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Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
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After graduating from Princeton, Donovan Campbell, motivated by his unwavering patriotism and commitment, decided to join the service, realizing that becoming a Marine officer would allow him to give back to his country, engage in the world, and learn to lead. In this immediate, thrilling, and inspiring memoir, Campbell recounts a timeless and transcendent tale of brotherhood, courage, and sacrifice.

As commander of a forty-man infantry platoon called Joker One, Campbell had just months to train and transform a ragtag group of brand-new Marines into a first-rate cohesive fighting unit, men who would become his family: Sergeant Leza, the house intellectual who read Che Guevara; Sergeant Mariano Noriel, the “Filipino ball of fire” who would become Campbell’s closest confidant and friend; Lance Corporal William Feldmeir, a narcoleptic who fell asleep during battle; and a lieutenant known simply as “the Ox,” whose stubborn aggressiveness would be more curse than blessing.

Campbell and his men were assigned to Ramadi, that capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province that was an explosion just waiting to happen. And when it did happen–with the chilling cries of “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!” echoing from minaret to minaret–Campbell and company were there to protect the innocent, battle the insurgents, and pick up the pieces. After seven months of day-to-day, house-to-house combat, nearly half of Campbell’s platoon had been wounded, a casualty rate that went beyond that of any Marine or Army unit since Vietnam. Yet unlike Fallujah, Ramadi never fell to the enemy.

Told by the man who led the unit of hard-pressed Marines, Joker One is a gripping tale of a leadership, loyalty, faith, and camaraderie throughout the best and worst of times.

Customer Reviews:

  • Great Memoir from the War
    From the author's beginnings in college to the events in Ramadi, the story unfolds as we meet the members of his company. Each member is described with such detail that you feel yourself sitting in their company. From the humorous characters to the Gung Ho counterpart, Ox, we see the author's respect for and ability to relate to his men. We learn to appreciate the sacrifices and experiences that our Marines endured in the war. We also get a glimpse into the military culture and the courage of our troops. Through character's experience, we learn to understand the cohesiveness of the Marines, and why they are such a revered and elite team of men and women.

    The book is a compelling book and I forsee this becoming not only a New York Times Bestseller, but a movie in tribute to the men and women who served in Iraq. It is a must read for the U.S. citizens and any member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

    This is a great book.

    Semper Fi!...more info
  • Our military and their brutal killing battle in Iraq
    I have read many war themed books but never did I feel like I was in the middle of our troops, watching and feeling every action they endured from injury to death and from a restless night's sleep to no sleep for days. Joker One takes the reader from young Lieutenant Campbell's school days, his graduation from college, his training that produced his desire to lead soldiers in battle, and then to his ultimate return home a completely different man after his fourth tour of duty. He served one tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq starting in 2003. His final tour in 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq, was the most mind bending, morale buster, the most bloody, and made him realize the brutality he was fighting was so far different from anything he had ever seen or thought could occur.

    As a leader of an infantry platoon comprised of about forty soldiers, Campbell had little time to learn hands-on what he would face in training these men to be a cohesive fighting unit. His platoon selected Joker One as its name. Three other platoons comprised the infantry company, also each having about forty-men, or so the records said. There was a large shortage of men. When Joker One, two, three, and four were scheduled for disbursement, their ranks were only about one-third filled. As time got closer to deployment, the platoons were filled in with many ultra-green recruits that had to learn a lot on the fly and the leaders of these platoons had their hands full getting necessary information into their young men while getting ready to move very soon. It was not a pretty sight or description. Campbell was quite inexperienced himself so he was also learning on the job and picking up lots of his knowledge from the non-commissioned officers around him. The sergeants and other longer-timers took him under their wing very nicely. But, learn he did and fast!

    Campbell makes you feel the flight of weapons going all around you, some exploding nearby and some hitting your men that are your friends as well as fellow soldiers. The everyday life of these men that fight our battles while trying to stay friendly with the Iraqis, but generally battling them more than being friendly, was severely hampered every day and night by not knowing who and where an attack would come from, sometimes from a person that had smiled at you earlier in the day or week.

