The Iraq War: The Marines' View from the Ground

Field Historians Captured Troops' Impressions Fresh from Combat

A Marine carries a wounded Iraqi.

The Marine Corps assigned historians to accompany their troops in Iraq. The historians conducted hundreds of interviews, recording what the war was like on the front lines. USMC hide caption

itoggle caption USMC

A year ago, the U.S. military was making final preparations for war against Iraq. As part of that mission, more than 20,000 Marines gathered along the Iraq-Kuwait border. Among the combat forces were 11 field historians, reservists dispatched to collect raw records of the Marines' contribution to the war effort.

During the first few months of the war, the field historians used small, handheld digital recorders to conduct more than 1,600 interviews with Marines, often within days of a battle — when memories were still fresh. The resulting recordings are often scratchy, sometimes distorted by the howling of the desert wind. They also offer personal accounts of what Marines saw and felt on the ground — their views on the failures and triumphs of their push toward Baghdad.

Marine censors allowed NPR to hear about 20 hours of those interviews. In a two-part report from NPR's Jackie Northam, All Things Considered offers the first extensive broadcast of the digital recordings — and a rare glimpse of the war from the Marines' point of view.

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