Book Review — Into the Fire: The Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War

“You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth- and the amusing thing about it is that they are.”
Father Kevin Keaney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain

Into the Fire by Dakota Meyer

Yes, I am a Marine so my view may be a bit biased. Unlike Meyer, I served in the rather peaceful post-Vietnam Era. I read many of the Marine combat stories through the years and most were written by lieutenants, captains, on up to generals. There were also a few written by senior NCOs (NonCommissioned Officers). I always wondered what a lance corporal or a corporal would write on combat. That is the point where you are no longer a boot private and before your career takes priority. If you are a corporal and get busted it’s a year before you get your rank back. It happens. It happened to me. If you are a senior NCO, you’ll probably never get your rank back. If you are an officer, well, your career is finished. A corporal has that unique view of not being totally indoctrinated and yet relatively free to speak his mind.

Meyer starts a story typical of many Marines: Small town background, hunter, not really attached and looking for direction. He joined the Marines, went to Parris Island, Infantry school, and eventually sniper school. The book centers on his experience in the bloody fighting at Ganjgal. Meyer pulls no punches when it comes the disastrous planning and execution of the mission. Meyer and his team were advisors to the Afghan forces and stationed at an army compound. Meyer was ordered to stay back on this mission while the rest of his team went into Ganjgal. Essentially what happened was that the men walked into a kill zone. Stuck in the open and facing well-armed Taliban who crossed over from Pakistan, chaos ensued. The senior leadership located many miles away had their own impressions of what was happening on the battlefield, despite the radio communication from the people actually there. It was a disaster and one that could have been avoided. The description of the battle reminded me of the French generals, in World War I,miles away from the front line sending wave after wave of soldiers to their death thinking, “War’s not so bad.”

Meyer in this situation sees or rather hears what is going on and requests to enter Ganjgal to bring back his team. Refused several times he breaks orders. For a Marine, your fellow Marines are your brothers and you will do what is necessary to save them. Marines focus on teamwork and small groups. Your life is in the hands of those with you. There is a bond stronger than orders. Meyer’s story is one of incredible bravery and selflessness that follows in a long tradition in the Marine Corps. Meyer gives credit where credit is due. He spoke up for the bravery of Army Captain Swenson, whose Medal of Honor package was “lost” by those “controlling” the battle from afar. He praises the actions of the army helicopter pilots. Meyer, however, shows his disgust of the higher headquarter’s actions. He also explains the personal results that sometimes follow the action he saw.

Into the Fire is a raw, fast-paced, simply spoken, and spoken like a Marine account of Meyer’s service in Afghanistan. He is not a disgruntled veteran. He loved the Marine Corps and was proud of his service. He presents the reader with an “I was there. I saw everything and it is not how the command structure reported it.” Very well done and exactly what I would expect from a fellow Marine. Semper Fi, Sergeant Meyer.

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