    The many skirmishes that started at unexpected times and places caused the soldiers and their leaders to feel unsafe all the time. There was no place safe. No place to relax and have a cigarette. No place to get several hours sleep. No time or way to eat the proper food. No feeling of satisfaction when all they saw was killing and attempts at killing so much so that they lost the feeling of sense of killing the insurgents. It no longer affected them as it did months ago.

    How these men survived the loss of their own friends by death or being severely wounded seems impossible. You can't live with a group every day in very close contact in battle or supposed rest and not get extremely attached to them. They felt every wound suffered by their men. They had no words for their feelings when they lost a friend through battle or even while just standing as an insurgent bullet or IED (improvised explosive device) flew close by or hit where you just stood. God bless these men that went through more than any human should suffer through. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is very explicit while "Telling it like it is" and leaving no feelings unsaid.
    ...more info
  • Powerful
    I have read many books on the experience of war. I grew up in London during the Second World War and have memories.
    Joker One is among the 3 or 4 most powerful books I have read in this genre and I am not excluding classics such as All Quiet on the Western Front. The tension builds as Campbell describes the stressful training in the US and the journey to the G-d forsaken outpost on the edge of Ramadi. It builds as he describes what it feels like to walk into what can only be described as Hell with Uncertainty. I, and I suspect other readers went with him as his Marines walked in single file down a dusty and often filthy street not knowing whether that pile of trash would blow them apart; blow young men in their physical prime, apart. The first casualty has the lower half of his face removed and it only gets more frightening as the days, the horrible days go by.
    As I turn the pages I get more and more churned up at the thought that it was the last Administration sent these boys who perforce become men (and although many of them come from the most disadvantaged and distorted backgrounds) into this unnecessary war. And it this aspect that makes the book so important for every bloody-minded politician to read. Campbell completely avoids telling us his opinion about the whys and wherefors of our presence in in Iraq. I think this makes it even more powerful than it might otherwise be.
    One reviewer complained we saw the war from only his point of view. I disagree; he gets into the souls of his men. And the reader can see, through his compelling writing, the growing love between them. love in its greatest sense, selfless love.
    Do not spend $29 on eating out tonight. Please go and buy this book ...more info
  • Great book
    I really enjoyed reading this book. It gives a great description of the daily lives of and the constant dangers facing our soldiers in Iraq. I, for one, have a much greater appreciation for their service and (many) sacrifices. To that end, I think everyone should read this book!...more info
  • Powerful Memoir of the Iraq War
    This book is a very powerful and compelling memoir of a Marine platoon commander's experience in a combat tour in Iraq. This is my favorite of three Iraq War books that I have read thus far and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is well written, easy to read, and concise. It is full of stories that will make you appreciate even more the sacrifices our military is making. This is a must read for ROTC or military academy students since the leadership lessons illustrated here are real and meaningful. Anyone who wants to know what it is like to lead men into battle will find that answered here. ...more info
  • Well-written, believable account of deployment
    While this book is not super exciting, it does give a solid account of a marine platoon in Iraq at a time when some serious stuff was happening. The author does not try to deliver a message or grandiose explanation of why events occurred the way they did; he just tells it like it happened. It's also hard to say that there was a real "narrative arc" to the story--it's more like a still-life that paints a picture of how it was. The result is a work that feels a little like a memoir without sugar-coating and without the self-aggrandizement that often is found in such works. Although the review copy I received was a little unpolished, the whole result is an authentic-feeling picture of life with a deployed Marine platoon. ...more info
  • An interesting and informative story of men at war from one who was there
    Donovan Campbell went to OCS after college and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After his training, he was sent to Iraq where he commanded a 40-man platoon. The story of his year in Iraq is the story of "Joker One."

    Campbell gives a first-person account of his observations and thoughts of that year. We learn nothing of the wider war, politics or the Mid-East. And very little about Campbell himself prior to or after the Marines.

    We do, however, learn a lot about the culture of the Marine Infantry platoon: one college grad leader in his early 20s, 3 or 4 professional soldiers in their mid-to-late 20s, and a bunch of high school boys away from home and armed with automatic weapons. The lieutenant is given difficult and dangerous tasks that he sometimes fails to understand and sometimes disagrees with. The sergeants back him up right or wrong. The kids will do anything he says without hesitation.

    During the course of the year, half of Campbell's men suffer wounds ranging from minor to terrible. One is killed. He feels personally responsible for each, and toward the end becomes physically ill with remorse and self-blame.

