Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

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"Like the men whose epic stories Jon Krakauer has told in his previous bestsellers, Pat Tillman was an irrepressible individualist and iconoclast. In May 2002, Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract to enlist in the United States Army. He was deeply troubled by 9/11, and he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in southeastern Afghanistan." "Though obvious to most of the two dozen soldiers on the scene that a ranger in Tillman's own ...

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Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

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"Like the men whose epic stories Jon Krakauer has told in his previous bestsellers, Pat Tillman was an irrepressible individualist and iconoclast. In May 2002, Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract to enlist in the United States Army. He was deeply troubled by 9/11, and he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in southeastern Afghanistan." "Though obvious to most of the two dozen soldiers on the scene that a ranger in Tillman's own platoon had fired the fatal shots, the Army aggressively maneuvered to keep this information from Tillman's wife, other family members, and the American public for five weeks following his death. During this time, President Bush repeatedly invoked Tillman's name to promote his administration's foreign policy. Long after Tillman's nationally televised memorial service, the Army grudgingly notified his closest relatives that he had "probably" been killed by friendly fire while it continued to dissemble about the details of his death and who was responsible." "In Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer draws on Tillman's journals and letters, interviews with his wife and friends, conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him, and extensive research on the ground in Afghanistan to render an intricate mosaic of this driven, complex, and uncommonly compelling figure as well as the definitive account of the events and actions that led to his death. Before he enlisted in the army, Tillman was familiar to sports aficionados as an undersized, overachieving Arizona Cardinals safety whose virtuosity in the defensive backfield was spellbinding. With hisshoulder-length hair, outspoken views, and boundless intellectual curiosity, Tillman was considered a maverick. America was fascinated when he traded the bright lights and riches of the NFL for boot camp and a buzz cut. Sent first to Iraq - a war he would openly declare was "illegal as hell" - and eventually to Afghanistan, Tillman was driven by complicated, emotionally charged, sometimes contradictory notions of duty, honor, justice, patriotism, and masculine pride, and he was determined to serve his entire three-year commitment. But on April 22, 2004, his life would end in a barrage of bullets fired by his fellow soldiers." Krakauer chronicles Tillman's riveting, tragic odyssey in engrossing detail highlighting his remarkable character and personality while closely examining the murky, heartbreaking circumstances of his death. Infused with the power and authenticity readers have come to expect from Krakauer's storytelling, Where Men Win Glory exposes shattering truths about men and war.

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  • Where Men Win Glory
    Where Men Win Glory  

Editorial Reviews

Dexter Filkins
Once Tillman lands in Afghanistan…Krakauer's narrative lifts off. The death of Tillman is handled deftly—and sad it is, the end of a series of errors and misjudgments, some of which border on the criminal…While most of the facts have been reported before, Krakauer performs a valuable service by bringing them all together—particularly those about the cover-up. The details, even five years later, are nauseating to read
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
"Jon Krakauer has done his job well; Where Men Win Glory is a tough read...[He] has tackled a task that required the distillation and organization of volumes of disparate information.  That he has fielded a coherent narrative is a victory.  that he has made it compelling and passionate is a difficult blessing...In mining Tillman's life and death, Krakauer uncovers a story much more compelling than anything that could be spun." - The Denver Post

"Krakauer — whose forenseic studies of the Emrsonian Man in books such as Into Thin Air and Into the Wild yield so much insight — has turned in a beautiful bit of reporting, documenting Tillman's life with journals and interviews with those close to him...Must be counted as the definitive version of events surrounding Tillman's death." —The Los Angeles Times

"In this wrenching account of the life and eath of NFL star Pat Tillman, killed in friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004, Krakauer brilliants turns investigative reporter...Krakauer will break your heart recounting how the military lied about Pat's death to his parents and fellow soldier Kevin." — People

"In this masterful work, bestselling adventure writer Jon Krakauer renders an intimate portrait of Tillman and brilliantly captures the sadness, madness, and heroism of the post-9/11 world...Drawing on interviews with family, fellow soldiers and correspondence, Krakauer's page-turning account captures every detail — Tillman's extraordinary character, including the "tragic vitures" that led him to give up a comfortable life and athletic stardom for the army; the harshness of military training and life; the rugged terrain of remote Afghanistan — and, of course, the ravages of war.  Most critically, by telling Tillman's personal story and blowing apart the "cynical cover-up" that followed his killing, Krakauer lays bare the best — and worst — of America's War on Terror." — Publisher's Weekly

"Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer's narrative of pro football player Pat Tillman's "odyssey," as he calls it, from the playing field to the battlefield, is nuanced, thorough, and chilling...[He] is up to the task of telling this brave man's story...Krakauer's tone is somber and judicious as he reports this ludicrous hijacking of the truth and its shameful cover-up, but the anger behind it charges every word.  [He] has made sure that this shameful episode will not fade into obscurity and that Pat Tillman will be remembered for the man he truly was — and not as the faux symbol of a failed policy." — Portland Oregonian

"Tillman indeed was a fallen hero who, while alive, shunned all efforts to make him the poster boy of a global war against terrorism.  And Krakauer's gripping book about this extraordinary man who lived passionately and died unnecessarily sets the record straight." —USA Today

