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Marines in the Garden of Eden, by Richard S. Lowry

Chaos reigns on the battlefield even for the best trained forces of the world. In Marines in the Garden of Eden we are shown war in its stark reality. But it is not a simple affair of two forces neatly slugging it out like two boxers. It is a very dangerous vortex of flying projectiles and explosives. It is clear that the victor in any battle will be the side which best brings order to its forces and directs its firepower most efficiently against the enemy.

The United States Marine Corps is one of the most efficient fighting forces on the Earth. And Richard S. Lowry shows how in the seven day battle for An Nasiriya the Marine Corps was thrust into the Maelstrom of vicious combat and emerged victorious against a determined and fanatical force consisting of the best units the Iraqis had available.

Told on the strategic, tactical, and personal level, this book brings the reader into the midst of combat with anecdotes and analysis that create scenes as real and vivid as is possible with the printed word. Perhaps the most shocking reading comes in Lowry's description of the developing battle and a friendly fire incident involving the A-10 Warthogs (a very deadly and accurate attack aircraft). Charlie Company from the First Battalion of the Second Marine Mechanized Regiment sped over a bridge, through a very dangerous zone known as "Ambush Alley" and over a second bridge spanning the Saddam Canal. Their journey was harrowing, pressing forward and fighting a determined foe. On reaching its objective Charlie Company dug in to secure the bridge. Yet other elements of the battalion were not completely aware of Charlie Company's location and called in A-10s to destroy everything north of the Canal. The results were destructive and disheartening to Charlie Company, though not completely devastating. Charlie Company held its position and secured the bridge in spite of all travails.

Yet this incident was exceptional. With strict discipline and intelligent improvisation, which U.S. Marines are justly famed, the battle was won.

In his account of the struggle for An Nasiriya, Mr. Lowry relies on excellent primary sources, including military documents, news reports (and perhaps most tellingly) on personal interviews with the actual participants in the battle. The book is readable, even for those not familiar with military jargon. With an excellent glossary and order of battle in the appendix seldom is there any confusion arising through use of acronyms or mentions of a military units.

The Jessica Lynch story is also told with a thoroughness that satisfies the curiosity and imagination. It begins with how the 507th Maintenance Company got itself lost in enemy territory in the first place, and takes the reader through the capture of several vehicles by hostile forces. The well-executed rescue operation also is put in perspective.

"Marines in the Garden of Eden" is a well-written account of an important battle in the War in Iraq. Mr. Lowry began writing it as an account of the entire war. Yet he gathered such a wealth of fascinating information on An Nasiriya so he decided to concentrate on this single battle. This book will, in the future, be more than just a fascinating recapitulation of a battle. It should serve as source material for other wider accounts of the war in Iraq and the overall war on terror. For me personally it was a rude awakening to the conditions that exist on the modern field of battle.

----- Also by Richard S. Lowry: The Gulf War Chronicles

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