    Campbell doesn't take a position on the larger issue of the Iraq War. He was eager to go to Iraq with his platoon because that's what Marine lieutenants do. He does tell us about urban warfare in a hostile land -- where the enemy looks like and hides behind civilians.

    There's nothing new here -- the story of the officer and his men is as old as literature, and the difficulty of "nation building" by combat troops in a civil war is at least as old as Vietnam. Even so, "Joker One" is a good and informative read....more info
  • Campbell conveys a vision, a tallent for connecting us to the lives of his men and bares his own soul
    Donovan Campbell as a new Lieutenant of a platoon deployed in Ramadi, Iraq shares his day to day experiences both in training his men in the States and in taking them into combat and in so doing allows the reader a view, not just into the life of a junior American officer in the field, not just into the training and tactics of American small unit combat, but into his soul and through his vision into the souls of the 37 men whose lives are his responsibility.

    I am not a fan of contemporary histories, but from the ground level view his observations work precisely because he does not try to draw conclusions and instead invites the reader along with him and his men as the insurgency grows and strengthens. It is an eye opening view of the real Iraq so little reported in the news.

    Academically we all know the insurgents are a nasty bunch with no moral compass, but nothing better illustrated this that Campbell telling about a couple of insurgents firing at his unit. He, personally never caught a glimpse of the shooters and had assumed none of his men had either until two admitted in the post mission debrief they had indeed seen the gunmen. Campbell's response and I paraphrase "Why aren't they dead then. We are Marines. We kill our enemies. That is what we do!" The men look at the ground, embarrassed, and at last explain, "Sir, they were standing in a circle of kids!"

    This book covers the entire spectrum of emotions from joy to grief, from moments of tears to deep spiritual insights. And yet through it all Campbell manages to covey the enormous respect and love his has for his men, how deeply he takes his responsibility for them and how he relates to his superior officers - some of whom are not always therapeutic in their comments and observations.

    Without reservation I say this is one of the best books to come out of the Iraq conflict - in part because the focus is on the real heroes, to little recognized junior officers and their men who do the real work of our armed forces and take the losses as well.
    ...more info
  • Like hearing a friend remember war
    I am absolutely impressed by this writer and his story from the ground level of war. His take on the battles for Ramadi, some of the worst of the Iraq experience, was a stunning portrayal of the reality we don't hear much and as if written by a great man walking in real humility. Honoring his guys and finding the beauty in their lives as well as conveying the reality that there are some guys that are more liability than asset. Telling it without any trumped up drama beyond the already crazy scene of Iraq was refreshing. I had a hard time reading slow enough to get it all. The writing just pulled me along. Excellent from start to finish....more info
  • A Talented Writer - A Natural Leader
    There a numerous reviews outlining every detail of this great piece of literature. So, I'll just come to the point; this a powerful story, written by a skilled leader and adept writer.
    As a veteran of an earlier war I'm jealous of these men, the author is an inspired leader. I would have followed him without question. The book is well put together and gives the reader a real feel for what it's like to put together a unit, and then mobilize with that unit and experience house to house combat at it's worst.
    A very easy read, I found myself wanting more.
    I can only hope Lt. Campbell now private citizen Campbell will write another book.
    And cudo's to Random House. My copy of the book had some printing problems and after I talked with them they sent my a new copy over night. Bennett Cerf would be proud.

    sp/4 91B20...more info
  • Joker One-A True Life Combat Story
    In Donovan Campbell's 313-page book, he takes you through the training of a Marine Corps officer, and then the receiving of his first combat platoon. Joker One is the radio designation for the 1st platoon in Golf company which consists of 180 men.

    Character development was very good, in fact, it was one of the strong points in the entire narrative. There were lots of players, but the Main Characters list at the beginning helped the reader keep track of all the moving parts. Also worth mentioning is a very clear and interesting map of Ramadi, Iraq where all of the events in the book took place.

    Lt Campbell then relates the combat action and personal characteristics of the men in his platoon as they gain the valuable experience under fire.

    This book review will be shorter than most of mine. As a Marine Corps combat infantry sergeant I had seen many such new lieutenants come and go from line companies where I served. I felt that Campbell was far too compassionate, and basically too soft to be an effective infantry officer.

