The problem was, to purloin a famous movie phrase, “A failure to communicate.” In this exciting true tale of danger, death, destruction, and suspense, the U.S. Marines in Iraq weren’t sure who was going to try and kill them - the enemy, the U.S. Air Force, or both. Somehow in this battle, the U.S. military vehicles were seen as enemy equipment. As in every war, mistakes in identification occur, and soldiers are killed by their own troops or airplanes. These tragic events are called “friendly fire.” The author transfers you from your comfortable seat in your peaceful world into the real world of the U.S. Marines in a life-or-death combat situation in Iraq with their enemy and their U.S. Air Force colleagues.
This is the true story of the First Battalion of the Second Marine Regiment sent to Iraq and, at first, assigned to routine duties in the occupation of a foreign country. Then, in another routine mission, they were assigned to capture two bridges in the town of Nasiriyah. They were told the Iraqis would greet them with open arms. They did, only their arms held AK-47s, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. The plan was to have tanks lead the attack into the city and cover for the advancing troops, but the tanks were miles away refueling. The marine battle plans in this situation had always included tanks, but in real combat, they weren’t there.
The young marines had been told not to fire on private citizens, their homes or their mosques. Facing them were hordes of women and children waving at them. Suddenly in their midst, gunmen stood up and started firing at the marines. Gunfire was coming from private homes, and weapons were being stored in the mosques and retrieved by terrorists who began firing at the marines. Nothing was as it was expected. When the marine tank commander arrived with a few of his tanks, he noted the infantry had already entered the battle without the tanks. As the Iraqis attacked from rooftops, from behind buildings, from seemingly everywhere, women and children stood outside and watched apparently unconcerned about stray bullets and shrapnel.
Then, due to a communication foul-up, the pilots of two A-10 Warthogs loaded with an incredible amount of weapons, including a Gatling gun, scores of missiles and bombs, were asked to eliminate all enemy troops and vehicles in a certain area, and there were no “friendlies” in the area. They did as they were told. Unfortunately, the troops inside the vehicles were marines. The A-10 pilots, both veteran combat veterans from the Pennsylvania National Guard, mistakenly killed up to ten and injured three U.S. Marines, in yet another chapter in the tragedy of war. Another irony: the American vehicles were supposed to be equipped with an orange panel to identify American vehicles to any American aircraft. Very recently, they had been removed by order of higher command who wanted only green or tan panels. Ambush Alley was, unfortunately as the reader will note, appropriately named.
Not only has author Tim Pritchard written an excellent narrative of the battle as it went down; he has also filled the book with interesting character studies and insights into the marines themselves. He is a British writer and producer of documentaries for several television channels in both England and the United States. In his first book, he has far exceeded the standard of war tales, making it difficult to put down (only one more chapter!). This book is highly recommended to read and to be devoured. Attention Hollywood. This book has all the ingredients of a great movie similar to Black Hawk Down.