Friday, December 14, 2018

Medal of Honor: Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts

Spradlin, Michael. Ryan Pitts: Afghanistan: A Firefight in the Mountains of Wanat (Medal of Honor) 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (January 15, 2019)
(I've seen about three different pub dates for this; I'm going with the Edleweiss Plus one.)

In 2008, the US Army set up Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near the Wanat Village in the mountains of Afghanistan. The purpose was to cut down on traffic in the area and to keep an eye on activity in the area. From the beginning, it was a precarious situation. Staff Sargeant Ryan Pitts was situated  in an observation point with the men of the second platoon and helped by the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne to secure the area. They were attacked by insurgents in the area, and were greatly outnumbered. The men tried to hold the post, but several were killed, and Pitts was injured. Reinforcements were called from nearby Forward Operating Base Blessing, but before the Humvees could arrive, things looked grim. Apache helicopters from the 173rd helped, and before long, there were Black Hawk medvacs that arrived to take Pitts, who was losing a lot of blood but continuing to fight, away to get medical help. After his removal, more reinforcements arrived, and fighting slowed down enough for the army to search the village and find remains of massive amounts of weapons stored. Shortly after the Battle of Wanat, orders were given to leave the area. Pitts became one of nine living individuals to be awarded the Medal of Honor, even though he insisted that the honor belonged not just to him, but to all who fought with him.
Strengths: The matter of fact tone is just right, and is highly informative. I love how Spradlin seamlessly weaves the more exciting scenes of Pitts' involvement in the battle with information about the history of the Taliban, the US involvement in Afghanistan, and the history of units such as the 173rd. This is a brilliant way to hook readers before delivering some top notch facts and figures! Pitts' bravery is well evidenced, and the importance of this battle given thorough explanation. I'm amazed at the research and detail about equipment and fighting that goes into these books. (Also see Jack Montgomery World War II: Gallantry at Anzio).
Weaknesses: While there is a Follett Bound version available, this needs to be a hardcover with a dust jacket! School libraries everywhere need this to have some longevity, and paperbacks tend to go out of print quickly, so there will be no replacing the extremely odiferous prebind in twenty years!
What I really think: This series is definitely worth purchasing and will be hugely popular. I would love to see many more books about more recent military conflicts. The technology of fighting has changed so much since WWII that modern readers will benefit from reading about these events.

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