    But that evaluation is not fair. I was constantly comparing him with officers from a long-ago time doing much different work. In my time, the mission of the 'Corps was to kill people and break things. It's much different, and difficult today. Meddling by politicians, very strict Rules Of Engagement against an enemy with no uniform, and not even a real country. Then, there is the "Nation Building" thing which previously the 'Corps would have laughed at. Such things were done by civil affairs people from the Army.

    But let's keep on track. Obviously Campbell learned his lessons well at Ramadi as he went on to be awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, and a Bronze Star with Valor.

    But in spite of an this writer's opinion, I feel the book is a solid 4-Star effort in depicting the modern 'Corps officer. ...more info
  • A compeling story.
    I found the struggles and courage of these young men serving our country in a war that should never have happened extremely moving. They sacrifices they've made at such a young age is incredible....more info
  • Unique memoir of a platoon in Iraq
    Until about two-thirds of the way through, I wasn't quite sure what Donovan Campbell was trying to do with his book. I've read a few accounts of Marines in Iraq, and JOKER ONE seemed to pale in comparison, offering little that was new. Campbell presents the same basic details as those other books -- patrolling, searching for IEDs, battling insurgents, dealing with unreliable Iraqi allies, etc. -- and he does so without really letting the reader get to know himself or his Marines in any substantive way except as members of this particular platoon. Most of what we learn about Campbell's background comes from his biography on the back cover, and the information about his men is generally limited to quick tidbits about tattoos, quirky accents, or music. What gives, right?

    Then, after about 200 pages of relatively "routine" action, Joker One gets into the thick of the fight and starts taking casualties -- serious, life-altering, life-ending casualties. Right around the time Campbell announces the death of a member of Joker One and grows depressed, I realized that he didn't aim to write about himself nor even about his individual Marines. He's writing about the platoon as a whole, crafting a true unit history in which individuals certainly exist but meld and mesh and mix into a unit. In other words, this is a memoir of a platoon, of Joker One -- how it experienced the streets of Ramadi as a unit. Near the end of the book, Campbell writes how looking after one another "created something in Joker One that was more than just the sum of all of us" and "gave Joker One a life of its own, a life that wove all of us inextricably into itself."

    (In that sense, then, the publisher does the book, its author, and readers a disservice by playing up Campbell's Ivy League background. That might sell books, but it detracts from the effect I believe Campbell is shooting for.)

    There are more vivid and certainly more personal accounts of Iraq out there. I like Nathaniel Fick's ONE BULLET AWAY for the experiences of an individual Marine officer and David Danelo's BLOOD STRIPES for those of individual Marine grunts (as written by an officer). But for a story of a platoon with "a life of its own," JOKER ONE stands alone....more info
  • Give one to your military friend, I did.
    A very interesting perspective from one from the fight for one back from the fight. Could bring healing to them....more info
  • A Unique Perspecive on War
    I've read my fair share of 'War is Hell' books and each of them has been written from the perspective of someone who wants to illustrate how futile and insane war is. Often these books are preaching to the choir, so it was interesting to me to read a book written from the perspective of someone who was proud to be a Marine and both willing and eager to enter the fog of war.

    Joker One is extremely readable, Donovan Campbell does an excellent job at capturing the essence of the men around him while providing a truly emotionally naked portrait of himself.

    As with all war books you get the gore of war, the incidents which reinforce how indiscriminate and heartbreaking battle is. But with Joker One there's a great sense of the impact of it all on the men who were there and how the find a way to push forward beyond all exhaustion.

    The book avoids many pitfalls and while it is often emotional and proud it's never overly nostalgic or maudlin. My only real gripe about Joker One is the end. The book travels such a wide emotional arch that I felt the ending was rushed. I wish we had been given another few chapters on life after war.

    All in all, a very good read and a unique view of war....more info
  • Riveting and Inspiring
    A few weeks ago Jim Cramer, on his fantastic financial TV program, Mad Money, interviewed Donovan Campbell, a Manager at Pepsico in Dallas and a former U.S. Marine, who served as a platoon commander in Iraq. Cramer had just read Campbell's book, entitled Joker One, and lauded the ex-Marine's account of his six-month tour in Ramadi. After hearing this brief interview I went out to my local library and checked out a copy of this book. Once I started reading it I could not put it down.

