what my husband and his fellow soldiers went through. I love the style of Zucchino’s writing. I like that the book is written from many different viewpoints not just the US soldiers but also their families and also Iraqi people with real dreams, emotions, fears. I personally love David Zucchino for letting my husband use his reporter’s satellite phone to give me a brief call and let me know that he was alive and in the middle of Baghdad.
Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad is a 5 Star combat classic that brings home the noise, fear, sweat, grime, adrenaline-pumping thrills and sleep-deprived exhaustion of the race to capture Baghdad in the Iraq war. Mr. Zucchino provides a narrative as compelling and readable as his friend Mark Bowden’s tale of Mogadishu, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Zucchino doesn’t waste much time on set-up, he gets you right into the battle, starting at the edge of Baghdad, 2 weeks after the invasion started. From there, you get a blow-by-blow tale of the next 3 days as the US Army takes the fight into the city, capturing Saddam’s palaces and government centers of power. The fight to hold on to the palaces hangs in the balance as the supply lines are under attack. Mr. Zucchino does a superb job painting the tactical and strategic situation around the action. He also does a reasonably good job bringing in other points of view, such as Iraqi civilians and military observers and participants in the battle. Mr. Zucchino fairly describes the Iraqi and mercenary resistance to the Thunder Runs as uncoordinated and unprofessional, while maintaining a fair point of view and recognizing the bravery of some of the Iraqi fighters. It is certain that you will be on the edge of your seat as the fight develops. You will also be amazed and proud of the young troops who take on the uniform and perform with such valor. One of the better battle histories I have read. If I had any request or complaint, it would be for pictures of the battle and participants (none in the book) and detailed maps of some of the pitched fights. Mr Zucchino’s focus is pretty much only on the Army’s part of the battle and he rarely brings in any of the joint aspects, like airpower, into the picture. That’s fine for his tale but I would have liked a little more comprehensive picture of the overall battle.
This book was an enjoyable read covering, as the name implies, the two thunder runs into the city of Baghdad by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. The strong point of this book in my opinion was that it integrated viewpoints of a large number of troops in that battle along with alternative viewpoints of some Iraqi military members and some of the American soldiers' family members back home. I felt the author did a pretty good job not bogging the reader down or confusing them despite the mixture of these different viewpoints. I also enjoyed the moments when the author dabbled into some of the soldier's thoughts on killing. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about the thunder runs themselves or anyone with an interest in tanks.
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