Blood Stripes: The Grunts View of the War in Iraq

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Danelo carefully skirts the politics, in large part because his subjects appear reluctant to express opinions on the topic. Danelo is at his best when describing specific events; he has a talent for bringing the sand and smells of Mesopotamia alive to his readers.


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His primary stories revolve not around the action, however, but around the various leadership problems the young NCOs faced and then overcame. With the exception of Corporal "Shady" Stevens, his primary subjects are infantry NCOs involved in leading combat patrols. The sections dealing with Stevens's headquarters' adventures feel detached and unconnected to the rest of the narrative.

The book is written in a clear, journalistic prose, with an omniscient authorial voice, rather than the more dispassionate historical style. Unfortunately, the book lacks footnotes or endnotes, and Danelo paraphrases his interviewees rather than quoting them. This makes it essentially impossible to tell when one is reading the words and thoughts of an interviewee, and when we are reading Danelo's editorial comments.

His work is far less useful to scholars than it might have been, as it has very little value as a reliable historical document.

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Danelo's obsession with the "Spartan Way" and Pressfield's Gates of Fire further exacerbates this problem. Danelo is clearly a great admirer of Pressfield's work, and of the Spartans as Pressfield presents them, but it seems unlikely that all of the Marines Danelo interviews are equally as enamored with Pressfield's work.

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The book is on the reading list of the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program for Corporals and Sergeants, but it is only one of ten books on that list. Even if the young NCOs have all read the book, it seems doubtful they would use the phrase the "Spartan way" or subscribe to Pressfield's theories of Spartan society. What seems more likely is that Danelo has internalized this concept as an ideal, and sees his ideal illustrated in these Marines. As a unifying structure for his book the "Spartan Way" works.

Blood Stripes: The Grunt's View of the War in Iraq

Yet, because Danelo does not allow his subjects to speak for themselves, its relevance remains suspect. Blood Stripes is fairly typical of its genre, providing a window into the world of the junior enlisted infantry Marine. It is an extremely readable and well-organized book for the general public, but its lack of citations and clearly delineated quotations make it of questionable usefulness for the academic reader.


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