    Campbell holds no punches as he precisely details the duties that he and his fellow Marines executed while in Iraq. He gives vivid, and oftentimes disturbing, accounts of the encounters the soldiers had with those Iraqis who wanted to kill him and his fellow Americans securing their city. I was never in the military, but the descriptions of the patrols and fire-fights in this book are so bold that I, probably naively, had a sense of what its like to be in a war zone.

    Campbell also is very forthcoming in his assessment of his own leadership skills. Only twenty-four at the time of the events, he openly confesses mistakes he made in the heat of battle. Campbell leaves his emotions on the page as he recounts the injuries and deaths of some of his men and the effects the carnage had on his own emotional state.

    Donovan Campbell is one of the unsung heroes of the United States. A man who volunteered to serve his country and was asked to do a job that he probably wasn't quite ready for at the time, but who did it anyway to the best of his ability. The six months he spent in Ramadi were a success despite a few setbacks. As a reader progresses through the pages of this book, we see Campbell grow and develop his leadership potential. We laugh with the soldiers as they take time to relax in a kiddie pool. Our hearts beat faster as we walk through the streets of Ramadi while bullets fly past the soldier's heads. And we cry as we read vivid descriptions of young Marines losing limbs and losing their lives for the sake of freedom.

    As far as I know Donovan Campbell has not written a book previously. Yet, just like he rose to the occasion as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he has risen to the challenge of writing a book that every American should read. All of us need to know what is like in Iraq right now. The best place to get such information is not from cable news, but from someone who was there. And as you get absorbed into Joker One you'll believe you have been there too.

    See all my book reviews at
    ...more info
  • Comparable to quality of Stephen Ambrose' "Band of Brothers"
    "Joker One" is the coming of age story for a Marine Lieutenant and the 44-men he leads into an effective fighting force. With just four short months, Marine Lieutenant Donovan Campbell takes his skeleton crew platoon, accepts more than 25 new recruits, and he trains them for the inevitable certainties that will meet them in Iraq.

    The story follows the men as they speak the false bravado of those who have never heard the crack of bullets hitting the walls and the streets around them. Vowing to not mess up the mission like the Army, the platoon makes foot patrols through all sections of the city with the smiles and casual waves to the local populace. Soon after arrival, the platoon takes their first hostile fire from an insurgent. Not hearing return fire, Donovan assumes that the insurgent got away without anyone seeing him. Nothing could be further from the truth - he had surrounded himself with 20 school children, fired the rocket propelled grenade and then sped off. Because of the immense restraint shown by the Marines, the locals nicknamed them "Awak", a local cake that easily breaks apart with just the gentlest of touches. The next few months, the Marines would show the insurgents just how wrong that first impression was.

    Donovan eloquently captures the raw emotions of men in combat. In the chapter where he first orders the death of another human being, you understand the agonizing decision process that must take place in seconds. We have the luxury of second guessing that decision long after the incident has happened, but men like Donovan must live with the consequences of those decisions forever. In his own words, he writes "... that sometimes, on the front lines, there are no great options, just bad ones and worse ones,, so you do what you can in the knowledge that you're dealing life and death no matter which way the decision swings. Then you live with the results and shut up about the whole thing."

    "Joker One" is an amazingly powerful story of how men change as they undergo combat. It's the story of how a group of complete strangers can in a short period of time become closer than brothers. I cannot recommend this book highly enough....more info
  • An honest look at war.
    Not my genre. but was a compelling 1st hand account of combat in Iraq. A must read for all young people considering joining the armed forces. Very well written, first person narrative. I could close eyes at the end of each chapter and see and feel what the was describing clear as if it was my own experience....more info
  • Good, but could have been better
    After a couple hours of research and reading book descriptions/customer reviews I decided to purchase this book and put a couple others on hold (One Bullet Away, My War, Lone Survivor). I think I got what I was looking for, a first hand account of the fighting in Iraq. I think I also learned some important messages about leadership. I think Campbell also does a great job of clearly explaining all the military jargon that civilians like myself dont understand, and excelled at breaking down the battles they were involved in. However I actually would have liked to hear a little more about the author himself. I thought some of the more interesting parts were when he was describing how he was feeling and what he was thinking. I know from friends who have been to Iraq and in the service in general that it is a significant personal struggle (harsh living conditions, family problems, missing familty etc.)

