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21 Days to Baghdad

...from Osprey Publishing

Title: 21 Days to Baghdad
Author: Heather Marie Stur
Publisher: Osprey
ISBN: 978-1-4728-5363-9

'General Buford Blount and the 3rd Infantry Division in the Iraq War', a 320-page hard-cover book from Osprey Publishing.
The book begins with the family background of Buford Blount, his progress as a soldier and the value of his time working alongside Saudi government people, learning about the culture of the people of the Middle East. It goes on to explore the planning and preparations made for an invasion of Iraq, with an initial view to helping the Iraqi government introduce a new democratic system. Then there is the military campaign itself, with some tactical choices along the way, the potential for obstacles balanced against the need for speed. The choices worked out well, and casualties were kept to a minimum. On reaching the main airport for Baghdad in record time, they faced Iraqi propaganda that still said they hadn't taken Baghdad itself. This led to the decision to undertake so called 'Thunder Runs' into key points in the centre of the city, to prove that they really were there. Even with these, risks remained, with key points code named Moe, Larry and Curly governing supply routes, particularly for fuel for the thirsty Abrams MBTs. Once the Hussein regime had been defeated, then the problem of what to do next led to differing ideas between the military and civilian commanders. The soldiers, having done their job, wanted to go home, but they were sent to help out in Fallujah. Despite some initial success thanks to General Blount's appreciation of the local culture, others chose to do things differently and once the 3rd ID had been sent home, the problems worsened. In terms of illustrations, a block of 16 pages of archive colour photos in the middle of the book.
I found this an interesting read on a couple of counts. Firstly it details the story of the rapid advance of the US 3rd Infantry Division in their advance from the Iraqi border to taking the city of Baghdad, and freeing the country from the rule of Saddam Hussein. A swift military campaign that worked well, but then struggled with not just what to do next, but also how. Other things that struck me in addition to the issue around a lack of understanding of the culture of the people of Iraq was the make up of a modern US infantry division. In addition to the many infantry fighting vehicles (the Bradley) it also included 250 M1 Abrams MBTs as an organic part of the division. Once the fighting was over, and with no vacancy for a 3-star position available to him, Blount left the army to retire though he again found success in his next projects. An all round good read I think.
Thanks to Osprey for the review copy.


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