Surging South of Baghdad

The Center of Military History continues to impress with both the quality and timeliness of their work.

In December, the CMH published “Surging South of Baghdad: The 3rd Infantry Division and Task Force Marne in Iraq, 2007-2008.”  (Government Book Talk, the Government Printing Office blog site, ran a review of the book today.)

This is not just some cursory overview of the operation, but rather a 390-plus page historical work covering the operation.  I’ve only looked through the first few chapters, but the tone stands apart from more “journalistic” writing that we are more familiar with regarding Iraq.  This is a sourced, scholarly record of the operations.  Footnotes often point to OPORDS, Executive Summaries, meeting notes, and action reports.

The author, Dale Andrade, is a senior historian at CMH.  His current projects include a combat history of the US Army in the later stages of the Vietnam war.


7 thoughts on “Surging South of Baghdad”

  1. It will be interesting to see if they get around to the MND-B part of the surge.

    I own a copy of Surging south of Baghdad and was interested and pleased to see some of my unit’s accomplishments mentioned. Although as with most works like this I spotted some inaccuracies…they are doing overall a great job in capturing and documenting history.

  2. Same comment as Outlaw: I just read the pdf version from the link, and see a couple of inaccuracies, but we only came back from al Anbar to join 2nd BCT for Marne Thunderbolt. The book seems to give my squadron short shrift, but I guess in the overall grand scheme of things, you can’t get it all! Neat to see it from a higher perspective, though.
    The best thing is to have lived through the operations in Arab Jabour in 2008 and then when I went back in 2010, the battalion we had in the same spot was bored out of their minds as there was essentially nothing going on there anymore.
    Thanks for posting this, Craig.

  3. Would you call them inaccuracies or omissions?

    One issue that I’ve grappled with recently on a side project is discussion of what has been released, and how exactly to explain a “common knowledge” incident where some components remain undisclosed. One then must compose the story in such a way to avoid leaving clues that can be used to reconstruct what is undisclosed…. Or throw off the mantle of professionalism and just run with it. But that’s not my style.

    So I guess my question, which is probably best unanswered, is could these inaccuracies be the historian’s discretion?

    1. The stuff I noticed which I would call inaccuracies would be what some might call nit picky details about things like which particular unit was involved in what operation. Also stuff that the author couldn’t possibly know unless he/she was there. Overall I think it was well done but not perfect…then again nothing ever is.

  4. Craig,
    I would say a blend of inaccuracy and omissions. I was the S3 for 5-7 CAV when employed as descibed in the CH on Marne Thunderbolt. I am historian enough to understand that my squadron’s role was only a portion of the big fight, though. Two main things I disagree with are that the author minimizes the fight 6-8 CAV had, just to sieze the intersection of RTE BUG and CHEVY in order for us to establish PB Meade there, and I think he overestimates the role of 1-30 IN, which was essentially fixed by a massive IED belt and unable to push south on RTE LAKERS. As originally designed, OPN Spartan Thunderbolt (2BCT’s portion of Marne Thunderbolt) had my squadron assigned 5 (reduced to 4) of I think it was 7 brigade objectives of which we achieved all of them in under a month, even though we were the smallest combat element in the brigade. Then reading the narrative, the author seems to blend some events, such as attributing a clearance of 25 IEDs from the intersection of RTE BISMARCK and CHEVY to 6-8 CAV. I know for a fact that 6-8 CAV didn’t reach that intersection because I was sitting about 50m north of it, watching when a local guy we paid I think $300 walked up to it and dug up 25 IEDs after our attached B/1-9 FA cleared to it from the west and A/5-7 CAV cleared to it from the east and previously found I think 8 IEDs between them. I was there because it was my AO, not Mustangs’. Other little details such as saying that we had Iraqi units on PB Meade which we did not. After we left, we handed it off to 1-187 and they might have done so, but not us, and when I was back there in 2010, it was an IA base in total. We had a couple small PBs in and around Sayafiyah that had Sons of Iraq in them, but not Meade. Additionally, he discusses the use and dropping of large amounts of bombs, which did happen, but he describes my squadron as filling in bomb craters after we entered Sayafiyah like it was a little cleanup work, while the fact is that we had to get word to a local bucket loader operator, who we hired to come out and fill in bomb craters just to allow us to bring wheeled vehicles into the town because the bombs had cratered the roads and with canals right there, it made them impassable to us. Additionally, if you picture the 2BCT AO as a oval with the western half owned by 6-8 CAV and the Northeast quadrant owned by 1-30 IN, we entered and cleared the entire Southeast quadrant after no US forces had established any presence for about four years, which was a huge undertaking, which the author (perhaps rightly so, considering the scope of the book) has boiled down to a couple sentences. I don’t think he selected the right sentences to sum up the squadron’s accomplishments.
    All in all, small details. I just read the chapter I was involved in, and I lived it. The author has got the larger context down well, but there are some max nichts details that are just not right.

    1. Fair criticism, I think, all around. I was in Iraq at the time, but was working at a much higher echelon. So I cannot comment about how accurate the details in the book are. I’ll hold off sharing my thoughts as to how he handled the big picture for now.

      I don’t know Dale Andrade personally. But in his defense, historians have a difficult time writing the history of current events. Good example is the American Civil War. Pretty much all the early works written by contemporaries has been pushed aside by the analysis of later historians with access to more material.

      Even better example, although SE Morrison’s History of Navy Ops in WWII is still a standard reference, look through the foot notes of the revised editions. Morrison himself had to make corrections and modifications as source material came forth. And I know of a few historians who have expressed an interest of producing another history of that subject with inclusion of even more material that has come out in the last 40 years.

      So I tend to take works like “Surging” in that light. History is a series of drafts. Not a final product.

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