    I see why this book is a top seller. Its easy to read, everything is laid ourt very well, and overall its message is very positive, but for a first hand account I dont feel any connection to the author. I started reading My War by Colby Buzzell which is written in a completely different style but the reason I like it is that I feel a connection to the author and can picture myself in his shoes. Im not saying My War is the better book (depends on what your looking for) and I prefer the style of Joker One but some personal insights would have made this book much more enjoyable for me....more info
  • day to day hell of war
    I have read a few books about experiences during wartime. Most tell of great battles and heroic leadership. This book was a little different. It tells the story from one mans perspective, a Lieutenant, leading a platoon of marines in Ramadi Iraq. It does not highlight sensational battles, it focuses more on the details and drudgery of everyday life in a hot war zone.

    The first half to two thirds of the book talks about getting himself and his platoon ready. There is not a lot of battle action. After a short time the Marines start to get a little disappointed because they are not seeing any battle at all. But as we all know, be careful what you wish for.

    The platoon starts getting hit regularly by the insurgents. They start taking casualties and a number of the men die. As I was reading this I could feel myself in their place. The storytelling is great at giving you the actual details and feelings of what is happening. Going a week or more without a shower in 125 degree heat while you are wearing full gear and body armor. Walking patrols because the Marines did not have enough humvees to spare. Knowing that once you turn the next corner, or walk that next mile, you would be ambushed. Seeing insurgent rockets miss your men and explode in a group of little kids, who you then care for, and then having the residents of the town blame you for their childrens injuries and deaths instead of the insurgents that actually fired the rocket.

    This book does not make a statement about the war. It makes a statement about the day to day life of the Marine platoon that is an instrument of war. It details the brotherhood these men achieve after serving in life and death situations. I have nothing but extreme pride for these brave men and women that serve our country. After reading this book I respect them even more. I hope they achieve their mission soon and all return home safely.

    ...more info
  • A strong, solid book
    This is a strong, solid book on so many levels.

    Donovan Campbell takes us to the front lines. He lets us know firsthand what it's like to be in a Marine infantry in Iraq. It's like he's a reporter imbedded with his unit, but he's the real deal, the real soldier making decisions, taking action, being a leader.

    Donovan Campbell writes in straightforward, declarative sentences and without tricks. His themes revolve around courage, love for country, love for fellow man, and leadership.

    For fans of military non-fiction, current events, and memoirs, this book is a must-read. This story educates, informs, entertains and inspires.

    A very solid book and an honor to read. ...more info
  • Understanding the greatness of the American people
    Donovan Campbell describes in a very personal way his strengths, doubts, fears and believes while leading a platoon of marines in Iraq. This book touched me deeply. It is one of the best books I have ever read describing war at a personal level. The book highlights the difficult moral judgements that sometimes have to be made at a moments notice. Campbell describes the good, the bad and the ugly in a totally honest almost clinical way. One can not help but admire his sincerity, sacrifice and concern for his fellow marines. This book puts into perspective the despicable acts of politicians back in Washington who tried to make political hay out of the Iraq war while people like Donovam Campbell put their lives on the line under very difficult and dangerous circumstances and try to represent the Unites States of America in an honorable way.
    Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Very Personable Account of a Platoon Leader and His Men Serving in Irag, Boots on the Ground
    What particularly makes this book by Donovan Campbell a great story to read is his modest personable account of how he and his men faired in combat situations, particularly in Ramadi where the fighting was so severe. With a brief introduction of his break from college and less then happy OCS training in Quantico, he almost immediately details his start with his new platoon going off to Iraq. He notes briefly that his first tour in Iraq after OCS had more experience with office than field work. However, after missing out on a preferred sniper assignment, he accepts his assignment as a platoon leader. His sense of modesty and straight telling of the events that involve his platoon and their company is captivating as the exposure to combat, IEDs, rocket fire, ambushes, extreme heat etc. are told without exaggerated hyperbole. The other great aspect of Campbell's telling is that he obviously cares for his men and along with his company cohort, Ox, he interacts well with them and as a result, they are well represented in the telling as you get to know them too from a very personal introduction. An example is Lance Corporal Carson, who Campbell turns to see during a long hot march carrying his own pack along with a suffering marine's. In the extraordinary heat, Carson both encourages and literally pushes the less athletic marine up a long hill, keeping him with the group. At times, the book reads like a diary that unfolds as the reader is carried from each event seamlessly and that's the attraction of the book along with Campbell's style of writing. He provides you his experience and those of his men without ego or exaggeration and gives the reader a feel for what it was like for those wre on the front line of a confusing battlesacpe that was not conventional in the least. You also feel their extraordinary sacrifice not only from wounds, death and climate but from their long time away from their loved ones, who they value more than ever. The author also provides insight into personal loss as the companies of men become very close and co-hesive and each wounding or loss of life effects each greatly. It's a book I will pass on to my dad, a career marine that served in Korea as a sergeant in a rifle company. ...more info
  • A Wonderful Mix of War, Leadership and Love
    This is a remarkable book. A war memoir? Yes. A book on servant leadership? Absolutely. A testament of how the bonds of war can bind people in unexpected ways? No doubt. This book is all these and more. Lt. Donovan Campbell - the narrator and author - has drawn a poignant picture of what it's like to lead men into battle. It's full of the granular details that make a book come to life and fill it with a sense of vibrancy. But he also managed to inject a surprisingly lyrical quality to his story that simply makes it a pleasure to read. A rare and totally unexpected quality.

