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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death
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Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  747 ratings  ·  91 reviews
This is the story of a small group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regiment—a unit known as “the Black Heart Brigade.” Deployed in late 2005 to Iraq’s so-called Triangle of Death, a veritable meat grinder just south of Baghdad, the Black Hearts found themselves in arguably the country’s most dangerous location at its most dangerous time...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Crown (first published January 1st 2010)
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This was a terrific book. Initially, I thought this book was going to be, start to finish, all about an atrocious war crime that took place in March 2006 near Yusufiyah, Iraq. But it was only the opening prelude and the closing chapters that dealt directly with that war crime. The rest of the book detailed the theatre, the Battalion, the chain of command, individuals, the platoons (mostly 1st Platoon) and the world around them. The war crime itself was a very small part of the overall read.
I hig...more
The author, a reporter, chronicles the slow degradation of the First Platoon of the 101st Airborne (in a tragically apt quirk that would be too outlandish for fiction, their brigade really is nicknamed the Black Hearts) as, in the ultra-high stress environment of Mahmudiyah 24/7, reeling from the killings of popular leaders, suffering under ineffective and bullying leadership from upper levels and critically understaffed, the soldiers’ morale and discipline deteriorates. The shocking nadir comes...more
I wanted to read a truthful book about what its like to be in the modern deployed military. While the experience of my deployments didn't come ANYWHERE near to what was experienced by this platoon, there are several factors at play in this book that are at play across the entire military. Factors such as poor command climate, leadership by fear, ignorance of the region, limited to no planning, and unstructured decision making do run rampant in our military. Please note, I am being critical here...more
Michael Flanagan
Not what I was expecting but so much more. Follow a Platoon in Iraq as they spiral down into chaos and what results when leadership does not listen.
Meticulously researched and expertly assembled and told, compelling, sobering, and ultimately tragic. One of the best military books I've read, though not always easy to get through. Well-written to the point that I finished it in just a few days.

The author's description of the area in and around the south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death is photographic and tangible; anyone who has spent any time in the area will recognize it immediately. Ripe material for studies in military and comba...more
There are those books that one knows one must read but avoid because of the fear of being enlightened -- learning the truth behind the rumors, the stable ground rather than the blurry sea. I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking an understanding of the volatile effects of war upon the human psyche. Frederick does an amazing job sorting through all the stories and giving, from what I can tell, an unbiased look into this "descent into madness" of American soldiers.

The stories behind the sto...more
Jeffrey Belcher
In very few non-fiction books do we hear the story being told from a viewpoint where most angles of the story are actually told. Frederick did a pretty good job in telling most sides of the story however, I do feel that he placed a great deal of emphasis on certain aspects of the story rather than other. In my unprofessional opinion, this book was clearly written by a civilian who had never served in uniform. Yes, he told a clear story of the trials and tribulations of soldiers in the field, how...more
I listened to Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness In Iraq’s Triangle Of Death by Jim Frederick mainly because I was required to because of secret project thing that I am a judge for — and really that’s the most I can tell you at this conjecture. However, I found myself drawn to this book because war is interesting to me. I mean, it scares me and all, but it’s still interesting. I also find the whole effects of post traumatic stress fascinating as well. Furthermore, I have family ser...more
Terrific book. It's harrowing, but I think Frederick does an amazing job of helping the reader understand what it was like to be in this platoon in Iraq at this time. As a reader, I approached this book with a number of questions, among them, how or why do US troops still commit atrocities again civilians during wartime? Especially after MyLai, 40 years ago, has the military learned so little? Frederick's careful, thorough account, while not in any way excusing the perpetrators from their action...more
Patrick Arbuckle
A well-framed investigation of what happens when all goes wrong in modern warfare. Although it can be one-sided at times (fault of chain of command is rightfully accused throughout the book), the author presents the reality that influences such egregious acts. Taken through the episteme of a soon-to-be Army officer, this book provides an analysis on many different leadership styles and the real world reactions of soldiers to each of them. For more layman readers, I only hope this book elucidates...more
Excellent book.

Being a veteran of Afghanistan and having to deal some of the internal issues the Army faces today, I believe this book is extremely relevant. This book is widely considered one of the greatest books a leader can read, especially in a military environment, and I couldn't agree more. Well-written, well-researched, and well-paced, I found this book to be totally believable (not embellished in the slightest) and all the more impressive. It also bring into perspective the magnitude of...more
This is a book that should not only be read by everyone in the military but should be read by every single American in my opinion. The book covers a specific platoon's deployment to Iraq--1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 101st Airborne Division in 2005-2006. Through this microcosm of people, though, the book actually delves into human psyche and morality in a much larger context, as well as familiar topics of leadership, military command, nature of the Iraq war, etc. After just finishing this book, I...more
The author makes it clear in his prologue that this book is categorically pro-soldier. While no attempt is made to absolve, or apologize for, the four men who massacred the Janabis, the bulk of the text is devoted to an indictment of Army leadership whose callous disregard for the 502nd's well-being contributed to the creation of an environment where such a crime became possible. The soldiers are all portrayed as victims in their own right.

I don't necessarily have a problem with this, although a...more
A very important read I think, about what can go terribly wrong when good leadership is lacking. A tragic story but I think a very important one that needs to be read.
Maureen Flatley
Gripping, difficult must read....a shocking look at the war.
Matt Kimball
Black Hearts documents the story of 1-502nd Infantry Regiment, Bravo Company, 1st Platoon during their year-long deployment in Iraq in 2005-2006. The platoon became more than notable not only because two of the soldiers were taken prisoner by insurgents, but also because several soldiers were convicted of a murder-rape of an entire Iraqi civilian family during their time in the so-called "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad.

