Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death

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Overview

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 ...

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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Harrowing account of the atmospherics, commission and aftermath of a war crime. . . . A riveting picture of life outside the wire in Iraq, where '[y]ou tell a guy to go across a bridge, and within five minutes he's dead." —-Kirkus Starred Review
Chris Bray
…a meticulous look at an ill-fated platoon that served in the Iraq war…the book demands to be read, particularly by military leaders.
—The Washington Post
Joshua Hammer
…a riveting account of the crime and the events leading up to it…Frederick interviewed dozens of soldiers, followed courtroom proceedings and inspected documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The result is a narrative that combines elements of In Cold Blood and Black Hawk Down with a touch of Apocalypse Now as it builds toward its terrible climax…Frederick's extraordinary book is a testament to a misconceived war, and to the ease with which ordinary men, under certain conditions, can transform into monsters.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Harrowing account of the atmospherics, commission and aftermath of a war crime. In March 2006, deployed in the south of Baghdad, the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division faced a countryside in uproar. Arguably the most dangerous spot in an extremely dangerous country, the Triangle of Death featured IEDs that made every Humvee ride "an exercise in terror" and a civilian population indistinguishable from the death-dealing armed militias. With too few men to mount proper patrols and suicide car bombings and videotaped beheadings circulating to instill an extra bit of horror, every soldier had to endure constant stress and resist hating the very people they were charged with protecting. Relying on scores of interviews with soldiers and Iraqis, journals, letters, classified reports and investigations, Frederick (co-author: The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, 2008) carefully reconstructs the events that led to the breakdown of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, when four soldiers raped and killed an Iraqi girl and murdered her family. War atrocities, of course, are as old as Achilles' rage, and why particular soldiers succumb to madness and surrender their honor, while others who have undergone the same hardships don't, remains a mystery. Still, the author answers the questions he can, plumbing 1st Platoon's psychological isolation, a consequence of having three of their leaders killed in a two-week period, the resulting disarray compounded by a leadership vacuum and by constant, invidious comparisons by senior officers with Bravo's other platoons. Their heightened sense of self-pity, the belief that they facedunevenly distributed risks and the perceived disrespect or indifference of high command-all these factors created the conditions that led to an unspeakable crime. While never absolving the four perpetrators of their individual responsibility, Frederick makes clear that the atrocity had identifiable antecedents and spreads blame much wider than four out-of-control GIs. A riveting picture of life outside the wire in Iraq, where "[y]ou tell a guy to go across a bridge, and within five minutes he's dead."Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman/Curtis Brown Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452662404
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/25/2013
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Sales rank: 540,207
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Corey M. Snow is a full-time audiobook narrator and voice talent from the great Pacific Northwest, working from his home studio in Olympia, Washington. He has recorded numerous audiobooks, including the DeChance Chronicles by David Niall Wilson and Crescent Lake by David Sakmyster.

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Table of Contents

Prelude: March 12, 2006 1

Summer 2005

1 "We've Got to Get South Baghdad Under Control" 11

2 The Kunk Gun 24

October 2005

3 "This Is Now the Most Dangerous Place in Iraq" 41

4 Relief in Place, Transfer of Authority 51

5 1st Platoon at the JS Bridge 65

6 Contact 77

November 2005

7 Route Sportster and Bradley Bridge 93

8 Communication Breakdowns 108

9 The Mean Squad 119

10 "Soldiers Are Not Stupid" 125

December 2005

11 Nelson and Casica 135

12 "It Is Fucking Pointless" 148

13 Britt and Lopez 161

14 Leadership Shake-up 170

January 2006

15 Gallagher 185

February 2006

16 February 1 203

17 Fenlason Arrives 223

March 2006

18 Back to the TCPs 241

19 The Mayor of Mullah Fayyad 251

20 The Janabis 258

21 Twenty-one Days 271

April-June 2006

22 "We Had Turned a Corner" 285

23 The Alamo 301

24 Dilemma and Discovery 310

25 "Remember That Murder of That Iraqi Family?" 316

July-September 2006

26 The Fight Goes On 333

27 "This Was Life and Death Stuff" 340

Epilogue: The Triangle of Death Today and Trials at Home 350

Postscript 365

List of Characters 371

Military Units and Ranks 375

Acronyms and Abbreviations 377

Acknowledgments 379

Notes 385

Selected Bibliography 417

Index 431

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    Triangle of Death

    I happened to pick up this book after reading an article regarding the Ft. Hood shooting by the same author. After reading some reviews I decided to purchase this book because 1) I was there in the Triangle of Death during the period 2) One of my classmates from the Academy was a member of Bravo Company that unfortunately lost his life during this tragic time. I agree with other reviews of this book that this is a must read for present day military officers and should be required reading. I have personally dealt with some of the leadership challenges in this book as an Officer, and I am not aware of other published works that illustrate these challenges so clearly. Before deploying, I didn't know where my Battalion was headed and I sure as hell did not know how to deal with challenges that lay ahead during my time in Iraq, because what we trained to do and what we did were completely different. This book highlights many issues but leaves it up to the reader to gain insight as to what should have happened to prevent this incident. Only if we had known what really inspired the insurgency would we have been able to preserve so many lives. If I had known what I learned from this book, I may have been better quipped to have a better answer for my Soldiers whenever they would ask me, "Why are we here Sir?" or be able to answer a grieving mother's question of "Why did my son die?" Overall, this is a great book, not because I was there and I was familar with what was going on in that Area of Operations, but because it gives and unbiased third party account of the leadership issues that the Army needs to prepare its leaders for and what Soldiers actually feel during deployments.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    AMAZING!!