    I've never read a war memoir before and almost didn't pick this one up. I'm glad I did. It was a good read ... a memorable read ... and one that will stay with me for a long time. It offered a picture of war and the military that you don't get from the news. You can only get it from people courageous enough to reveal themselves as honestly as Campbell has done here. Well done, marine. Well done. Thank you....more info
  • Good book but excuses
    The quality of the prose is very good, better than most military writers. I enjoyed the book and felt I had a better understanding of the lives of the Marines and their mission in 2004 Iraq. Unfortunately I felt that Mr Campbell was making excuses for his failures. He is ultimately responsible for the performance of his platoon, I felt that Mr Campbell knew this intellectually, but was still trying to justify poor outcomes. Blaming his platoon Sergeant for a unit failure shows a lack of leadership on Mr Campbell's part. Ideally a Sergeant who be fully prepared upon reporting to a unit, but it is the commands responsibility to bring them to standards.
    Consider listening to Mr Campbell speak on NPR's Fresh Air on 3/5/09....more info
  • Joker One is a real disappointment
    Joker One is one of many small unit histories on combat action in Iraq. This book compared to others comes off flat and not very distinguished or brilliantly written. It's lacrimal and heavy on the emotional factors. In fact the most uninteresting of any book I've read on the Iraq War. It's not what I am personally looking for when studying military history. It has as self help confessional quality to it.
    Most good military history books have a sufficient number of maps to allow the reader to understand the movement of combatants, unfortunately Joker One has only one map where many smaller maps would make understanding the various encounters more easily understood. Thus, multiple encounters lack distinction, one sounds like the next except for geographical different locations. More maps would give clarity and draw the reader in.
    On a broad sense the book brings out what I consider a flawed tactical and strategic effort, but the author does not appear to see this. The plan Lt. Campbell was part of was for his platoon to in effect become a target. The unit would go out on patrol or occupy a building and then draw fire, to which they would respond. Not a very imaginative tactic. As a former Navy combat surgeon I also feel there was a significant command failure that resulted in at least two unnecessary deaths of Marines. In both cases the Marines attempted to scoop up wounded children in the middle of an intense firefight, resulting in their deaths. The policy was to get the wounded child away from the rifle and machine gun fire and then stop an Iraqi car and then hope they would deliver them to an Iraqi hospital. From the description of their wounds I doubt if they survived the ride to the hospital , never mind the end results if they got there. I personally feel the command standing orders should have forbid the Marines from attempting such rescues. I think Lt Campbell and the Company CO were remiss. For the above reasons the book is at the lower end of small unit histories that I have read and I would not recommend it.
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  • A Gripping Account
    This book portrays the real and gripping story of one Marine Platoon serving in Iraq at the height of the action there. It is sobering and makes one wonder at the dedication of people who lay their life on the line day after day, and do it willingly for the good of country and brotherhood.

    It's well worth reading and understanding the dedication of those who are on the front line of the war on terror, and how real and human each individual is and remains....more info