Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles


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When the Marines were sent to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, Anthony Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. This is his scorching memoir of life on and off the battlefield.

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Mar 17, 2009

Disturbing Dreams

Anthony Swofford's Jarhead is an instructive memoir of the first Gulf War and its brutality, obscenity and boredom by a decorated Marine who can write a true sentence.

Now that the U.S. has been involved in simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it might be useful to review what American soldiers do to civilians in the Mideast, and to themselves psychologically and physically in war.

Swofford recounts his personal family history with the Marines and armed forces, saying that his dream of becoming a Marine began at an early age. He and his fellow soldiers are stoked by Vietnam-era War movies, inciting their rage. In fact, the "Vietnam syndrome" is a recurrent theme, as Sixties rock music is piped into the base camp at the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm. Yet somehow, to Swofford, it seems all wrong.

If napalm and torched villages are the iconic images of the earlier war, oil fires and burnt bodies are the images of the desert war. This is a book that will disturb your dreams.


Nov 1, 2008

My Marine Corps

I spent 27 years - half my life - in the Marine Corps. "Jarhead" portrays the Marine Corps that I was in. Anthony Swofford writes about the real Marine Corps better than anyone else ever has. He writes about what really happened. He sugarcoats nothing. He is nobody's propagandist.

In my final year on active duty, Swofford was invited by the Camp Pendleton post exchange to come sign copies of his book at their store. I marked my calendar and looked forward to the event for weeks. I bought an extra copy of "Jarhead" so I would have a new one for him to sign, but what I wanted most of all was to shake the man's hand and thank him for telling it the way it is. I thought he might get a kick out of it too - an old gray-haired Gunny like me looking him in the eye and thanking him.

The week of the book signing, it was cancelled by due to high level objections about the event. Complaints were made to the office of the Chief of Staff about Swofford's less-than-respectful take on some aspects of the Marine Corps. But that's the whole point about "Jarhead." It's not some worshipful history of the Corps written by some retired officer or somebody's pet historian. It's the real deal, written by a grunt who lived it, and who is one of the best damn writers I have ever read.

I've never seen Swofford say so in these exact words, but my gut instinct tells me that (like most Marines) he loved the Marine Corps, and always will on some level. No one can put that much time and effort into such a heartfelt memoir unless they care deeply about the experiences that they recount.

I still hope to shake the man's hand someday and thank him in person for writing the book. And now that there is so much writing coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, I'd like to know what Swofford thinks about these newer books.


Nov 15, 2007

I have read the book and feel that it does a great disservervice to all active Marines and Marine Corps Veterans. In no way does it reflect the Esprit de Corps and attitude of Marines that I lived with and knew during my 4 years in the Marine Corps. I have heard from other Marine Veterans who feel as I do, and many have seen the movie and found it to be disgusting and wrong. Semper Fi .....!!!

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