Combat tales from a tank commander–turned-sniper during the Iraq War.
During Sgt. 1st Class Dillard “Crazy Jay” Johnson’s distinguished, 21-year Army career—four Purple Hearts and numerous medals for valor, including the Silver Star—he did a tour in Bosnia and Iraq, where he saw only a bit of action in Desert Storm. Despite having a child at home afflicted with cerebral palsy, he volunteered to return to Iraq in 2003. Commanding a Bradley Fighting Vehicle christened “Carnivore,” Johnson led the invasion, taking part in the war’s first engagement, cutting a large and bloody swath through the country. After contracting radiation cancer from the depleted uranium rounds fired by his tank and after treatment at Walter Reed (where he was given a 1 in 4 chance to live), he returned to Iraq yet again. This time, with the ground war over, Johnson’s mission focused on the insurgency and killing the guerrillas placing the deadly IEDs. He was credited with 121 confirmed kills with his sniper rifle. With the aid of Tarr, Johnson fills in a complete picture of combat: the sleeplessness, the sandstorms, the constant fear of attack; the chaos that leads to killing cows and sheep accidentally and the absurd necessity of killing a lion on purpose; the difficulty of extracting a hunting knife from the ribs of a stabbed insurgent; the mundane lesson learned from packing soap too close to the coffee; the delicate protocol between a sniper and his spotter; the heartbreak at a fellow soldier’s death; the terror induced by incoming fire and the destruction inflicted by outgoing. Military buffs will appreciate the author’s frequent appraisals and comparisons of various tanks, rifles, knives and other accouterments of battle. Most readers will be impressed with Johnson’s undoubted courage and sacrifice, even as they are put off by his memoir’s tone, which too often uncomfortably erases the line between bluffness and boorishness, pride and braggadocio.
An aggressive, unapologetic account of one man’s brutal war.