Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
You know the general outlines of the Pat Tillman story, right? A football player who gave it up to enlist in the Rangers after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan and the army then covered it up.
What I didn't know was how bad it was. In fact, the Army, from the men involved in the fratricide right up through the chain of command, knew from the minute it happened (or maybe five minutes later) that the cause of Tillman's death was friendly fire. They knew, they covered it up, they ordered the soldiers on the ground not to say anything to anyone about it, they lied to Tillman's family and to the American people, and they destroyed evidence, including tape recordings and Tillman's uniform, to do it.
In Where Men Win Glory Jon Krakauer surveys the life and football career of Pat Tillman, traces his decision to enter the military and his life in the Army, and exposes the military coverup of the circumstances of Tillman's death. He also profiles some of the facts about Tillman and his intellectual life you might not be aware of, like his opposition to the war in Iraq, his refusal to participate in flag-waving publicity stunts, and his atheism, which extended to explicit directions that there be no religious devotion at his military memorial ceremony. As someone who has absolutely no interest in football, I could have lived with a lot less detail about the games, and who made what tackle or interception or touchdown, but I could understand why Krakauer felt the need to include it.
What else does Krakauer cover? Bush administration lies about other incidents, such as the famous capture of Jessica Lynch and the Army's "daring rescue" from a hospital.
The reader also learns facts about friendly fire that were surprising to me:
"According to the most comprehensive survey of American war casualties (both fatal and nonfatal), 21 percent of the casualties in World War II were attributable to friendly fire, 39 percent of the casualties in Vietnam, and 52 percent of the casualties in the first [sic] Gulf War. Thus far, in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, casualty rates are 41 percent and 13 percent, respectively. . . . [D]ue to endemic underreporting of fratricide by the military, the actual percentages are unquestionably higher."
Where Men Win Glory is definitely worth reading.
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