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Joker One
Cover of Joker One
Joker One
A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
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When Donovan Campbell's platoon deployed to Ramadi in the spring of 2004, they believed they'd be spending most of their time building schools, training police, and making friends with the citizens. But shortly after arriving, when Campbell awoke to the chilling cry of "Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!" echoing from minaret to minaret across the city, he knew they had an altogether different situation on their hands. For nearly the entire day, Joker-One-the forty-man infantry platoon that Campbell was charged with leading-fought house-to-house to rescue other units, sometimes trading grenades with their enemies from just a few feet away. In the days and months that followed, hundreds of hard-core insurgents launched simultaneous attacks on the Marine forces in Ramadi, their ranks swelled by thousands of local volunteers drawn from the citizens of a city whose primary export was officers in Saddam Hussein's army. By the fall of 2004, nearly half the men in Campbell's platoon had been wounded in some of the fiercest urban fighting since Vietnam; less than a month after they withdrew, the forces in Ramadi were doubled, then tripled. Although Joker One is set in Iraq, the book's themes-brotherhood, honor, and sacrifice-are universal. Campbell shows us how his Marines' patience, discipline, and love for one another created a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts, and how the essential goodness of these men remains unchanged by all of the pain and the terror surrounding them. His sharp-eyed, evocative, and unflinching account of his deployment is just as impressive as the man himself-a man who chose to enter the military because of his patriotism, sense of privilege, and deep religious faith when most of his Princeton classmates were cashing in their ivy league educations for lucrative careers among the financial elite. The vivid and gripping battle scenes will satisfy fans of military memoirs, but it's Campbell's sense of duty, faith, and love for his men that makes Joker One a truly extraordinary account of a war that has touched us all.
When Donovan Campbell's platoon deployed to Ramadi in the spring of 2004, they believed they'd be spending most of their time building schools, training police, and making friends with the citizens. But shortly after arriving, when Campbell awoke to the chilling cry of "Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!" echoing from minaret to minaret across the city, he knew they had an altogether different situation on their hands. For nearly the entire day, Joker-One-the forty-man infantry platoon that Campbell was charged with leading-fought house-to-house to rescue other units, sometimes trading grenades with their enemies from just a few feet away. In the days and months that followed, hundreds of hard-core insurgents launched simultaneous attacks on the Marine forces in Ramadi, their ranks swelled by thousands of local volunteers drawn from the citizens of a city whose primary export was officers in Saddam Hussein's army. By the fall of 2004, nearly half the men in Campbell's platoon had been wounded in some of the fiercest urban fighting since Vietnam; less than a month after they withdrew, the forces in Ramadi were doubled, then tripled. Although Joker One is set in Iraq, the book's themes-brotherhood, honor, and sacrifice-are universal. Campbell shows us how his Marines' patience, discipline, and love for one another created a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts, and how the essential goodness of these men remains unchanged by all of the pain and the terror surrounding them. His sharp-eyed, evocative, and unflinching account of his deployment is just as impressive as the man himself-a man who chose to enter the military because of his patriotism, sense of privilege, and deep religious faith when most of his Princeton classmates were cashing in their ivy league educations for lucrative careers among the financial elite. The vivid and gripping battle scenes will satisfy fans of military memoirs, but it's Campbell's sense of duty, faith, and love for his men that makes Joker One a truly extraordinary account of a war that has touched us all.
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About the Author-
  • U.S. Marine captain Donovan Campbell finished first in his class at the Marines' Basic Officer Course, served two combat deployments in Iraq, and is now on his third combat deployment to Afghanistan.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine This first-person account of the author's experiences commanding a Marine platoon in Iraq is full of human tragedy, hope, camaraderie, and faith. He and his men spent seven months defending Ramadi, a Sunni-dominated city, and never let it fall to the insurgents. Narrator David Drummond has a pleasant voice and reads largely without emotion. His matter-of-fact style works well for most of the narrative, but he uses the same voice for firefights and attacks, which limits the impact of those sections. Drummond is easy to follow, and his excellent diction and pacing make the book interesting. His intonation, though, does not allow us to experience the full force of the author's words. R.I.G. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 6, 2008
    Campbell decided as a junior at Princeton that attending Marine Corps Officer Candidate School would look good on his résumé. Three years later, in the spring of 2004, he was in Iraq commanding a platoon known by its radio call sign, “Joker One.” Campbell tells its story, and his, in an outstanding narrative of the Iraq War. Joker One counted around 40 dudes: country boys and smalltown jocks; a few Hispanics and a single black. Some were college men with futures; some had pasts they preferred to forget. The battalion was assigned to one of Iraq's worst hot spots: the city of Ramadi, where faceless enemies found shelter among 350,000 Iraqi civilians. Joker One fought from street to street, house to house and ambush to ambush for seven straight months. By the end of the tour, “even the Gunny's hands had started ceaselessly shaking,” Campbell writes. Faced with urgent life-and-death decisions, Campbell had learned that “there are no great options... you live with the results and shut up about the whole thing.” For all his constant self-questioning, Lt. Campbell brought Joker One home with only one KIA—a record as impressive as his account.

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Joker One
A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
Donovan Campbell
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