Synopses & Reviews
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.
"'Staff sergeant Bellavia's account of the fierce 2004 fighting in Fallujah will satisfy readers who like their testosterone undiluted. Portraying himself as a hard-bitten, foul-mouthed, superbly trained warrior, deeply in love with America and the men in his unit, contemptuous of liberals and a U.S. media that fails to support soldiers fighting in the front lines of the global war on terror, Bellavia begins with a nasty urban shootout against Shiite insurgent militias. Six months later, his unit prepares to assault the massively fortified city of Fallujah in a ferocious battle that takes up the rest of the book. Anyone expecting an overview of strategy or political background to the war has picked the wrong book. Bellavia writes a precise, hour-by-hour account of the fighting, featuring repeated heroic feats and brave sacrifice from Americans but none from the enemy, contemptuously dismissed as drug-addled, suicidal maniacs. Readers will encounter a nuts-and-bolts description of weapons, house-to-house tactics, gallantry and tragic mistakes, culminating with a glorious victory that, in Bellavia's view, will go down in history with the invasion of Normandy. Like a pitch-by-pitch record of a baseball game, this detailed battle description will fascinate enthusiasts and bore everyone else. (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bellavia is the legend from Iraq. He went house-to-house in Fallujah killing the terrorists alone! MUST reading for all grunts." Bing West, author of No True Glory
"Staff Sgt. Bellavia brings it. This is life in the infantry, circa right now. They used to say that 'the real war will never get in the books.' Here it does, stunningly. You may not agree with it, or like what he has to say. Read it anyway and then sit silently for an hour or so and contemplate what he has done on behalf of his country." Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and Making the Corps
"Like St. Mihiel, Normandy, Inchon, and Khe Sanh before it, Fallujah is one of the most horrific and hard-fought battles in U.S. history. SSG David Bellavia's riveting, poignant, and at times even humorous firsthand account vividly emphasizes why this battle must never be forgotten. And why, because of the breathtaking courage of Bellavia and his fellow troops, it was won."
-- Andrew Carroll, editor of War Letters and Behind the Lines
"While his book may be read as a combat adventure story, that would shortchange its scope and depth....Thoughtful readers will extract lessons on the roles of pride, instinct, leadership and anger, as well as on the nature of bravery." Oregonian
"In an era of high-tech weaponry, Bellavia puts us on the ground with modern-day grunts who could just as easily be fighting in World War II in Europe." Kirkus Reviews
"A hair-raising tale of men in battle. House to House
is about as raw and real as it gets."
-- Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder
A nominee for the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, Sgt. Bellavia tells the raw, compelling story of how he miraculously survived a brutal tour of duty in Fallujah, Iraq. Eight pages of b&w photographs.
About the Author
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia
spent six years in the U.S. Army, including some of the most intense fighting of the Iraq War. He has been awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq, and recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor for his actions in Fallujah. In 2005, he received the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State's highest award for military valor) and was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. He is the cofounder of Vets for Freedom, an advocacy organization of veterans concerned about the politicization of media coverage of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Review, The Weekly Standard,
and other publications. He lives in western New York. John Bruning
is the author or co-author of eight books including House to House
by David Bellavia, Bruining has been a writer and historian for seventeen years.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Coffins of Muqdadiyah
Chapter 1 In the Shit
Chapter 2 Beyond Redemption
Chapter 3 The Measure of a Man
Chapter 4 Land Rush
Chapter 5 Machines of Loving Grace
Chapter 6 The First Angel
Chapter 7 Battle Madness
Chapter 8 Doorways
Chapter 9 Dorothy's Oz Gate
Chapter 10 Shadows and Wraiths
Chapter 11 Rooftop Alamo
Chapter 12 The Stay Puft Marshmallow Cock
Chapter 13 Where Feral Dogs Feed
Chapter 14 Better Homes and Gardens
Chapter 15 "The Power of Christ Compels You"
Chapter 16 The Failed Test of Manhood
Chapter 17 A Soldier's Prayer
Chapter 18 Man-to-Man
Chapter 19 Blood Oath
Chapter 20 The Last Caress
Chapter 21 A Smoke on Borrowed Time
Chapter 22 Nut to Butt in Body Bags
Epilogue: Broken Promises
Brief Glossary of Terms
Reading Group Guide
1. "As infantrymen, our entire existence is a series of tests: Are you man enough? Are you tough enough?...Can you pull the trigger? Can you kill? Can you survive?" How does the constant pressure -- of having to kill or risk being killed -- impose itself on the the infantrymen profiled in House to House? When Staff Sergeant David Bellavia writes of having to "surrender to the insanity" in the opening moments of combat, how literally does he mean it? What personality type or types does this profession seem to attract, and why?
