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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

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,439 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
This is the story of a small group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regimentâ”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 tim ...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
Mar 02, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, war
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
Jan 14, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing
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
Jessica Scott
Jan 30, 2015 Jessica Scott rated it it was amazing
The single most powerful and disturbing book I have ever read. Should be mandatory reading for all soldiers and officers as well as any elected official who would ever send us into another cluster fuck war on a whim. The men who raped and murdered Abeer Qassim & her family bear 100% of the blame for their actions but that battalion/company/platoon leadership set conditions for the crime.

I'll write more when I have fully processed it. This book will stay with me for along, long time.
Michael Flanagan
Sep 25, 2011 Michael Flanagan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: iraq
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.
Apr 12, 2012 Billy rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-shelf
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
Apr 24, 2013 Gary rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 16, 2011 Cameron rated it it was amazing
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
R.M.F Brown
Sep 08, 2015 R.M.F Brown rated it really liked it
Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, the great builders of empire, the great builders whose bones are buried beneath the sands of Arabia.

In later years, other conquerors would come - the British, and now, the Americans, all under the illusion that they could in Kipling's words, "hustle the east."

Black hearts is the riveting account of one such chapter - the story of the 101st Airborne, a long and distinguished unit of the US military that counts Normandy and Market Garden amongst its battle
Jeffrey Belcher
Mar 14, 2013 Jeffrey Belcher rated it liked it
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
Jerry Peace
Apr 26, 2016 Jerry Peace rated it really liked it
Arrogance, peevishness, and sycophancy at the top; thuggery, fear, abandonment at the bottom-this mixture in an Army command playing war games at a stateside base would have made a fine Tennessee Williams play. Tragically, this was Iraq in 2005-2006, a time and a place where they were criminally put, a time and a place where they should never have been. While orders were blindly issued from within walls by Friday steak and lobster upper echelon, bravery and bigotry fought for control in the Kevl ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Trina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is disturbing in all the right ways. It investigates the toll on one platoon deployed outside the wire in Iraq, meaning they operated, without relief, in the country's most dangerous place- the so-called Triangle of Death- just southwest of Baghdad where the death toll was highest. It also depicts how their company and battalion leadership failed to prevent the tailspin into brutality (the execution of a 14-yr.-old Iraqi girl and her family) that led to equally cold-blooded retaliation ...more
Jun 03, 2011 Melanie rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 09, 2013 April rated it liked it
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
Patrick Arbuckle
Jun 13, 2011 Patrick Arbuckle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, iraq
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
Sep 07, 2013 Luke rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 31, 2014 Chrissy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
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
May 02, 2015 Keith rated it it was amazing
Frederick writes a well researched, detailed, yet very readable documentary about the 2005-2006 deployment of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. The focal point of the book is the 1st Battalion with special emphasis being given to Bravo Company and its 1st Platoon. On March 12, 2006, four Soldiers from 1st Platoon raped an Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family; Black Hearts is a sad but honest look at the rigors of war, the effects of leadership failures, and the impact constant war and poor lead ...more
Mar 27, 2011 Tasha rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 01, 2011 Maureen Flatley rated it it was amazing
Gripping, difficult must read....a shocking look at the war.
Sam Reaves
Jan 12, 2017 Sam Reaves rated it really liked it
This is not a feel-good book; it's an account of one of the most appalling crimes in American military history. In March, 2006, at the chaotic height of the Iraqi insurgency, four U.S. soldiers stationed in the so-called Triangle of Death south of Baghdad raped a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl and killed her and her entire family. The crime went unpunished until after the end of their deployment, when testimony from a whistle-blowing fellow soldier led to their conviction and imprisonment.
We know
Nov 13, 2016 Ian rated it it was amazing
As a veteran of the Iraq War I would say that although this book is about an isolated and terrible incident this is one of the best books on the Iraqi War. Jim Frederick does a masterful job giving a synopsis of the war from the beginning up to the units redeployment. It's a great study on leadership, mostly for what not to do, however he does a good job showing how the unit was put in a bad situation due to the nature of the mission and shortages of personnel and resources. But those problems w ...more
Rob Tesselaar
Nov 13, 2016 Rob Tesselaar rated it it was amazing
Very well told story of one platoon's experience in Iraq and the events that shaped and followed a horrific crime committed by four of their number. Frankly, I found the book a bit frustrating to read because of the numerous examples of poor leadership demonstrated throughout the chain of command. The author does an excellent job of telling the story without bias, which only highlights how screwed up the whole situation was. Highly recommended for every military member, and particularly leaders, ...more
Dec 10, 2016 Will rated it it was amazing
A dark book about how leadership will set the environment for evil to occur. Through reading this book I realized the evil within each man at war and I realized the incompetence of leadership that has power over a situation but does not have understanding of that same situation.
Darrell Fawley
Nov 16, 2016 Darrell Fawley rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. It is hard to read at times as a servicemember due to several cringe worthy points. However, it is probably the best book about the descent into madness and ethical failings that can happen in war since A Rumor of War.
Shawn  Welch
Nov 02, 2016 Shawn Welch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read

Even though this novel was as dark as they come when it comes to describing war it must be told to future generations so that we do not make the same mistakes
Feb 02, 2016 Shazia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-project-list
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
Aug 16, 2014 James rated it really liked it
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
Jul 29, 2016 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hannah (fullybookedreviews)
Nov 25, 2012 Hannah (fullybookedreviews) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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“Fuck it,” said Private First Class Chris Barnes, raising his hand. “Let’s do it. This sounds like a great fucking idea. Who wants to get blown up?” They started laughing. Watt, Barker, Cortez, and Private First Class Shane Hoeck all raised their hands. They did not give a damn anymore. It was all so absurd to them, that they were going to drive up and down a road for the next eight hours as bomb magnets. The only thing that they could do was laugh. “Hooray! We’re going out to get blown up!” they sang. “Who’s on board? Hey, who wants to come get blown up? Woohoo! Yeah, dude, I am ready to go fucking die! We are all going to fucking die!” 3 likes
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