"On one level, Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory represents a detailed look at the tragic tale of Pat Tillman, the football star who quit the NFL to enlist in the Army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.  But Krakauer's book is also an exhaustive examination of America's political and military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Krakauer documents an unsettling history of miscalculation and mismanagement, of tactical blunders, deliberate deceit, and stunning incompetence at the highest levels of leadership...It all makes for painful, infuriating, and required reading." —Boston Globe

"Where Men Win Glory will stand as one of the signal books of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a grunt's-eye view to complement the macroscopic work of Dexter Filkins, Thomas E. Ricks, and George Packer." —Outside Magazine 

"Krakauer's much anticipated, deeply reported, fascinating account of Tillman's lief, death, and afterlife as a political pawn in a failed government propaganda effort...is a page-turner worth any reader's time." —Boulder Daily Camera

The Barnes & Noble Review
It started with the busted tie-rods of a Humvee. It continued with the ill-advised order to split an Army Ranger platoon as the Afghan night was coming on. And it finished, on April 22, 2004, with the death by friendly fire of an exemplary young American. But there it did not really end, because of who this fine man happened to be -- Pat Tillman, promising NFL star -- and because a virtuosic author decided to write a political firecracker of a book about the ?cynical cover-up sanctioned at the highest levels of government? that ensued after his death.

It may not seem possible to be shocked and awed much more than we already have been by any further revelations of the Bush administration's craven wrongdoing, but Jon Krakauer, who excels at enlivening tales of personal and social catastrophe (in books such as Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven), marshals so much disquieting information the effect on the reader becomes visceral by the end. You want to throw up.

No mere recitation of even the gasp-inducing crimes of a small group at the heart of the U.S. government could make you feel like this, however. The Shakespearean force of the tragedy derives from a formidable dramatist's use of these facts as the historic context in which vital individuals -- the unique characters that are Pat Tillman, his wife, Marie, his brother Kevin who enlisted and served with him in the Rangers, his mother, Dannie -- move and speak on the stage before us.

The precincts of professional football are not where one expects to find manifestations of a searching intellect or a sensitive heart, but in Pat Tillman there was much evidence of both. He favored Ralph Waldo Emerson, was fascinated by Noam Chomsky, and read the Homer that gives this book-length eulogy its sad title (?Since never before have I seen you in the fighting where men win glory, yet now you have come striding far out in front of all others in your great heart...?). The enormous love he felt for Marie is the stuff of fiction -- and of pain when we later read of it: at the start of a brief pass upon completing basic training, they flew to each other's arms with such force it knocked them to the ground, where they continued their passionate greeting. Over all, he lived to challenge himself both physically and mentally, playing a brand of football one coach called ?so smart and so aggressive,? then turning to the study of history in the off-season from the Arizona Cardinals. Only someone as uncommon as this would have ?traded the bright lights and riches of the NFL for boot camp and a bad haircut.? Only someone as uncommon as this could have been caught in the multiple snares of feeling driven to serve a country that proved itself undeserving of the sacrifice both in life, turning him against his wishes into ?a marketing bonanza for the so-called Global War on Terror,? and in death, when the predictable ?denial and dissembling? about the facts of the incident were made into ?a very calculated effort to deceive not just the Tillman family but also the American public -- who of course was the real target of the misinformation campaign.?

In cinema, cross-cutting is a method for building tension through structural means. Krakauer has always been adept at using its literary counterpart, here moving between the political causes of war in the Mideast and the personal story (augmented with chunks from Tillman's journal, which gives affecting immediacy to the revelation of his character) of this likable young man. In fact, one gets the sense that the author loves him deeply -- as indeed it would seem impossible not to; try not to sob when, midway through, you chance to see the full-bleed portrait of Tillman in all his beautiful brilliance staring from the back jacket. Just try.

Tragedy is where the viewer sees it coming, but not the participants; the action conveys a restlessness, almost the sound of an unending but ever louder dirge. There is a master's hand evident in this particular depiction of events in a life that will end too soon, meticulously built of pieces carefully chiseled from recent international history, political intrigue, first-hand reporting, thoughtful reading, and a feel for what is most human. The author, like his subject, purposefully strides out on his great battlefield too.

Then again, when you know what is coming, what precedes it wears a coat of bitter, retrospective irony. The story of Pat Tillman's needless death in a foregone conclusion of a war (one that is being re-upped even now, and so forms Krakauer's unspoken warning of future tragedy) is replete with ironies so baleful they make you flinch. One dates back to the 2000 presidential election. ?And thus? -- as a result of the Supreme Court sticking out its foot to trip the Florida vote recount -- ?did Bush become the forty-third president of the United States, a turn of events that would have no small impact on the life of Pat Tillman,? Krakauer writes, revisiting how, if this robbery of the executive office not by masked thugs but by black-robed justices had not occurred, the events that led to 9/11 and the consequent enlistment of this patriotic and ethical young man would not have occurred either. The author specializes in pointing a direct and unwavering finger at culprits who subsequently stopped at nothing to hide their guilt: Condoleezza Rice, memos to whom warning of an impending al-Qaeda attack ?were met with apathy and annoyance?; Antonin Scalia, who years later callously dismissed a question about his role in the throwing of the election with this hard-hearted slap at those who lost their loved ones in Bush-induced terror attacks and counterattacks: ?Get over it. It's so old by now.?

