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

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Corey M. Snow

12 Hours 16 Minutes

Tantor Media

March 2013


Audio Book Summary

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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  • Seth N

    This is a thought provoking book, but I don't love it. I was deployed to Iraq for 24 months in a 27 month period around this time. I lived in austere places, pooped in "wag bags", experienced a significant amount of combat, and clinched tightly as we drove down the deadliest streets in Baghdad. My Soldiers were appropriately disciplined, but never committed a war crime. I have seen good and bad leadership in the Army, but never committed or seen anyone commit a war crime. My concern with book is that it seems to blame several leaders for the acts of a few criminals. I acknowledge that poor leadership was a factor in this case study, but it doesn't define the Iraq war. I relate to the Soldiers of this platoon in a lot of ways. I have been on deadly streets in Baghdad, stuck outside the wire for days, shot at, mortared, and blown up. I never thought that was an excuse to behave like a criminal. My concern is that some people will find justification in these criminal's unthinkable acts. My bigger concern is that people think that this was Iraq in 05-06 for all Soldiers. By and large, American Soldiers did the right thing throughout this war. The Surge was a success! The vacuum created by our absence led to the creation of ISIS.

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    Great book. Sad stories but author did a great job painting a clear picture on true events. A book for all leaders or anybody in an authoritative position to read.

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  • James E.

    The book is a well-written account of the singular most egregious crime of the Iraq conflict. It provides context to and the details concerning the murders of an Iraqi family and the rape of their eldest daughter by members of the 101st airborne.

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  • Anonymous

    good read

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  • Nu E.

    Very good book, good journalism. It really didn't shy away from the grotesque nature of war, racism on both side and just general ugliness of how horrific it was for everyone involved. When the war crime happened, I lived in Asia where American soldiers do not have a good rap in general, especially with women. So when this news broke out, the hate against the US soldiers were unbelievable. Our country had deployed soldiers for peace keeping purpose where they've been often attacked by the insurgents, so everyone paid attention. But this book sheds a light into the fact that not every US soldier commits such heinous act but a few and gets some of the facts together. Good soldiers fighting for freedom and everything good cannot and would not be painted with the same brush as those animals who committed the crime.

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  • Markus W.

    Good book, you can definitely see how bad and sometimes absent leadership was contributing factors to the descision of few to commit a criminal act. I think alot of blame definitely goes to the chain of command. Let’s be honest for four guys to all to agree to commit a war crime and two other guys to help conceal it, says a lot about the chain of command (the core values and leadership of that unit). They left a bad apple that ruined the batch. The whole command failed those soldiers and the punishments they recieved as criminals should have been more severe.

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  • Lori W

    Great book

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  • Randy Russell

    This book is very good. It helps the reader understand what these men went through during their time in a war zone

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  • Serena Wagenknecht

    The book was great. It really gives a better understanding as to what these amazing men went through, and how they could do something like this. The narrator drove me crazy. It was really hard for me at first to get over his voice & the way he read the book, so I could truly listen to the story.

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