Marines In The Garden Of Eden – The True Story Of Seven Bloody Days In Iraq, by Richard S. Lowry

(Berkley Publishing Group, 2006; 422 pp., $24.95 — ISBN 0425209881)

For anyone harboring an impression that the First Marine Division’s March 2003 advance on Baghdad was a walk in the park, as had been the case with this reviewer, this book is a must read.

It is centered on the 2nd MarDiv’s Task Force Tarawa epic 7-day battle to protect the advancing flanks of the 1st MarDiv at crucial highway junctions in and around the Iraqi desert city of An Nasiriyah. Reflecting unstinting cooperation at every Marine command level, the author does an outstanding job of detailing the unrelenting combat experience by the 2nd MarDiv hour-by-hour, right down to actions of the individual PFC. Especially noteworthy is the defense of a crucial highway cross road mounted despite almost overwhelming odds by Charlie Company, 19th Bn., 2nd Marines. While the issue was in serious doubt for many hours, living up to the Task Force namesake, 2nd Division took its objectives at “The Naz” under almost continuous, heavy Iraqi fire, held on and managed to clear the way so that the 1st MarDiv’s massive steamroller could keep right on moving North to its ultimate objective, Baghdad.

The Army’s 507th Maintenance Company hopelessly losing its way and becoming decimated in the enemy occupied city of An Nasiriyah and the subsequent rescue of Army prisoner, PFC Jessica Lynch, is an essential part of this story. However, it’s too bad that the author did not experience the cooperation from the U.S. Army in attempting to report this saga accurately, which was rendered him by all hands of the U.S. Marine Corps.

While in admiration of Richard Lowry’s superb job of minute reporting throughout, I found this a difficult book to get through. The author’s use of endless, obscure acronyms made it necessary to almost constantly refer back to his Acronym and Terms Glossary. Also, as an Old Breed plank owner, I found his use of Army terms, such as latrine, utilities, rumors and floor, most disconcerting. Or is this current Marine lingo?

Another noteworthy oddity is the author’s very evident sense of intense rivalry between East Coast (2nd MarDiv) and West Coast (1st MarDiv) Marines. It seems somewhat puzzling, so that I wonder if this, too, can be The New Corps? All I can remember is Chesty’s admonition, “Old Breed, New Breed. The only thing that makes a damned bit of difference is The Marine Breed.”