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Martha Raddatz Portrays a Platoon Under Fire

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Although the United States is nearly five years into the war in Iraq, most of us know little about how the conflict feels to those waging it. ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz aimed to change that with her painstakingly reported narrative, The Long Road Home.

Having made more than a dozen trips to Iraq, she gives an intimate account of what it was like for soldiers of the U.S. First Calvary Division, when they were pinned down by thousands of members of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia on April 4, 2004. The bloody battle in Baghdad's Sadr City, which killed eight Americans and wounded more than 60, marked a ratcheting up of the Iraqi insurgency. Among those who fell was Casey Sheehan, the son of Cindy Sheehan, who became one of war's best known opponents.

"Having been over there so many times myself," Raddatz says, "I am interested in how people respond to terror and to fear. One of the things I found about a lot of these men and women is that sometimes they're more afraid of how they'll act when they are afraid than actually being afraid."

The Washington Post says the book "rivals any war-related classic that has preceded it" adding that the book "might well be the Black Hawk Down of the Iraq war" — with the crucial difference that The Long Road Home also tells the story of the soldiers' equally unprepared families who remained in Fort Hood, Texas. Even with 24-hour cable and the war zone often just an e-mail away, they didn't know what had happened until they got a knock at their door.

The winner of three Emmys and a Peabody Award, Raddatz covered the Pentagon for nearly 15 years, including five years for NPR in the 1990s. The author says she's often asked how she got the people she writes about to talk in such detail.

"I think part of that is no one asks them," she explains. "We say, 'What was it like? Did someone get killed?' And [we] don't really say, 'And then what happened? How did you find the courage? And how did you keep going on?'"

This reading of The Long Road Home took place in May of 2007 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.