Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
  • Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
  • Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

3.8 99
by Anthony Swofford
     
 

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"When the marines - or "jarheads," as they call themselves - were sent in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to fight the Iraqis, Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. It was one misery upon another. He lived in sand for six months, his girlfriend back home betrayed him for a scrawny hotel clerk, he was punished by boredom…  See more details below

Overview

"When the marines - or "jarheads," as they call themselves - were sent in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to fight the Iraqis, Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. It was one misery upon another. He lived in sand for six months, his girlfriend back home betrayed him for a scrawny hotel clerk, he was punished by boredom and fear, he considered suicide, he pulled a gun on one of his fellow marines, and he was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. At the end of the war, Swofford hiked for miles through a landscape of incinerated Iraqi soldiers and later was nearly killed in a booby-trapped Iraqi bunker." "Swofford weaves this experience of war with vivid accounts of boot camp (which included physical abuse by his drill instructor), reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. As engagement with the Iraqis draws closer, he is forced to consider what it is to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man." Unlike the real-time print and television coverage of the Gulf War, which was highly scripted by the Pentagon, Swofford's account subverts the conventional wisdom that U.S. military interventions are now merely surgical insertions of superior forces that result in few American casualties. Jarhead insists we remember the Americans who are in fact wounded or killed, the fields of smoking enemy corpses left behind, and the continuing difficulty that American soldiers have reentering civilian life.

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Editorial Reviews

On the surface, Anthony Swofford seemed to be the quintessential "jarhead"; a front-line combat Marine who shouldered 100-pound packs and waded into battle-torn Iraq with little or no hesitation. But, as this harrowing memoir shows, Desert Storm veteran Swofford carried mental baggage far heavier than duffel bags with bed rolls and rifles. Jarhead brandishes the intensity of military life in all its maddening contradictions. By turns, Swofford is presented as terrified, bored, and remorseful; a victim of his own memories and the captain of his own renewal. From boot camp to post-battle doldrums, he struggles through mental minefields and wartime doubts. Unflinching and revelatory (there are frank descriptions of American military behavior during the Kuwaiti campaign that the Pentagon had suppressed), this memoir has become an instant classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416513407
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
09/27/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)

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Introduction

On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops drive east to Kuwait City and start killing soldiers and civilians and capturing gold-heavy palaces and expensive German sedans — though it is likely that the Iraqi atrocities are being exaggerated by Kuwaitis and Saudis and certain elements of the U.S. government, so as to gather more coalition support from the UN, the American people, and the international community generally.

Also on August 2, my platoon — STA (pronounced stay), the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Platoon, scout/snipers, of the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines — is put on standby. We're currently stationed at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, in California's Mojave Desert.

After hearing the news of imminent war in the Middle East, we march in a platoon formation to the base barber and get fresh high-and-tight haircuts. And no wonder we call ourselves jarheads — our heads look just like jars.

Then we send a few guys downtown to rent all of the war movies they can get their hands on. They also buy a hell of a lot of beer. For three days we sit in our rec room and drink all of the beer and watch all of those damn movies, and we yell Semper fi and we head-butt and beat the crap out of each other and we get off on the various visions of carnage and violence and deceit, the raping and killing and pillaging. We concentrate on the Vietnam films because it's the most recent war, and the successes and failures of that war helped write our training manuals. We rewind and review famous scenes, such as Robert Duvall and his helicopter gunships during Apocalypse Now, and in the same film Martin Sheen floating up the fake Vietnamese Congo; we watch Willem Dafoe get shot by a friendly and left on the battlefield in Platoon; and we listen closely as Matthew Modine talks trash to a streetwalker in Full Metal Jacket. We watch again the ragged, tired, burnt-out fighters walking through the villes and the pretty native women smiling because if they don't smile, the fighters might kill their pigs or burn their cache of rice. We rewind the rape scenes when American soldiers return from the bush after killing many VC to sip cool beers in a thatch bar while whores sit on their laps for a song or two (a song from the fifties when America was still sweet) before they retire to rooms and fuck the whores sweetly. The American boys, brutal, young farm boys or tough city boys, sweetly fuck the whores. Yes, somehow the films convince us that these boys are sweet, even though we know we are much like these boys and that we are no longer sweet.

