NEW DAWN: The Battles for Fallujah

The battle of Fallujah occurred only 6 years ago, but it has already been the subject of several books. The latest is New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah, by Richard S. Lowry. Whenever a book comes out relatively soon after events it attempts to describe, it does not usually have any lasting historical value. New Dawn will likely prove an exception. New Dawn is a book to which future writers will refer whenever the subject is the November 2004 battle of Fallujah.

The real value of New Dawn lies primarily in the interviews the author conducted with the participants. Mr. Lowry’s bibliography lists more than 130 personal interviews that he conducted while researching the battle. He conducted interviews with lance corporals and generals and all ranks in between. New Dawn is a classic battle study, and Mr. Lowry does an excellent job of weaving the stories of the Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen into a cohesive narrative.

One of the most interesting storylines in the book is the contrast between the methods used in Fallujah by Regimental Combat Teams 1 and 7 (RCT–1 and –7). RCT–1, commanded by Col Mike Shupp, cleared its area more methodically in an effort to prevent insurgents from finding and exploiting gaps. RCT–7, commanded by Col Craig Tucker, by contrast moved quickly to secure its objectives at the cost of bypassing some enemy strongholds. Mr. Lowry does an excellent job of demonstrating how the different methods used by RCT–1 and RCT–7 became a problem as the battle wore on. As RCT–1 moved south, it had to watch its flank with RCT–7 carefully to prevent bypassed insurgents from repositioning in its rear.

The book is not without flaws. New Dawn’s subtitle is The Battles for Fallujah. New Dawn describes the April 2004 fighting, but does so only briefly. The book’s focus is on the November 2004 effort to clear the city.

Given the short time since the events New Dawn attempts to describe, the book also has several understandable shortcomings. The first is that little effort is made to analyze the effect the battle had on the course of the war. The only real comment that the author makes on this subject comes at the end of the book. He calls the battle of Fallujah a “turning point” in the war in Iraq. It is still too soon to evaluate this statement. In a counterinsurgency, it may be thousands of small nonkinetic actions that form a true turning point. One large kinetic battle (or even several) may be a highly visible, easily understood event, but the value of battles as turning points in a counterinsurgency is questionable.

In addition, New Dawn does not include either the perspective of the Iraqi Army soldiers or the insurgents. It is understandable that the story is told from an American perspective; the book is, in part, a tribute to the Americans who fought in Fallujah. It is impossible to truly understand what occurred in Fallujah, and why, without at least attempting to understand the enemy’s battle plan. It will take some length of time and a great deal of effort before the contributions of the Iraqi Army and the insurgent’s decisions can be fully appreciated.

New Dawn is an important step on the road to understanding the battle of Fallujah. The book’s flaws are unavoidable given the short span of time that has elapsed since the battle, but this does not detract from the value of the book. There is still more work to be done, but New Dawn will become a primary source on the battle of Fallujah because of the large number of firsthand accounts that it contains. New Dawn is an excellent book that does honor the participants in the battle and will have enduring value.


NEW DAWN: The Battles for Fallujah.

By Richard S. Lowry. Savas Beatie, New York, 2010

ISBN 9781932714777, 352 pp.

$29.95 (Member $26.95)

 

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One Tough Fight