Pat Tillman, contrary to the army's most fundamental desires, thought for himself. And what he thought about the invasion of Iraq was, as he wrote in his journal, ?that we have little or no justification other than our imperial whim.? No one since has said it better or in fewer words. Another disturbing item in a book filled with them is how much taxpayer money -- literally duffels full of cash -- went to buy the help of warlords who, because they could be bought, ultimately went to a higher bidder: Osama bin Laden. If one is prone to cry over spilled milk, this will surely prompt a torrent of tears. In the end, though, it is nothing short of a journalistic miracle that this horrendous criminal is rendered pale and practically innocuous next to our homegrown crop.

There are people who build laid-up stone walls using no cement at all. If they are good, they somehow find stones that fit perfectly next to one another. If they are great, their walls will last for centuries. These are the artists. What they create looks like art. But it is also practical too. Where Men Win Glory is this kind of achievement, its utility to act as the greatest of the checks and balances the founding fathers knew were required against a fatal consolidation of power in government: the truth. --Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Melissa Holbrook Pierson is the author of three works of nonfiction. Her next book will be about the sport of extreme long-distance motorcycling.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307386045
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 70,232
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 11.08 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

JON KRAKAUER is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Under the Banner of Heaven and is the editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

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Read an Excerpt

During Pat Tillman's stint in the Army he intermittently kept a diary. In an entry dated July 28, 2002—three weeks after he arrived at boot camp—he wrote, "It is amazing the turns one's life can take. Major events or decisions that completely change a life. In my life there have been a number." He then cataloged several. Foremost on his mind at the time, predictably, was his decision to join the military. But the incident he put at the top of the list, which occurred when he was eleven years old, comes as a surprise. "As odd as this sounds," the journal revealed, "a diving catch I made in the 11-12 all-stars was a take-off point. I excelled the rest of the tournament and gained incredible confidence. It sounds tacky but it was big."

As a child growing up in Almaden, California (an upscale suburb of San Jose), Pat had started playing baseball at the age of seven. It quickly became apparent to the adults who watched him throw a ball and swing a bat that he possessed extraordinary talent, but Pat seems not to have been particularly cognizant of his own athletic gifts until he was selected for the aforementioned all-star team in the summer of 1988. As the tournament against teams of other standout middle-school athletes got under way, he mostly sat on the bench. When the coach eventually put Pat into a game, however, he clobbered a home run and made a spectacular catch of a long fly ball hit into the outfield. Fourteen years later, as he contemplated life from the perspective of an Army barracks, he regarded that catch as a pivotal moment—a confidence booster that contributed significantly to one of his defining traits: unwavering self-assurance.

In 1990, Pat matriculated at Almaden's Leland High School, one of the top public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, both academically and athletically. Before entering Leland he had resolved to become the catcher on the varsity baseball team, but the head coach, Paul Ugenti, informed Pat that he wasn't ready to play varsity baseball and would have to settle for a position on the freshman-sophomore team. Irked and perhaps insulted by Ugenti's failure to recognize his potential, Pat resolved to quit baseball and focus on football instead, even though he'd taken up the latter sport barely a year earlier and had badly fractured his right tibia in his initial season when a much larger teammate fell on his leg during practice.

With a November birthday, Pat was among the youngest kids in Leland's freshman class, and when he started high school, he was only thirteen years old. He also happened to be small for his age, standing five feet five inches tall and weighing just 120 pounds. When he let it be known that he was going to abandon baseball for football, an assistant coach named Terry Hardtke explained to Pat that he wasn't "built like a football player" and strongly urged him to stick with baseball. Once Tillman set his sights on a goal, however, he wasn't easily diverted. He told the coach he intended to start lifting weights to build up his muscles. Then he assured Hardtke that not only would he make the Leland football team but he intended to play college football after graduating from high school. Hardtke replied that Pat was making a huge mistake—that his size would make it difficult for him ever to win a starting position on the Leland team, and that he stood virtually no chance of ever playing college ball.

Pat, however, trusted his own sense of his abilities over the coach's bleak predictions, and tried out for the Leland football team regardless. Six years later he would be a star linebacker playing in the Rose Bowl for a national collegiate championship. Twenty months after that he began a distinguished career in the National Football League.

Midway between San Jose and Oakland, the municipality of Fremont rises above the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, a city of 240,000 that's always existed in the shadow of its flashier neighbors. This is where Patrick Daniel Tillman was born on November 6, 1976. Not far from the hospital where Pat entered the world is a commercial district of pharmacies, chiropractic clinics, and fast-food restaurants bisected by a four-lane thoroughfare. Along three or four blocks of this otherwise unremarkable stretch of Fremont Boulevard, one finds a concentration of incongruously exotic establishments: the Salang Pass Restaurant, an Afghan carpet store, a South Asian cinema, a shop selling Afghan clothing, the De Afghanan Kabob House, the Maiwand Market. Inside the latter, the shelves are stocked with hummus, olives, pomegranate seeds, turmeric, bags of rice, and tins of grapeseed oil. A striking woman wearing a head scarf and an elaborately embroidered vest inlaid with dozens of tiny mirrors stands at a counter near the back of the store, waiting to buy slabs of freshly baked naan. Little Kabul, as this neighborhood is known, happens to be the nexus of what is purportedly the highest concentration of Afghans in the United States, a community made famous by the best-selling novel The Kite Runner.

