by David Zucchino
New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004. Pp 325.
Maps. $24.00. ISBN:0-87113-911-1
A plethora of books have come out about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the best read of all of them is David Zucchino’s Thunder Run. Thunder Run tells of the exploits in Baghdad of the 2nd Brigade (the Spartan Brigade), 3rd Infantry Division. This is not a detailed analysis of the fight for Baghdad but the story of one unit’s intense experiences. The story is told from the point of view of those who lived it.
The book is being compared to Black Hawk Down and it reads very much like Mark Bowden’s account of the mess in Somalia however with a better outcome. The story is told both from the grunt’s and the commander’s view points giving a detailed story from many points of view. The book never seems to slow and reads more like a novel than a work of non-fiction.
The book provides many of the details of the intense fighting that took place on April 5, 2003 through April 8, 2003. More intense fighting than the American public realized was occurring.
The first part of the book covers the “thunder run” that took place on April 5th. A “thunder run” is a term that comes from the Vietnam War that is military slang for mechanized reconnaissance in force. The idea is to slam into the enemy as fast and hard as you can to determine the make up of their forces and then to pull back. Zucchino recounts the fast and frightening trip up Highway 8 with the troops being shot at from all sides.
April 7th was to be another “thunder run” into the middle of Baghdad, but Colonel David Perkins wanted to achieve more than that. He wanted to occupy territory and not leave the city. The second part of the book describes the difficulty of doing this and how the Spartan Brigade pulled it off and how close they came to having a major disaster on their hands.
The most striking parts of the book are the details of the assault that did not get reported by the main-stream press. Thunder Run tells the story of how the journalist in Palestinian Hotel became targets and then fatalities. And how over cautious US commanders put troops lives at risk.
Tragedy on both sides of the battlefield is recounted. The description of the Tactical Operations Center being hit by a missile and killing two reporters who had decided not to brave the second “thunder run” is riveting. The book tells several stories of how normal Iraqis were caught up in the battle and lost their lives as the result.
One thing that stands out is the importance of logistics and how the battle was nearly lost because of the danger that the supply trucks faced. There is nothing quit like driving a tanker truck down a road with RPGs on all sides.
The book was put together based on many interviews with the commanders, grunts, Iraqis, and embeds. It seems as if Zucchino did his homework and produced a book that will most likely become a classic in the spirit of Black Hawk Down. I have only two quibbles with the book. No index and no glossary. Other than that, highly recommended.