A harrowing account of a deadly day in Iraq

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A harrowing account of a deadly day in Iraq

“Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War” follows in the footsteps of “Brave Two Zero” by Andy McNab, and “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden.
These three books have one thing in common: They relate real-life events of the battlefield, and the military action depicted is deadly for both sides.
This is not a book about the politics that led to the current Iraq situation.
It’s not a beautification of war and there are no Rambo-like warriors.
It’s a graphic depiction of the Nasiriyah battle involving U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces.
The tale draws the reader into the fierce house to house fighting and close-quarter combat that typified the battle.
At the center of the story is the 1st Battalion 2nd Marines, most of them inexperienced combatants charged with securing the city of Nasiriyah.
Their mission was to lay the ground for the invasion of Baghdad.
On March 23, 2003 a convoy of U.S. Marines took a wrong turn as it moved into position and landed in enemy territory.
The Marines paid a heavy price for the navigational error. Their armored personnel carriers get hit by rocket-propelled grenades and several trucks get destroyed. At this point in the battle 11 U.S. soldiers die.
The depiction of the cold reality of the battlefield makes Ambush Alley a military classic. The author, London-based journalist and filmmaker Tim Pritchard, uses plain writing to tell the story.
Embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq, Pritchard conveys the voices of the Marines that fought in the Nasiriyah battle with steely prose.
He makes the reader sense the young soldiers’ anxiety and their pain, especially when they realize they were fighting for each other, not for some grand political scheme.
Pritchard knows the terror of war. The Humvee he was traveling in when on assignment was hit by a roadside bomb. He received only minor injuries, but the experience adds authenticity to his combat narration. This is a reporter who knows war.
What Private First Class Casey Robinson thinks as he moves with Charlie Company towards Nasiriyah serves to guide the narrative.
“His [Robinson’s] commanders had warned them against complacency, but they had all been told that the city’s population was Shiite Muslims and that they hated Saddam. They are going to greet us with open arms and give us the keys to the city,” writes Pritchard.
Another passage peels back the tension of the firefights.
“All of a sudden a burst of gunfire erupted from within the crowd. The Marines on the roof opened up. Some in the crowd scattered. Others fell to the ground,” the author continues.
When the fog of war clears and the battle is over, 18 Marines are dead and 35 wounded.
The battle for Nasiriyah was the single heaviest loss suffered by U.S. forces during the entire course of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pritchard explains that nothing had prepared the Marines for this kind of assault in these conditions.
“It was unbelievable. They [the Marines] were part of the most formidable military force in the world, yet none of its might, expertise or technology had been able to get them out,” the author writes, explaining how the Marines were left stranded.
Today there are thousands of military casualties in Iraq and these men are dying in battles no different to Ambush Alley. In that regard, this is a valuable book for those who want to know what is happening on the combat side in Iraq. The Iraq war is complex and politics often overshadows the battlefield.
Ambush Alley reminds us that whatever you feel about the rights and wrongs of the conflict, soldiers are dying.

Author: Tim Pritchard
Genre: Military History
Publisher: Presidio Press

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