By loose estimate, some ten thousand Afghans reside in Fremont proper, with another fifty thousand scattered across the rest of the Bay Area. They started showing up in 1978, when their homeland erupted into violence that has yet to abate three decades later. The chaos was sparked by accelerating friction between political groups within Afghanistan, but fuel for the conflagration was supplied in abundance and with great enthusiasm by the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union as each maneuvered to gain advantage in the Cold War.

The Soviets had been lavishing billions of rubles in military and economic aid on Afghanistan since the 1950s, and had cultivated close ties with the nation's leaders. Despite this injection of outside capital, by the 1970s Afghanistan remained a tribal society, essentially medieval in character. Ninety percent of its seventeen million residents were illiterate. Eighty-five percent of the population lived in the mountainous, largely roadless countryside, subsisting as farmers, herders, or nomadic traders. The overwhelming majority of these impoverished, uneducated country dwellers answered not to the central government in Kabul, with which they had little contact and from which they received almost no tangible assistance, but rather to local mullahs and tribal elders. Thanks to Moscow's creeping influence, however, a distinctly Marxist brand of modernization had begun to establish a toehold in a few of the nation's largest cities.

Afghanistan's cozy relationship with the Soviets originated under the leadership of Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan, a Pashtun with fleshy jowls and a shaved head who was appointed in 1953 by his cousin and brother-in-law, King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Ten years later Daoud was forced to resign from the government after launching a brief but disastrous war against Pakistan. But in 1973 he reclaimed power by means of a nonviolent coup d'etat, deposing King Zahir and declaring himself the first president of the Republic of Afghanistan.

A fervent subculture of Marxist intellectuals, professionals, and students had by this time taken root in Kabul, intent on bringing their country into the twentieth century, kicking and screaming if need be, and President Daoud—who dressed in hand-tailored Italian suits—supported this shift toward secular modernity as long as it didn't threaten his hold on power. Under Daoud, females were given opportunities to be educated and join the professional workforce. In cities, women started appearing in public without burqas or even head scarves. Many urban men exchanged their traditional shalwar kameezes for Western business attire. These secular city dwellers swelled the ranks of a Marxist political organization known as the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, or PDPA.

The Soviets were Daoud's allies in the push to modernize Afghanistan, at least initially. Aid from Moscow continued to prop up the economy and the military, and under an agreement signed by Daoud, every officer in the Afghan Army went to the Soviet Union to receive military training. But he was walking a perilous political tight rope. While welcoming Soviet rubles, Daoud was an impassioned Afghan nationalist who had no desire to become a puppet of the Soviet president, Leonid Brezhnev. And although Daoud was committed to modernizing his nation, he wanted to move at a pace slow enough to avoid provoking the Islamist mullahs who controlled the hinterlands. In the end, alas, his policies placated few and managed to antagonize almost everyone else—most significantly the Soviets, the urban leftists, and the bearded fundamentalists in the countryside.

At the beginning of his presidency, Daoud had pledged to reform the government and promote civil liberties. Very soon after taking office, however, he started cracking down hard on anyone who resisted his edicts. Hundreds of rivals from all sides of the political divide were arrested and executed, ranging from antimodernist tribal elders in far-flung provinces to urban communists in the PDPA who had originally supported Daoud's rise to power.

For millennia in Afghanistan, political expression has all too often been synonymous with mayhem. On April 19, 1978, a funeral for a popular communist leader who was thought to have been murdered on Daoud's orders turned into a seething protest march. Organized by the PDPA, as many as thirty thousand Afghans took to the streets of Kabul to show their contempt for President Daoud. In typical fashion, Daoud reacted to the demonstration with excessive force, which only further incited the protesters. Sensing a momentous shift in the political tide, most units in the Afghan Army broke with Daoud and allied themselves with the PDPA. On April 27, 1978, MiG-21 jets from the Afghan Air Force strafed the Presidential Palace, where Daoud was ensconced with eighteen hundred members of his personal guard. That night, opposition forces overran the palace amid a rain of bullets. When the sun came up and the gunfire petered out, Daoud and his entire family were dead, and the surrounding streets were strewn with the bodies of two thousand Afghans.

The communist PDPA immediately assumed power and renamed the nation the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Backed by the Soviet Union, the new government moved ruthlessly to establish control across the country. During the PDPA's first twenty months at the helm, twenty-seven thousand political dissidents were rounded up, transported to the infamous Pul-e-Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul, and summarily executed.

By this point the violence had instigated a wholesale exodus of Afghans to foreign lands. Because those targeted for elimination by the PDPA tended to be influential mullahs or members of the intellectual and professional classes, many of the refugees who sought sanctuary came from the elite ranks of Afghan society. Two years after Pat Tillman's birth in Fremont, California, Afghans began flocking to the city where he was delivered.

Back in Afghanistan, the brutality of the PDPA inspired a grassroots insurrection that rapidly escalated into full-blown civil war. At the forefront of the rebellion were Muslim holy warriors, the Afghan mujahideen, who fought the communist infidels with such ferocious intensity that in December 1979 the Soviets dispatched 100,000 troops to Afghanistan to quell the rebellion, prop up the PDPA, and protect their Cold War interests in the region.

