THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC BOOK REVIEW, BY JAMES MYERS
HOUSE TO HOUSE: AN EPIC MEMOIR OF WAR
By Staff Sgt David Bellavia with John R. Bruning
Published by The Free Press, an Imprint of Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: Sept, 2007
Four Star Rating ****
THEATRE MAJOR IN COLLEGE
SPENT 6YRS IN US ARMY/ARMY STAFF SGT IN 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION (TASK FORCE 2-2) INCLUDING FOR SOME OF THE MOST INTENSE FIGHTING OF THE IRAQ WAR
SPEND 9 MONTHS IN KOSOVO
AWARDS: SILVER STAR, BRONZE STAR, RECOMMENDED FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS AND METAL OF HONOR
2005 REC’D THE CONSPICUOUS SERVICE CROSS (NY HIGHEST AWARD)
INDUCTED INTO THE VETERANS HALL OF FAME
WRITER: PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, NATIONAL REVIEW, WEEKLY STD,
BACK TO IRAQ AS A WRITER
FOUNDER OF VETS FOR FREEDOM, A NONPROFIT THAT BATTLES WITH MOVEON.ORG AND OTHER ANTI-WAR GROUPS
PAPERBACK RELEASE IS SET FOR APRIL 8TH, 2008
"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.”
"David Bellavia has distinguished himself through both his profound leadership on the battlefields of Iraq and his compassionate and dedicated efforts to build public support for his fellow soldiers." Veterans Hall of Fame website
David Bellavia has written one of the most realistic, blunt and graphic accounts of what war is truly like. His actions in jihadist-controlled Fallujah, Iraq were first documented in the November 22, 2004 cover story "Into the Hot Zone" by award winning journalist Michael Ware. Now we are given the whole gripping story. This is an unflinching, unblinking look at modern urban warfare, and gives the reader a true and accurate indication what is like to be a foot soldier in hostile Iraq. On November 10, 2004, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, part of Alpha Company, Task Force 2/2, 1st Infantry Division of the US Army entered the city of Fallujah to drive out an Iraqi insurgency festering in the city. As it turned out, this was the most sustained and savage urban battles in US Army history, much like the intensity of the Battle of Normandy. As title suggests, the men literally had to go house to house, foot by foot, inch by inch, hand to hand, to confront the deeply entrenched, fanatical insurgent forces, who were hell-bent on killing Americans. Bellavia’s point of view is unique because he is the 25 yr old leading the 18 year olds into battle. Bellavia makes 2 points in this regard. First, the opponents were hopped up on adrenalin and ephedrine type drugs, making them almost impervious to pain. Secondly, they anticipated the normal US Army strategy of taking positions on the rooftops of houses, by actually bricking off or cementing stairways and entryways to the roofs. Booby trapped, ambush laden, the warzone itself has been made a weapon by the insurgents. Entire city blocks are encircled by explosives. The insurgents were also equipped with the same body armor and weapons our men were to protect them. The enemy was a force to be reckoned with.
At one point in the book, David is surrounded by 6 insurgents, alone in a house where he is forced to shoot, wrestle, stab and kill 5 of them, until help arrives to take out the final target. This is not your daddy’s cleaned up version of what war was like in World War II. David presents this as a blow-by-blow account of his experiences during his brutal tour of duty in Iraq. As a reader, you get the feeling that you are right there with David, experiencing the incredibly intense and gripping horror and non-stop, no rest action that the men experienced. This is by far and away the most intense, direct, gripping and realistic description of war that I have ever read. This is a precise, step by step, hour by hour account. You a get a real sense of the danger that surrounded these men. No rest, no food, but repeated heroic feats and brave sacrifice by the American troops facing the drug-ridden, suicidal maniacs. David goes out of his way to demonstrate that the American men who were involved in this struggle where not amateur soldiers, or weekend warriors, but experienced professionals who brought all of their skills to bear to in this tense situation. The danger and uncertainty of the battle is brought home over and over again to the reader. David paints vivid and frighteningly real pictures in this blow by blow account. Nothing is held back from us in this book.
The book is also about self-discovery for David as he learns who he is and what he is capable of. This is a true test of courage and character for all of his men in this book. The other theme in this book is the intimacy and the bonding that goes on between the American soldiers in this book. You cannot help but to be struck by the closeness and reliability of living and fighting with the other incredibly brave members of his outfit. There is a definite coming of age theme for David and his colleagues. They are brave, courageous and resilient. We meet David’s best friend, Sgt Fitts, and by the end of the book, we feel like he is our best friend, too. David gives us a clear vision of the characters that make up his unit. They may not agree why they are there, but they move as one unit in battle. The collective facing of a nightmare, constant hand-to-hand fighting, the no hot food, constant diarrhea - even in the middle of battle, exhausted, grief-stricken from the loss of friends and colleagues, the river of blood they slog through to fight the enemy is described in such detail, that you feel like you are there. You can identify with these men. David has given us a book that truly explains the honest and relevant thought processes and action of soldier in combat, right down to the unrealistic expectation of their superior officers that they remain clean shaven and in a starch pressed uniform, ready for inspection. Because of our identification with David and his crew, this book is a page turner, and by far and away the most interesting book about modern warfare ever produced. Not for the squeamish, (there is profanity and brutal descriptions throughout) it is nonetheless, a timeless account of urban warfare.
David is home now, but his loyalty to his fellows has not ended. He has started an American Heroes Tour, a nonpartisan group to educate the American public about the importance of the work that is being done by American soldiers in Iraq. He is a founder of Vets for Freedom, an advocacy group for all Veterans, including the Vietnam Vet, whom David respects. Also as a journalist, David has returned to Iraq twice since his first exposure there. You cannot help but to admire this man. David definitely speaks on the subject of a soldier involved in modern urban warfare as a great American hero and an expert. This is a raw, gritty, compelling book. The true nature of war is not shielded from us here. This is not a romanticized version of war. It is however, exact. It is a must read for anyone who loves his country and wants the truth behind the Iraq conflict. This soldier’s precise memoir should be on your bookshelf.