moreads and modern military history

November 14, 2011

This post is loosely related to the Movember theme, dealing with soldiers who do sport mo’s on occasion. But I also wanted to share the fascinating and confronting integration of reading modern military history and YouTube.

Recently I read House to House by David Bellavia, based on the savage close quarters fighting in the city of Fallujah in November 2004. Bellavia was a US Army platoon sergeant, and he writes about his experiences leading up to the assault on Fallujah and his actions which resulted in being awarded a Silver Star and nominated for the US Medal of Honour. More on this can be read in Wikipedia. The book is a good read, free of the incessant use of army lingo that is prevalent in a lot of military history books, and paints a tough, tiring, dirty, stinky, adrenalin pumping, deadly, scary and hot picture of a soldiers life in Iraq.

But what added another dimension to reading this book was YouTube.

Just after penetrating the city of Fallujah, Bellavia’s unit occupied a roof top where they faced a determined attack by insurgents. What impressed Bellavia were the actions of an Australian journalist (Michael Ware) who continued to film the action during the fight. Bellavia mentions that Ware later used this material for a news report. Then I thought – “I wonder if he uploaded the video to YouTube?”

So I searched YouTube and found this actual footage of that scene in the book, matching what Bellavia wrote. I was amazed.

Since then I’ve done the same with a book called Sniper One by Sgt Dan Mills, and I’m about to read a book on Australian SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Soldiers have been uploading their mobile phone and handy-cam footage over the last 10 years. I would imagine that the US and UK military and government are watching this activity carefully and are quick to erase any sensitive footage before being public accessible. But it struck me as an amazing way to read these genre of books which hadn’t occurred to me before (duh!). Amazing, but also a confronting and scary integration of multimedia, providing in 3 minutes and 16 seconds a glimpse of modern warfare.

Sean Finlay


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