“Riveting. . . a testament to a misconceived war, and to the ease with which ordinary men, under certain conditions, can transform into monsters.”—New York Times Book Review
This is the story of a small group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regiment—a unit known as “the Black Heart Brigade.” Deployed in late 2005 to Iraq’s so-called Triangle of Death, a veritable meat grinder just south of Baghdad, the Black Hearts found themselves in arguably the country’s most dangerous location at its most dangerous time.
Hit by near-daily mortars, gunfire, and roadside bomb attacks, suffering from a particularly heavy death toll, and enduring a chronic breakdown in leadership, members of one Black Heart platoon—1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion—descended, over their year-long tour of duty, into a tailspin of poor discipline, substance abuse, and brutality.
Four 1st Platoon soldiers would perpetrate one of the most heinous war crimes U.S. forces have committed during the Iraq War—the rape of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and the cold-blooded execution of her and her family. Three other 1st Platoon soldiers would be overrun at a remote outpost—one killed immediately and two taken from the scene, their mutilated corpses found days later booby-trapped with explosives.
Black Hearts is an unflinching account of the epic, tragic deployment of 1st Platoon. Drawing on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with Black Heart soldiers and first-hand reporting from the Triangle of Death, Black Hearts is a timeless story about men in combat and the fragility of character in the savage crucible of warfare. But it is also a timely warning of new dangers emerging in the way American soldiers are led on the battlefields of the twenty-first century.
In this intense document, Time magazine editor Frederick recounts the events leading up to and following the rape and murder of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer al-Janabi and the subsequent murder of her family-parents Qassim and Fakhriah and six-year-old sister Hadeel-committed by members of one U.S. Army deployment in Iraq's "Triangle of Death." In the build-up to the crimes, Frederick chronicles 1st platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, of the 502nd Infantry Regiment (the regiment known as "Black Hearts"), finding a list of leadership failures at the platoon, company, battalion and brigade levels; the overarching problem was a tragically undermanned area of operations. A distracted and bristly battalion commander managed to alienate B Company with charges of ineptitude, fueling a persecution complex that led company members to ignore Standard Operating Procedures-many soldiers, not just the perpetrators, felt they could commit any number of crimes against the fog of war. Initially, the al-Janabi murders were blamed on insurgents, but a retaliation attack two months later (against a U.S. traffic control point) spurred the investigation that sent five U.S. soldiers to prison. Fast-paced and highly detailed, this volume is difficult to put down despite wanting to look away; in the end, no one comes away blameless, but readers will better understand how wartime conditions can, on either side, spark unimaginable, catastrophic crimes.
Compelling and terribly sad. As an Army veteran, the leadership failures throughout this deployment are tragic and disturbing.
Terrific story about small unit leadership.
Long, drawn out, and boring