Friday, June 03, 2016

“Red Platoon” by Clinton Romesha – Surrounded by Death

Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha - book cover
Though wars are quite often depicted in both movies and literature, some of them even lauded for their realism, there is simply nothing that can come close to first-hand accounts of the people who have actually survived through them. Those of us fortunate enough never to witness war can never really be certain that what we're presented with is an accurate depiction of reality... unless it comes from people like Clinton Romesha, a United States Army solider who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the 2009 Battle of Keating.

In his book Red Platoon, Romesha takes it upon himself to give an accurate and detailed account of what led up to the battle, and the fourteen hellish hours spent on the edge of the abyss, until the counter-attack finally drove the enemy back beyond the wire. We get to learn quite a bit about the base itself, it's significance for the U.S. Military as well as the various tactical pitfalls and vulnerabilities it presented. We also learn about the people who fought beside Romesha, who they were, the sacrifices they made, the inferno they all had to endure.

Even though this is a factual non-fiction book, Romesha ensured that it still reads in an entertaining way, with a structured storyline that makes it easy for us to follow. He begins by introducing us to those who are part of his platoon, many of them veterans from previous campaigns. We learn about their thoughts as they arrive on the base, their apprehension upon seeing the many dangers it presents for them, the Taliban peppering them from every angle possible. There is a certain build-up leading to the moment when a force of three hundred Taliban fighters was suddenly sent to capture Keating, outnumbering the platoon five to one, forcing the soldiers to make their final stand alone.

While there certainly aren't heaps of blood, gore and tears to be found here, Romesha doesn't hold back on his account and strives to tell things as they were, without any bias or unnecessary embellishments. His narrative feels very professional, detailing the numerous stages of the fight with such precision and accuracy that you have no choice but to be drawn in by the realistic chaos those soldiers had to go through. It is true that it is difficult to imagine from behind the comfort of a book's pages the terrifying loneliness the platoon was subjected to, but the author does a heck of a job at conveying it.

In addition to that, he also relays some thoughts in regards to his superiors, the ones who basically created the base. He doesn't pull his punches and blasts them for their poor decision-making, giving many solid and interesting arguments. Also, Romesha dedicated certain parts of the book to the eight men who died on that day, how they spent their last moments, and how they met their doom when the final hour came.

All things considered, Red Platoon is an extraordinary tribute to those who lost their lives on that fateful day, an engaging, emotional and thought-provoking retelling of a terrible event that left its mark on many people. If you enjoy real first-hand war stories, then this is a book you simply can't afford to miss.

Clinton Romesha (August 17, 1981)

Clinton Romesha (August 17, 1981)

Clinton Romesha is a former United States Army soldier, a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in the 2009 Afghanistan campaign. He is also the author of a biographical book, Red Platoon, an account of the afore-mentioned battle which earned him his medal.

1 comment:

  1. I am a Vietnam Veteran. My feelings run deep for all the soldiers in this book.