The best books about battles that go wrong

Tim Pritchard Author Of Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War
By Tim Pritchard

Who am I?

In 2003 I was travelling through Baghdad with US forces to report on the Iraq war. Suddenly an ear-shattering explosion cracked through our Humvee and a rush of hot debris swept past my face. The heavily armoured door warped inwards, and the vehicle lifted off the ground. Soldiers were screaming in terror and anger, clutching at bloody faces, arms, and legs. We’d been attacked by unknown members of the Iraqi resistance. The sheer terror of that moment gave me a new understanding of war  the sight, smells, sounds, and touch of combat – and a desire to tell the stories of the young soldiers who get caught up in it.  

I wrote...

Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War

By Tim Pritchard,

Book cover of Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War

What is my book about?

U.S. Marines from Task Force Tarawa are caught up in one of the most unexpected battles of the Iraq War. What started off as a routine maneuver to secure two key bridges in the town of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq degenerated into a nightmarish twenty-four-hour urban clash in which eighteen young Marines lost their lives and more than thirty-five others were wounded. It was the single heaviest loss suffered by the U.S. military during the initial combat phase of the war.

Ambush Alley tells the story of the deadliest battle of the Iraq war and how a routine military operation descends into a nightmarish 24-hour urban clash that leaves 18 young marines dead and 35 others wounded.  

The books I picked & why

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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

By Mark Bowden,

Book cover of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

Why this book?

It was this book that inspired me to write my book. It’s a powerful and gut-wrenching description of soldiers being lost in the fog of war when a military operation goes wrong and exposes the limits of what sophisticated hardware and weapon technology can do to save the day.  

Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War

By Robert Fisk,

Book cover of Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War

Why this book?

This is a devastating account of over thirty years of highly dysfunctional battles between war-mongering countries and groups that instead of healing divisions continue to tear Lebanon's different communities apart. What makes it so powerful is that it exposes the lie that wars are unleashed by complex grand forces at work. Fisk's book shows how ruthless individuals consciously start wars by inventing grievances and fomenting unrest, destroying a stunningly beautiful country, and brutalising its population.

An Evil Cradling

By Brian Keenan,

Book cover of An Evil Cradling

Why this book?

This is a blow-by-blow account from one of the Beirut hostages on his experience of being kidnapped and held for four years during the Lebanon war. But it’s so much more than just a historical narrative – a poetic meditation on the evil of war, what it does to people and how the human spirit goes about surviving it. 

If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

By Tim O'Brien,

Book cover of If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

Why this book?

A brilliantly intimate and personal account of a foot soldier’s tour of duty in Vietnam. This was a revelation to me while I was writing my own book showing that the microscopic detail of a soldier’s individual concerns and anxieties was just as compelling as the bird’s eye narrative of a battle. 

Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq

By Andy McNab,

Book cover of Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq

Why this book?

This is a detailed account of a secret military mission behind enemy lines during the first Gulf War and how a series of minor setbacks can quickly escalate into a full-blown disaster. I first read it years before I'd had any knowledge of a battlefield. I read it again after I'd been caught up in my own terrifying experience of combat and took away a new appreciation of the realities of war – how stress on the battlefield narrows the field of vision to minute details which distort what is really going on. It's a lesson about war, but also about life – even with all the planning and the training, it's almost impossible to control what happens in the heat of battle. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, Lebanon, and Vietnam?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Vietnam War, Lebanon, and Vietnam.

The Vietnam War Explore 132 books about the Vietnam War
Lebanon Explore 5 books about Lebanon
Vietnam Explore 89 books about Vietnam

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam, Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect, and Rangers at War: LRRPs in Vietnam if you like this list.