Nations throughout the world sternly criticized the Soviets for the incursion. The strongest rebuke came from the United States. Expressing shock and outrage over the invasion, President Jimmy Carter called it "the most serious threat to peace since the Second World War," and initiated first a trade embargo and then a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

But Carter's righteous indignation was more than slightly disingenuous. Although the U.S. government claimed otherwise in official statements, the CIA had begun purchasing weapons for the mujahideen at least six months before the Soviet invasion, and this clandestine support was intended not to deter Moscow but to provoke it. According to Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the purpose of arming the Afghans was to stimulate enough turmoil in Afghanistan "to induce a Soviet military intervention." Brzezinski, the most fervent cold warrior in the Carter administration, boasted in a 1998 interview that the intent of providing arms to the mujahideen was specifically to draw "the Soviets into the Afghan trap" and ensnare them in a debilitating Vietnam-like debacle.

If that was the plan, it worked. Almost immediately upon occupying the country, the legendary Soviet Fortieth Army found itself neck deep in an unexpectedly vicious guerrilla war that would keep its forces entangled in Afghanistan for the next nine years.

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan was riven by so many intransigent political and tribal factions that the nation had been for all intents and purposes ungovernable. In reflexive opposition to the Soviet occupation, virtually the entire country spontaneously united—a degree of cohesion no modern Afghan leader had ever come close to achieving.

This newly unified opposition was characterized by extraordinary violence. The mujahideen seldom took prisoners in their skirmishes with the invaders. They made a habit of mutilating the bodies of the Soviets they killed in creatively gruesome ways in order to instill terror in those sent to recover the bodies. When the mujahideen did take prisoners, according to Soviet survivors, the infidel soldiers were often gang-raped and tortured.

The Afghans quickly figured out that fighting the Soviets by conventional means was a recipe for certain defeat. Instead of confronting Soviet forces directly with large numbers of fighters, the mujahideen adopted the classic stratagems of insurgent warfare, employing small bands of ten or fifteen men to ambush the enemy and then vanish back into the landscape before the Soviets could launch counterattacks. Soviet soldiers began to refer to the mujahideen as dukhi, Russian for "ghosts." The Afghans took brilliant advantage of the mountainous terrain to stage devastating ambushes from the high ground as Soviet convoys moved through the confines of the valley bottoms. The Soviet cause wasn't helped by a policy designated as "Limited Contingent": Moscow decided to cap the number of Fortieth Army troops in Afghanistan at 115,000, despite the fact that before the invasion Soviet generals had warned that as many as 650,000 soldiers would be needed to secure the country.*

The pitiless style of guerrilla combat waged by the Afghans had an unnerving effect on the Soviets sent to fight them. Morale plummeted, especially as the conflict dragged on year after year. Because opium and hashish were readily available everywhere, drug addiction among the Soviet conscripts was rife. Their numbers were further ravaged by malaria, dysentery, hepatitis, tetanus, and meningitis. Although there were never more than 120,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan at any given time, a total of 642,000 soldiers served there throughout the course of the war—470,000 of whom were debilitated by disease, addicted to heroin, wounded in battle, or killed.

The tenacity and brutality of the mujahideen prompted the Soviets to adopt ruthless tactics of their own. As they came to realize that it was much easier to kill unarmed civilians than to hunt down the fearsome and elusive mujahideen, the Soviets increasingly focused their attacks on the rural tribespeople who sometimes harbored combatants but didn't shoot back, rather than assaulting the mujahideen directly. Jet aircraft bombed whole valleys with napalm, laying waste to farmland, orchards, and settlements. Helicopter gunships not only targeted villagers but massacred their herds of livestock as well. These calculated acts of genocide went virtually unnoticed outside of Afghanistan.

The shift toward scorched-earth tactics intensified after Konstantin Chernenko became the Soviet general secretary in February 1984 and initiated a campaign of high-altitude carpet bombing. Taking off from bases within the Soviet Union and flying as high as forty thousand feet, safely beyond the range of mujahideen antiaircraft weapons, squadrons of swept-wing, twin-engine Tu-16 Badgers annihilated entire towns.

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Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Where Men Win Glory, the new book by Jon Krakauer, bestselling author of Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven. 

1. What aspects of Jon Krakauer’s narrative style make his telling of Pat Tillman’s story especially powerful?

2. After Tillman died, a copy of Jon Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams, a book about eccentric mountain climbers, was found in his backpack. He had also read and admired Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven. Why would Tillman be drawn to Krakauer’s writing? Why would Krakauer be drawn to write about Pat Tillman?

3. What made Tillman such an unusual football player, both on and off the field? What stereotypes did he defy and transcend?

4. What are Pat Tillman’s most admirable qualities?

5. In what ways did Tillman’s time in jail change him?

6. What role did Tillman’s idealism and personal code of ethics play in his death? Is Krakauer right in suggesting that it was Tillman’s “stubborn idealism—his insistence on trying to do the right thing” [p. 406344] that brought him down?

7. Krakauer writes that “The juxtaposition of Pat’s vulnerability with his fearlessness and self-assurance is not an easy thing to wrap one’s mind around, but it was an absolutely central aspect of his personality” [p. 7363]. What instances in Tillman’s life reveal this unlikely combination of character traits? How is it possible to wrap one’s mind around it? Why are these traits so rarely joined in a single person in American culture?

8. Imagine the conversation that Tillman and Noam Chompsky would have had if their meeting had taken place. What might they have talked about? How might they have regarded each other?

9. What made Pat and Marie’s relationship so special? In what ways does the depth of their bond make Tillman’s death even more heartbreaking?

