Heroic are those Marines who manage to come back from Iraq alive, carrying with them the agonizing mental and physical scars of battle that may not heal in a lifetime. In We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah, the ghastly horror of war is brought to life with grisly realism because historian Patrick O’Donnell had the guts to walk side by side with the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, as they fought their way into and through Fallujah.
Their battle was like no other. It involved the unimaginable task of Marines fighting through Fallujah by clearing the enemy from one house after another as they worked their way slowly through the streets with its labyrinth of alleys and passageways between buildings.
O’Donnell’s description of clearing a house leaves little to the imagination. Marines would enter a building’s first floor. A team of two would kick in a room door while tossing a grenade. That Marine would enter and spray the room with gunfire hoping to kill or disable any enemy within. Often the enemy had erected barriers behind which they would hide ready to cut in half the first Marine who entered with point blank, machine gun accuracy.
Then too, O’Donnell describes how many of the drug-hyped, suicidal enemy would sit in a room knowing that as they died, they could take a Marine or two with them. It is difficult for the mind to even comprehend clearing a house or a large apartment building against this type religious fanaticism.
We Were One is difficult to read because of the horrors told there: bodies cut in half, men with faces missing, soldiers decapitated, legless; Marines who had to continue the fight after wiping the bloody pulp from their faces and weapons of another Marine who had just been obliterated.
The book is well written and easy to follow even though it contains many acronyms. A reader might want to write down their meanings the first time they’re given. There are several maps to help the reader visualize Fallujah and arrows to indicate specific assault movements.
I would highly recommend We Were One not just to the general public, but to our government in Washington specifically, because the story is real. It is in Iraq today where Fallujah-like battles are fought by U.S. soldiers and those brave Iraqi men willing to fight beside them. It may help elected officials see first hand every emotion that goes along with the loss of a close buddy, or the elation of victory.
This is an unforgetable story about boys who become men on the battlefield, whose objective was to survive one day, and then the next, and the next. It is a story about men who forged a unique bond that only the battle-weary can experience – a bond in which each would make the ultimate sacrifice for the other, a bond that made them one.