2. Discuss how the soldiers use humor in even the most dangers of situations. To what extent is their humor a means of concealing their anxiety, or compensating for the work they do in the field? How does it enable them to perform more confidently in combat? To what extent does Bellavia's decision to share these humorous exchanges help to dramatize the very real and terrifying predicaments these soldiers face in wartime?
3. "Sergeant Major Faulkenburg is our father figure. He's the man I have most wanted to impress. I have wanted, and needed, to believe he was proud of me and what I've done with my squad." How does Bellavia's reaction to the unconfirmed news of Steve Faulkenberg's death reveal his respect and love? How does this "first angel" in the battle of Fallujah motivate Bellavia and others to pursue their enemies with even greater ruthlessness? Why does the atmosphere of military combat seem to enable more emotional and personal connections between coworkers than most typical workplaces?
4. Staff Sergeant Bellavia's descriptions of the Marine Corps and the Iraqi Intervention Force reveal some of his and his colleagues' frustrations in coordinating an attack with forces that don't approach combat situations in the same manner as the Third Brigade. How does including such information in House to House expose aspects of military engagement that tend to get glossed over in "official" accounts of battles in the media and from the government? H ow does the U.S. military's joint efforts with multinational armed forces further complicate the scope of the Iraq mission?
5. "There's a breach between Fitts and me now that didn't used to exist. It is out in the open, and we've both acknowledged it." Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his best friend, Staff Sergeant Colin Fitts, share a wicked sense of humor, a deep understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, and an obsession with performing their jobs to the best of their abilities. How does their relationship get tested in the course of House to House? Why does Fitts's experience of being severely wounded in Muqdadiyah change his attitude about his job, and to what extent does it put a strain on his friendship with Bellavia?
6. The military arsenal that the Third Brigade introduces into Fallujah includes an astonishing range of weaponry that would seem capable of destroying any enemy. Yet, repeatedly, Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his men get challenged by insurgents using archaic weapons. Why is the maverick style of battle used by Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah so difficult for the superior American military to overpower? At what moments of engagement are Bellavia and his squad at their most vulnerable, and how do the insurgents capitalize on that vulnerability?
7. "Around us in the chow hall, two worlds collide. Infantrymen suck their dinner-soiled fingers clean while elitist journalists fastidiously wield silverware and dab the corners of their mouths with napkins." Why is Staff Sergeant Bellavia frustrated by the presence of journalists in a war zone? How would you characterize his relationship with the journalist Michael Ware, of Time magazine? How does Bellavia's decision to become a journalist and writer after his departure from the military complicate his feelings toward journalists in combat zones?
8. In Staff Sergeant Bellavia's intense battle with six insurgents in a Fallujah house, he encounters one he dubs "the Boogeyman," with whom he fights the most brutal hand-to-hand combat of his military career. How do Bellavia's descriptions of the interiors of the house and of his combatants enable you to participate as a reader in his experience of combat? How well conceived was Bellavia's plan to return to the house on his own? Why do you think he felt compelled to take on the insurgents without much in the way of support, both in terms of manpower and weaponry? How does his interpretation of the Boogeyman's last gesture reflect his own attitudes about combat, life, and death?
9. "I am a Christian, but my time in Iraq has convinced me that God doesn't want to hear from me anymore. I've done things that even He can never forgive." How would you describe Staff Sergeant Bellavia's struggles as a person of faith? Why might his work as an infantryman force him to call his faith into question on a regular basis? How does Bellavia's hand-to-hand combat in the Fallujah house with a series of insurgents enable him to acknowledge his belief in God more fully?
10. "I'm no longer a soldier. I'm no longer an NCO. I am not part of America's warrior class anymore. What am I?" Why does Bellavia's decision to leave the army and return to civilian life haunt him so profoundly? To what extent does his return to Fallujah in 2006 bring him a feeling of closure on his experience there? What role does survivor guilt play in his ambivalence about leaving the infantry?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. In House to House, David Bellavia details his involvement with Time magazine journalist Michael Ware, who is embedded with the Third Platoon, Alpha Company, and witnesses as Bellavia and his men experience some the most intense combat of their lives in Fallujah, Iraq. Have you ever wondered how another person might report on the same experiences that David Bellavia does in his book? How would the perspective of a non-soldier change the story? To read Michael Ware's account of that same invasion in his article "Into The Hot Zone," visit: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,782070-1,00.html
2.Hear David speak about his book at Bookvideos.tv: www.davidbellavia.bookvideos.tv
3.Learn more about supporting soliders at home and abroad at: http://www.americasupportsyou.mil/americasupportsyou/index.aspx