10. Krakauer begins Part Two of Where Men Win Glory with an epigraph by Chris Hedges: “War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians” [p. 153133]. In what ways and by whom, specifically, was Pat Tillman betrayed?

11. Discuss the events that led to Tillman’s death by friendly fire 248-281and assess for yourselves who should have been held responsible for Tillman’s death and what the appropriate punishment should have been. What Aarmy protocols were broken in the lead- up to, and during, the firefight? What protocols and regulations were broken in the immediate aftermath of Tillman’s death?

12. As revealed in Where Men Win Glory what crucial mistakes has the United States made in its decades-long involvement in Afghanistan? What have been the consequences of these mistakes?

13. While stationed in Iraq, Tillman wrote in his journal: “My hope is that decisions are being made with the same good faith that Kevin and I aim to display.... I hope [this war is about] more than oil, money, & power.... I doubt that it is” [p. 196169]. What experiences are most responsible for changing Tillman from a patriotic and somewhat naive idealist to a sober-eyed realist?

14. When Tillman was killed, Krakauer writes, “White House perception managers saw an opportunity not unlike the one provided by the Jessica Lynch debacle thirteen months earlier” [p. 349295]. How did the “perception managers” in the Bush administration respond to Tillman’s death? How did they use it to their advantage? What are the similarities between their handling of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman?

15. Discuss the ironies that emerge from the fact that Pat Tillman’s personal code of courage, honor, honesty, and integrity was used so cynically and deceitfully by the Bush administration to further its own agenda.

16. How did Tillman’s family react to Pat’s death and to the White House cover-up of how he died? What positive results have come from the Tillman family’s response to Pat’s death?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 464 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2009

    A perfect hypocritical, unjust, political offensive at the expense of a fallen soldier's good name.

    Call me a sucker, I took the bait! Without any discredit to Krakauer's penmanship and regardless of the reader's political stance, this book is an obvious political attack and all-out assault on the United States military under the guise of a tribute to a fallen hero (the latter of which I thought I was really reading about). There is no doubt that Pat Tillman is an extraordinary person and should be remembered with honor and respect. But this book is rife with politics and a slap in the face to the American military. Krakauer should have simply stated that 9/11 and all war casualties are the result of mishandled situations by the United States leadership and its military. How do discussions on the Florida presidential election recount, alleged CIA intelligence mishandling, and other politically-charged narratives pay tribute to a fallen hero? Furthermore, while Krakauer alledges that the Government's war propaganda machine was fueled by embellished battle stories, he uses Pat Tillman's good character and good intentions to deliver his own anti-war, anti-political party propaganda. Hypocritical as hell, but sure, it's a great read... If you intend to pay tribute to a great man, do so, but leave your political and military assault for another book. Don't whore out a fallen soldier's good name to push your own ideas.

    54 out of 95 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I've waited about 2 1/2 years for this

    While in Afghanistan, Jon Krakauer spent abut 48 hours on a small Surveillance mission with myself and my recon team. He could walk up any mountain we did, (and faster) he was a great story teller and though i didn't know the great gift it was at the time, he told us stories about the places he'd been and the things he'd done in his past and that was a great gift. Who knows an Author? Who knows an Author who is willing to tell stories to a group of starving soldiers and not expect anything in return? Jon Krakauer did that for us, and lifted our spirits. He only briefly spoke about what he was in Afghanistan for but asked that we remain quiet about it, so for the past few years All of us have so w wouldnt compromise his work. Thanks Jon for a New Story.

    29 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    My new hero, Pat Tillman

    I just finished reading this book earlier this morning and I came away from it very upset, emotional. I had only heard of Pat Tillman a few times: when he left the NFL to join the Army and then when he was KIA by friendly fire. I remember thinking how admirable that was for a person to leave a really good job, the NFL, and join the Army to make a difference.

    I couldn't help but compare Tillman to Brad Pitt's character in the film "Legends of the Fall" because they were both men who were never at peace with themselves. It seemed as though Tillman was constantly doing something to try and "quiet the bear inside of him". I quickly became impressed and in awe of him after reading his journal entries - all I can say is, what a guy.

    I thought Krakauer did an amazing job laying the story out the way that he did. I didn't know much about how the Taliban or al-Quaeda was created or by whom but Krakauer's in-depth history lesson about it was excellent. I feel like I came away from the book armed with a lot of knowledge that I didn't have before.

    I'm still in disbelief about the way that the American government treated the death of Tillman, the cover-up. It was pathetic. I had no idea any of this took place until reading it in this book and I have to say that I'm very angry at the government. I'd love to be able to say "I can't believe our government would do such a thing" but I know better.

    I'm so glad that I read this book and got to know a little bit about Pat Tillman because I think he was an amazing man who tried to live his life to the fullest and always do the right thing. Thank you John Krakauer for bringing his story to all of us.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

    Story of Pat Tillman?

    I will first say that I enjoyed all of Jon Krakauer's other books. However,this book was supposed to be an "account of a remarkable young man's haunting journey." or so it claims. When I began reading the book I assumed that is what I would be reading about. While there are some interesting pieces about his life there is very little of Tillman's background laid out within the book. What I came to realize as I read was that Krakauer chose to utilize the Pat Tillman story as a vehicle to push his political agenda. If I understood going in that this book was about military mishandlings and an overall indictment of the Bush administration my review would not be so negative (although I am tired of hearing about it). If I were to tell you before you read this story that Krakauer rehashes the 2000 election you would have assumed I was probably talking about a diffrent book. My disappointment is that I feel Krakauer is misleading about the subject of his story. Plus I now need to counter Krakauer's left wing views with something written from the far right perspective to balance out the views. Hopefully the author's next book will be about a topic that he is not so biased about.