There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But actually, Vietnam war films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible, and they will tell their friends at church and their family this, but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Travis Air Force Base and Seaman Johnson at Coronado Naval Station and Spec 4 Johnson at Fort Bragg and Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First Fuck. It doesn't matter how many Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons are antiwar — the actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not.

We watch our films and drink our beer and occasionally someone begins weeping and exits the room to stand on the catwalk and stare at the Bullion Mountains, the treacherous, craggy range that borders our barracks. Once, this person is me. It's nearly midnight, the temperature still in the upper nineties, and the sky is wracked with stars. Moonlight spreads across the desert like a white fire. The door behind me remains open, and on the TV screen an ambush erupts on one of the famous murderous hills of Vietnam.

I reenter the room and look at the faces of my fellows. We are all afraid, but show this in various ways — violent indifference, fake ease, standard-issue bravura. We are afraid, but that doesn't mean we don't want to fight. It occurs to me that we will never be young again. I take my seat and return to the raging battle. The supposedly antiwar films have failed. Now is my time to step into the newest combat zone. And as a young man raised on the films of the Vietnam War, I want ammunition and alcohol and dope, I want to screw some whores and kill some Iraqi motherfuckers.

Copyright © 2003 by Anthony Swofford

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Meet the Author

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
August 12, 1970
Place of Birth:
Fairfield, California
Education:
B.A. in English, University of California, Davis, 1999; M.F.A. in English, University of Iowa Writers¿ Workshop, 2001

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Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
JohnnyG71 More than 1 year ago
The most unnerving war book I ever read was E.B. Sledge's With the Old Breed, about World War II assaults on Plelieu and Okinawa. I thought no auithor to that point had yet told a tale so vibrantly, so bluntly, so openly. Then I read Jarhead. Different time, different war, for sure, but the author proves that the hellish things that warriors see in combat areas never change. Swofford's narrative also reminds one of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. His temporally disjointed memories hop from childhood to civilian life to active duty and back again, showing that the experiences that form a man's life are amazingly interrelated. Swofford is no recruiting poster Marine, and according to his story, that man may not exist anyway. If he did, he would probably never be able to handle what is to be found on the battlefields U.S. Marines are called upon to visit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anthony Swofford¿s war was much different than what many picture when the word war comes to mind. There was no combat, and no killing, only a platoon of soldiers stuck in the desert preventing death from boredom. Swofford¿s platoon witnessed some of the most troublesome parts of war, the war at home. At one particular point, he illustrates that its all coming to an end and that he wishes it would but his band of brothers prevents this from happening. What this book is really about is the unity between men in service. Its really a great read and is not hard to understand. The one part that the reader may not understand is that this is really what war is like. The media only shows what parts of war is, the bad parts, the killing and sacrifice. Finally a book written from a soldiers point of view to show what war really is. It grips you within the first few pages and never lets go throughout the story. Swofford does a great job of illustrating every detail throughout the story, even his fantasies of what he wishes would happen. Certain times he describes events which are funny, and others that make you depressed. All in all I have to say this is one of the best novels I have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently read another marine book set in the Vietnam era, Semper-Fi-do-or-die and there are too many similarities in these two books. I have a love/hate relationship with both books, so much so its eery. Many readers I'm sure question the validity as do i of both books but, iregardless, they are both books that you can't seem to put down once you've start reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dear nicole Sorry i havent been on for a while. I have been busy. How are you? A lot of stuff has gone on over here since we last talked. The taliban has gradually downsized since we have been here. A buddy of mine has passed while in a firefight on 3-14-13. That was probably the worst one ive been in. I heard that there was a terrorist attack in boston yesterday. I hope all of the people that got hurt are OK. I hate terrorists. Thats part if the reason i came here. I sure could use some starbucks! I will try and check back everyday. The jarhead, Allen
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