Though I'm a bit of a news junkie, and I've followed the Iraq war since...more
I'd seen multiple sources recommend "Black Hearts" (not the least of which is Tom Ricks' Best Defense blog at Foreign Policy), but never had impetus to read it until the Commandant of the Marine Corps said that I should...well, he didn't tell me personally to read it, but he did publish a new reading list and guidelines at the beginning of 2013, which included this book as appropriate for my rank, and that's what made me go out and get it.

I'm glad that I did. Reading the book took me back, in so...more
Alex Eggleton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is definitely a guy's book - a detailed account of 1st Platoon Bravo Company's year in Iraq's "Triangle of Death." I chose to read it because I was interested to understand the explanation for one of America's worst war crimes (the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen and her family), and because the book has such a high Goodreads rating. I learned more than I really wanted to.

First of all, I think I have a glorified picture of American servicemen, and I like it that way. Reading about a bunch...more
This most definitely isn’t a hoo-ah tale of military adventure, nor is it a thorough overview of the strategy and politics of the Iraq War. Instead, it tells the awful story of one platoon of US infantrymen stationed in the so-called ‘Triangle of Death’ to the south of Baghdad in 2005/6 and the grim, relentless, everyday carnage that drew the very worst out of some of those soldiers, culminating in the gang rape and murder by four GIs of a 14 year old Iraqi girl and the execution of her mother,...more
I was a little leery about picking this up because I wasn't sure I wanted to ready something that was so intently about the murder/rape of an Iraqi family by American soldiers. I'm really glad I read this though because the book isn't just about that at all. In fact, it only takes up a very small part of the book. The book follows the battalion of the errant soldiers through their entire deployment, and while no one in the book even attempts to justify their actions, the book gives a lot of cont...more
Mark C. Jackson
I have to rate this as only 3 stars for the following reasons: the author was a poor writer (2 stars); the atrocities made me so mad, but I was glad they were reported (5 stars); the poor leadership from Brigade Commander down made me so incredibly mad that I did not want to read any more (1 star); the fact that some justice was served (4 stars); demonstrating how to NOT be a leader (5 stars). So you see, I had difficulties with rating the book, as well as with reading the book.

This book clearly...more
This is an exhaustively researched and truly terrifying book; although I gave it four stars, I really would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone, I found it so horrible. It focuses on the experiences of 1st Platoon, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during the grittiest, dirtiest part of the Iraq War, in the most dangerous place in Iraq: the "Triangle of Death." Jim Frederick wanted to find out how the horrifying events of March 16, 2006, in which four members...more
As difficult as it is to face the truths in this story I had a hard time putting this book down. It was compelling.

The book is about more than just the rape-murder of the al-Janabi family. It covers the deployment of the 1-502nd, specifically Bravo Company, during one of the worst periods of the Iraq war and in one of the most violent parts of the country. The author does an excellent job of telling the story and all the circumstances that led up to the crime. This book puts you inside Bravo’s 1...more
Sometimes, I find it useful to judge a book’s quality by the strength of the reaction it evokes in me. I felt vaguely nauseas in parts of this book, and it was still on my mind days after I finished reading it.

The book essentially details the descent into madness of one platoon during the Iraq war, where a group of four soldiers snuck out of their checkpoint, broke into a family’s home, raped and murdered the 14-year old daughter, and killed her parents and 6 year old sister. They then returned...more
If you ever wanted to know what it's really, painfully, horribly like for combat soldiers in this day and age of modern warfare, read Jim Frederick's book on one American platoon's volatile interactions with both the perceived enemies of the Iraqi people/democracy and with their own peers and higher-ups in the U.S. army stationed in Iraq in the Triangle of Death(an area south of Baghdad known as such when the U.S. occupation forces were there between 2003-2010).

Black Hearts is relentless in its...more
Elliot Loper
This book has been on my Amazon recommendations list for quite some time. I thoroughly enjoy reading books on the Military, Military History, and the Intelligence community and the last thing I want to read is something that looks like a testament to our failures in the Middle East. It took me being forced to read it by my employer (eh-hem, USMC) in order to truly understand the value of this true story. This is not an anti-war propaganda story as I thought, but it is about how small failures at...more
After starting slowly with a lot of character introductions (the maps, List of Characters, photos, and Military Units and Ranks were all valuable aids), things moved more quickly as this book unfolded. I'm certain that there are plenty who take issue with Jim Frederick's analysis and conclusions, but he seems to be making an honest effort to explain what happened - and why - at a dark point in Iraq. Agree with him or not, this book is well worth being acquainted with when it comes to understandi...more
Harrowing but at times quite dense. The central thread of the book, the the rape of an Iraqi girl followed by her murder and that of her entire family by a group of rogue US soldiers, is gripping and disturbing.

The beginning of the book sets this up masterfully, then goes on to describe the background and the events that led immediately up to the murder. A brief epilogue tops it all off.

I have to admit it was hard going at times, especially keeping track of all the names of the military personn...more
James Creasman
A fascinating look at life in a platoon in the front lines of the Iraq occupation in 2005-06. This reads like a field manual on bad leadership, where soldiers are pressed to accomplish much more than they are able to, with little sign of support or care, and a constant barrage of criticism and blame for poor results in the midst of daily violence and hellishly chaotic living conditions for Iraqi citizens. Sobering, scary, enlightening and terribly disappointing.
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Audiobooks: Giveaway: Audiobook of "Black Hearts" by Jim Frederick 3 19 Jun 06, 2013 11:55PM  
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