    8 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    Great read -- much more than just a Tillman bio

    Nearly all of the negative reviews of this book criticize the political agenda and describe it as an attack on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq in general. In the Appendix of Jon Krakauer's book, Under The Banner Of Heaven, he responds to charges from LDS leadership accusing him of assaulting their religion. He begins the defense of his work with the statement, "But illuminating unpleasant historical truths is not the same as bigotry." I think this statement also applies to Krakauer's work here in Where Men Win Glory. The ugly truths that he reports in this book inevitably lead to the judgments delivered, which some might call a "political agenda."

    If you simply want to know about Pat Tillman, you can probably find what you're looking for by Googling him. A much richer story involves putting his odyssey into context, which Krakauer does quite well. The context of Tillman's own thoughts and feelings is gathered from his journals and interviews with his friends, family, and fellow soldiers. Tillman's sense of duty in spite of his disillusionment with the war and his successful personal and professional life that he left behind is what truly makes him a hero. But the fact that his sacrifice takes place among the backdrop of a repeated pattern of government and military deception to the public is what really makes this story compelling. In addition to the Tillman fiasco, Krakauer describes several other examples, including the drumbeat of misinformation leading up to the war in Iraq and the Jessica Lynch half-truths. I would not call this a political agenda. They are historical facts that provide the weaving in the tapestry of Krakauer's version of Tillman's odyssey, making it a compelling read and a bitter lesson in history as well.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2010

    A must read!

    When I first heard the news that Pat Tillman joined the Army, I was disgusted. "Who cares?" I thought. It seemed some publicity stunt on behalf of some gung ho football guy. When I heard the news of his death, I was equally unimpressed. All I could think about were the soldiers from my state who barely get mention on the news who died, and in some cases, suffered a fate worse than death.

    When I saw this book on the shelf at the local book store, I was intrigued. I knew there had to be more to the story if Krakauer took it up as a subject. Krakauer is a phenomenal writer who tells so much more than just the topic of the story at hand. The background information he provides is an education in itself.

    Pat Tillman is a man of amazing character, the likes of which we do not often see. Aside from a portrait of Tillman, we get treated to important information about the military operation in Afghanistan and the history of our presence ("war" time or not) in that country. We are given an idea of the cover ups put forth by the U.S. government to soldiers families when they are killed by "friendly" fire, and so much more.

    My husband and I have decided to give this important book to everyone on our gift list for the holidays. This is an important book and people need to read it. I promise you, you will not be disappointed by this book. In fact, you will be thankful you read it.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Krakauer is controversial

    Starting his career as an adventure writer, Krakauer's last two books have been investigative work. His last great book, Under the Banner of Heaven, he reports on the fringes of the Mormon Church.
    In this book, Where Men Win Glory, we get a biography of Pat Tillman and a look into our own military.
    As a football fan, I found the story of Tillman and how he became a NFL player interesting. Pat's personal life was inspiring.
    An honest look into our military and the amount of friendly fire and cover up of such fire is eye opening.
    In all of Krakauer's books you are entertained and informed. These subjects may not be political correct, which makes it all that more important that they be written about.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    An unbalanced story

    I got this book to learn more about Pat Tillman and his noble service and tragic death by friendly fire.

    I really tried to ignore the political theme of blaming nearly everything on President George W Bush, but eventually it got to be too much. The author felt compelled to give a completely one-sided account of the 2000 election and Florida recount, and went downhill from there. I suppose the point is that a President Al Gore would have either prevented 9/11 or handled the aftermath in a more effective way. Sure!

    The first third of the book, that concentrated on Tillman's youth and football career, was quite good. If Mr. Krakauer could have only continued in a a non-political direction, it would have been a very good book indeed. As it is, only a member of what I would call the far left will get anything from it.

    For example, Mr. Krakauer spends a lot of time on a tragic friendly fire incident in the early Iraq invasion that resulted in 17 USMC deaths. Pat Tillman had nothing to do with this incident, except a superficial connection. Somehow, this friendly fire incident was typical of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld war of lies and deceit. I wonder if the author is aware of such far worse friendly fire incidents as the UN Navy firing on aircraft carrying American paratroopers in the invasion of Sicily in 1943. Was this typical of the Roosevelt war of lies and deceit? I doubt it.

    I can only recommend this book to those who join the author in "Bush Derangement Syndrome."

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2009

    Bush Bashing

    Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer is a decent book. I understand Pat's frustration on the fact that all he really wanted was to be n the fight, but was left out many times. Despite all of his opinions, he had a real appreciation for life, his family, and all the others that he allowed in his life.

    This book is about Pat Tillman. Pat was in the NFL, but after 9-11, Pat made probably the biggest choice of his life. He left the NFL to join the army. He was apart of an elite group known as the Rangers. He was tragically shot and killed by another comrade. If you heard about this within the following month or so of his death, you would have heard differently. This book is about the cover-up story delivered by the United States Army and the Bush Administration. I believe Jon Krakauer wrote this book to get the truth out.

