Saturday, November 20, 2004

The face of battle in Falluja

Powerful writing by Dexter Filkins of the Times. Reminds me a bit of Hemingway's war correspondence.

...This intimacy of combat, this plunge into urban warfare, was new to this generation of American soldiers, but it is a kind of fighting that they will probably see again: a grinding struggle to root out guerrillas entrenched in a neighborhood, on streets marked in a language few American soldiers could comprehend.

...In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6 dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one in four chance of being either wounded or killed in little more than a week.

...For all the death about the place, one inescapable impression left by the marines was their youth. Everyone knows that soldiers are young; it is another thing to see men barely out of adolescence, many of whom were still in high school when this war began, shoot people dead.

...Like many of the young men in Bravo Company, Corporal Ritchie said he joined the Marines because he yearned for an adventure greater than his small town could offer. "The guys who stayed, they're all living with their parents, making $7 an hour," Corporal Ritchie said. "I'm not going to be one of those people who gets old and says, 'I wish I had done this. I wish I had done that.' Every once in a while, you've got to do something hard, do something you're not comfortable with. A person needs a gut check."

...Time and again through the week, Captain Omohundro kept his men from folding, if not by his resolute manner then by his calmness under fire... A little later, Captain Omohundro, a 34-year-old Texan, allowed that the strain of the battle had weighed on him, but he said that he had long ago trained himself to keep any self-doubt hidden from view. "It's not like I don't feel it," Captain Omohundro said. "But if I were to show it, the whole thing would come apart."

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