A lot of people asked how I made Legionnaire so realistic. Well, the answer lies somewhere between hours of casual interviews and chats with combat veterans and even more hours of reading or listening to a number of books. So starting with this email, I’ll share one of books I read to get that authentic feel for Legionnaire.
Up first: House to House by David Bellavia
I read this book and was blown away by Bellavia’s harrowing details, poignant observations, and breath-taking pace. It was this book that made me think, I want to write a war memoir from an elite space trooper’s perspective. Thus, Legionnaire was born.
“Blood flows over my left hand and I lose my grip on his hair. His head snaps back against the floor. In an instant, his fists are pummeling me. I rock from his counterblows. He lands one on my injured jaw and the pain nearly blinds me. He connects with my nose, and blood and snot pour down my throat. I spit blood between my teeth and scream with him. The two of us sound like caged dogs locked in a death match. We are.”
On the night of November 10, 2004, a U.S. Army infantry squad under Staff Sergeant David Bellavia entered the heart of the city of Fallujah and plunged into one of the most sustained and savage urban battles in the history of American men at arms.
With Third Platoon, Alpha Company, part of the Army’s Task Force 2/2, Bellavia and his men confronted an enemy who had had weeks to prepare, booby-trapping houses, arranging ambushes, rigging entire city blocks as explosives-laden kill zones, and even stocking up on atropine, a steroid that pumps up fighters in the equivalent of a long-lasting crack high. Entering one house, alone, Bellavia faced the fight of his life against six insurgents, using every weapon at his disposal, including a knife. It is the stuff of legend and the chief reason he is one of the great heroes of the Iraq War.
Bringing to searing life the terrifying intimacy of hand-to-hand infantry combat, House to House is far more than just another war story. Populated by an indelibly drawn cast of characters, from a fearless corporal who happens to be a Bush-hating liberal to an inspirational sergeant-major who became the author’s own lost father figure, it develops the intensely close relationships that form between soldiers under fire. Their friendships, tested in brutal combat, would never be quite the same. Not all of them would make it out of the city alive. What happened to them in their bloody embrace with America’s most implacable enemy is a harrowing, unforgettable story of triumph, tragedy, and the resiliency of the human spirit.
A timeless portrait of the U.S. infantryman’s courage, House to House is a soldier’s memoir that is destined to rank with the finest personal accounts of men at war.