    I understand why Krakauer wrote this book, but I think there could have been many changes. It seemed, at times, like a "Bush Bashing." I felt like he, at some points, was blaming the Bush Administration for not only the cover-up, but Pat's death also.

    I think this would have been better had it been about 100 pages shorter. It does into detail about too many things that don't matter, for example when Tillman gets drunk with his friends in Paris. It doesn't get to the story about his death and the cover-up till about 2/3 into the book. Other than that it is a rather good book.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The world needs more like Pat Tillman

    I enjoy Jon Krakauer's writing and prose I will read all that he writes regardless of his politics which as many have noted he does not try to disguise. I believe bringing in current events that are happening were necessary to set the stage so to speak. For those of you who think he is harsh on the Army-he's not. Many times the higher echelon will make ignorant bonehead decisions that end up in tradegy. It is heroic men like Tillman and the rest of his platoon to include the platoon leader that skillfully modify and apply the rules that make the Army the most professional in the world. Speaking from 24 years of experience. Every parent should have thier teenage son's read this book. The book is an excellent thought provoking read start to finish.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Highly recommended.

    This is a well constructed story of man, virtue, history, philosophy, politics and culture. It is very thought provoking as well.
    Having it on audio was a great experience. I listened to it in the car and found myself looking forward to long car rides.
    I definitely recommend it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    One of the few books I was unable to finish.

    Although I've enjoyed Krakauer's other works, I cannot recommend this one. Every man who goes to war has his own compelling story and I have no doubt that Pat Tillman was a patriot. If he were alive today, I do not think he would be pleased with Krakauer's version of his life or his war. The book eventually becomes a rant against the Bush Administration and the war against terror in general. Krakauer needs to stick with something he knows. War, duty, loyalty and honor are clearly outside his area of expertise. Don't waste your money or your time.

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2010

    Skip It!

    Offensive use of the tragic death of a true American patriot to push an anti-Bush, anti-war agenda. Rife with factual errors, even on such simple things as what city the Rose Bowl is in. Don't waste your time.

    3 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Not enough substance on Tillman

    Relatively little is included about Tillman's time in Afghanistan. Instead there was a huge amount on Afghanistan history, which came off as filler. The author couldn't resist a number of snide remarks about President Bush. If that is his view and Tillman's than so be it. However, I know it is not the view of most soldiers in Afghanistan. Those remarks came off as cheap and unnecessary.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    When Men of Honor are Treated Dishonorably

    An ultimately depressing read: major military muck-up followed by denial and cover-up--a total disregard for who Tillman was. Krakauer's writing feels tired and desultory as he recounts Tillman's football career (while Tillman was a great man, the background stuff goes beyond mere tedium), but as Krakauer's moral outrage climbs his prose begins to come to life. This book would be much sharper (and more interesting) if the first half were condensed to 20% of its length. Finished, I pace the house, feeling somehow hollowed out with a haunting sense of loss . . . for Tillman, for truth, for honor and glory. One has to agree with Krakauer's concluding remarks and they induce a sense of despair unalleviated by any "change" in the political winds . . . .

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I have a new hero: Pat Tillman.

    Krakauer does his usual thorough research and offers his trademark lucid writing in this appreciative biography of Pat Tillman. Krakauer emphasizes that Pat was both an everyday and an extraordinary person. He goes over the incident in which Pat was killed with precision. But he lavishes the same attention on Pat's childhood and youth. Tillman is not an object of anti-government caricature for Krakauer. One is left with sorrow for all the victims of wartime fratricide, and the friendly-fire toll in all wars is tragically high. And one is inspired by Pat's superlative adherence to his own code of moral conduct, his resiliency, and his love of family. You might chose to avoid the epilogue, in which Krakauer laments the lack of testosterone driven virility in men of reason.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Stunning, riviting storytelling Author

    I have read every single one of Jon Krakauer's books, have encouraged my reader friends to read his books. Had a enjoyable discussion with any attorney Mormom friend about the misconceived preconceptions of beliefs in Under the Banner of Heaven and I'm a Protestant! Jon first captured my attention when I read a review about Into Thin Air and it was my first Krakauer book. I found myself feeling the cold, breathing deeply in the "thin air" and going numb with cold and being mesmerized in his storytelling about this tragic and very sad, sad event. I'm going to buy two copies of Where Men Win Glory, one for me, another for a very good reader friend with whom I like to impress with my choice of good reads. No one, absolutely no one will be disappointed with this book, even if you dont' agree with the writer's politics or Tillman's motives, just enjoy the story and how brilliantly Krakauer writes.

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2009

    Can't Wait to Read!

    I only knew Pat Tillman briefly as a classmate at Arizona State University, but he has become my personal hero. I look forward to reading this book.

    3 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    Disappointed, not JKs best work

    Sad and heroic story, but not well written. Krakauer's agenda weeps through Pat's story and that is too bad because it takes away from the real heart of the story. Buy it on sale, borrow or skip but definately not worth full price.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    I hadn't really paid much attention to the Pat Tillman story and was interested when I saw Mr. Krakauer had written about him. Sadly, Mr. K spends a good deal of time ripping the Bush administration; whether I agree with him or not; that isn't what I purchased the book to hear. I understand that the actions of the administration underlie the Pat Tillman story; but then rename the book so I know what I am purchasing. I still would recommend the read; albeit there is a sort of emptiness in listening to the angst of Pat Tillman, both before and after 9/11/01.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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