Amazon: When Lieutenant Matt Gallagher began his blog with the aim of keeping his family and friends apprised of his experiences, he didn’t anticipate that it would resonate far beyond his intended audience. His subjects ranged from mission details to immortality, grim stories about Bon Jovi cassettes mistaken for IEDs, and the daily experiences of the Gravediggers—the code name for members of Gallagher’s platoon. When the blog was shut down in June 2008 by the U.S. Army, there were more than twentyfive congressional inquiries regarding the matter as well as reports through the military grapevine that many high-ranking officials and officers at the Pentagon were disappointed that the blog had been ordered closed.
Based on Gallagher’s extraordinarily popular blog, Kaboom is “at turns hilarious, maddening, and terrifying,” providing “raw and insightful snapshots of a conflict many Americans have lost interest in” (Washington Post). Like Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, Gallagher’s Kaboom resonates with stoic detachment and timeless insight into a war that we are still trying to understand.
Simply put one of the best modern combat memoirs I’ve read, Gallagher is perhaps the Chuck Palahniuk of combat writers, focusing as much on the psychological and emotional effects of life in a war zone as the actual events themselves. Kaboom is essentially a diary of Gallagher’s roughly 15 month tour in Iraq at the height of ‘the Surge’ from about November of ’07 till Feb/March of ’09. As such it amounts to an excellent bookend piece when paired with Nathaniel Fick’s One Bullet Away, as Fick’s work covers the initial invasion and looks at how it all went pear shaped in the early years and Gallagher chronicles the post-Surge month’s where the Awakenings movement and the COIN strategy helped turn the tide and stabilize areas that had once been chaotic to say the least. Throughout the book Gallagher’s cutting wit and depth of insight, into both the culture of the U.S. Army and the personal effects of ‘low intensity’ warfare, helps hold the readers interest in spite of very few moments of actual combat. One of the best books on the conflict to date and something I strongly recommend to anyone interested in Iraq or perspective British Army officer candidates that might like to better understand how the U.S. Army works, knowledge that could serve them well in current and future conflicts were sure to face together.