By Christopher Miskimon

The American patrol had spent hours dismounted from their armored Humvees, walking along fields, canals and roads. They found two Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), defused them and then decided to use their vehicles to get to the final patrol location. As they approached it, the crew in one vehicle spotted enemy fighters. The gunner opened fire and the humvee’s driver slowed so the gunner could fire more accurately. As they did, an IED under the truck exploded. Despite the vehicle’s armor, it was thrown into the air. The doors flew off and the entire Humvee bent in half. The gunner and driver were killed instantly while the other two occupants were severely injured. Incoming fire rained down on the Americans as they formed a perimeter. A platoon sergeant took command, as several other soldiers raced to the burning Humvee to see if any survivors could be saved.

The 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry deployed to Iraq in 2005. They soon set up patrol bases in their assigned areas and soon made a reputation, known to the enemy as the “Black Hearts” for the symbols worn on their helmets, used since World War II. The Scout Platoon gained the added sobriquet of the Painted Guns, due to the way they camouflaged their rifles. The authors are both Iraq War veterans, with Eads a veteran of this unit covered in this book. The work is an intimate and well-done memoir of one unit’s experiences in Iraq.

Black Hearts and Painted Guns: A Battalion’s Journey into Iraq’s Triangle of Death (Kelly Eads and Daniel S. Morgan, Casemate Books, Havertown PA, 2023, 160 pp., photographs, appendix, $34.95, hardcover)

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