Self has been reading (at a snail’s pace, because good) Patrick K. O’Donnell’s Washington’s Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution. Despite the florid subtitle, the book is good. It is exactly as described: about that one elite Maryland regiment who were given the task of providing rearguard action/covering fire during the evacuation of American forces from Manhattan in November 1776. Maybe it wasn’t quite on the scale of Dunkirk, but it makes for pretty exciting reading all the same.
Self normally doesn’t read author bios until she finishes a book (she prefers to create/imagine her own image of the author), but today her curiosity gets the better of her.
Who is this Patrick K. O’Donnell? “An expert on elite units” — okay, fairly standard boilerplate. Any number of people can claim to be an “expert.” On any number of subjects.
Then: “He served as a combat historian in a Marine rifle platoon during the Battle of Fallujah . . . “
Oh wow. Self did not even know there were such things as “combat historians.” And to discover only today that there were actual historians (as opposed to just journalists) embedded with the troops? And — Battle of Fallujah? That was one of the most harrowing battles of Gulf War 2. An enemy sniper had positioned himself in the minaret of the mosque at Falllujah. A Marine platoon was ordered to take the position. The stairs leading up to it were so narrow that only one Marine at a time could ascend. Thus, the sniper was able to dispatch, quite easily, a number of Marines: the bodies just kept tumbling down, one after the other.
Hours later, the marine commander ordered three 500-lb. bombs dropped on the mosque, reducing the minaret to rubble.
Patrick K. O’Donnell was there?