    I loved this book. My boyfriend who is in Infantry told me to read it.
    Its one of those books that you just want to keep reading! I could not put it down, i literally got obssesed with it. Looking up articals on the murder, Youtube videos of the platoon (which suprisingly they had) They even have a seven minute video of a memorial that they talk about in the book. Its just amazing what all these guys went though, your literally following their lives in Iraq. Your feel their hatred, and sorrow, frustration and pain. I would recommend this book to anyone! Such a great read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2010

    Incredible Iraq War book

    This book is an incredible look into the difficulties of one platoon in the triangle of death in Iraq. The narrative is strong, and the reader is literally on the edge of his seat during certain scenes. The story of the day to day lives of these soldiers, often attempting to achieve impossible tasks in an impossible place at an impossible time drives the book forward. It reads quite quick. The research is impressive and its obvious that Frederick has spent countless hours with most of the major participants in the book. Thematically, the book is also an extended examination about effective leadership. What makes an effective leader? How can a leadership style in one circumstance be effective but in another be literally deadly? How can effective leadership overcome some of the worst military circumstances our nation has seen in years and, conversely, how can ineffective leadership make that situation even worse. Frederick's book is an impressive achievement and I would recommend it to a wide range of readers. By writing a book that is much more than just a history of a time and place in the Iraq War, I believe he's written a text that will be read for years to come.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2010

    LOVED IT!!

    I can honestly say that I hate to read, I mean HATE to read anything that i have absolutely no clue about. Luckily, one of my neighbors is one of the main characters in this re-telling of their deployment and the hell that they endured. And to hear how accurate the accounts and recollections are is bone chilling. I started reading the book on Monday night and have dropped all plans until it was completely finished tonight. It is so amazing as to what these men and women went through those first few years securing the triangle of Death and how different it is there today, because of them! To know that this is real and that not only are the majority of our soldiers brave and honorable, that there are so many flaws in the system that anyone could seriously loose their minds trying to do what is right for OUR COUNTRY!!! I feel like in order to get a grip on the realities of war, you really have to put yourself into this book and see what mental and physical compromises these soldiers were faced with...
    This book is amazing and i WILL let my child read it when she is older to know that Her "uncle" did what was right and made our country stronger, and for that we will always be grateful!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2010

    Most incredible, riveting, absorbing, nonfiction book I've read in years

    Simply outstanding and not just for those interested in war books. Far from it. Utterly absorbing.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Well written for such a tough topic to accurately depict

    This book was riveting. Especially, how the author went through the significant acts battalion wide, in order to paint a full picture of what the company level leaders were facing. Its just a shame more was not done to assist C Co. and B Co. Hope this book provides closure and a level of catharsis for all those involved.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Shocking

    This book should be read by all future leadership. The story is heart breaking and Im still left wondering how some of the guys are still in the military and have been promoted up! Fairly written in my opinion presenting both sides....very good book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Story

    This book is outstanding. Let me first say that I was an infantryman who served in Iraq, however my experience was nothing like what these men had to endure. While my knowledge of the Army, Iraq, etc, certainly made the book easier to follow, I do not think that you need to be prior military to understand it. The author does an EXCELLENT job of explaining everything in lay man's terms. It is a documentary of the entire deployment of a specific unit. The author did an amazing job of telling the story from multiple views of high ranking officers all the way down to the newest private. He obviously spent a great deal of time interviewing numerous sources and does an outstanding job of tying it all together. It is a story which tells the truth about combat, both the heroic and the ugly. This book is a great read for anybody, but a MUST READ for military leaders, both NCO's and officers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2010

    Black Hearts

    I have only read the first 57 pages, and I am not happy so far with the Author. The first thing he should have done was to check the validity of his information. I was apart of the unit that Bravo replaced. The discription of the place (piss bottles, meat left etc.) is all LIES. And to say we gave up and didnt patrol is also a LIE. My platoon was doing two and three patrols a day. We would leave the wire for 8-12 hours a day. Foot and mounted patrols day and night. My platoon consisted of four vehicles and 12 men. More to follow as I continue read.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    TERRIFIC READING FOR EVERYONE NOT JUST THE MILITARY

    THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I AM A WOMEN AND WELL INTO MY SENIOR YEARS. MY HUSBAND WHO IS ALSO A SENIOR READ IT AND IT SHOULD BE A MUST ON EVERYONES LIST PEOPLE SHOULD NOT JUST READ THE NEWS HEADLINES OR LISTEN TO THE TALKING HEADS TO LEARN THE TRUTH OF THE WAR IN IRACQ. I HOPE THAT MR FREDERICK WILL WRITE ABOUT AFGANISTAN. GREAT READ I GAINED MUCH KNOWLEDGE

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Read this

    My cousin was in that platoon he survived

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted July 8, 2011

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    Posted October 27, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

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    Posted July 10, 2010

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