A war memoir that I can actually recommend

All right, crew, today I’m going to get a little wild and crazy and go outside my typical parameters.

That’s right, as you can tell by the image below, I’m going to be reviewing a book — something that for a lot of reasons I don’t like doing, so, no, please don’t, aspiring authors, email me asking to look at yours.

I practically dread even publishing this because I already get too many requests and I’m so dang nice that I have a hard time saying “no.” (I’m the guy who can’t answer the doorbell or I’m going to be buying some friggin’ item that I most certainly don’t need. But they’re working so hard, I tell myself…)

Anyway, with great trepidation I agreed to at least peek at the book “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.” (Okay, aspiring authors, I do sometimes glance at books I’m asked to review, but since Jan. 2012, I’ve written about exactly zero of them if memory serves me correctly. This is the first, so hold off on emailing me.)

I hesitantly agreed to look at the above book and told the author in all seriousness that I really am the pickiest reader ever, and I seriously only get through about half of the books I start. (Believe me, it’s a curse I wish I could break… Seriously… And it’s so bad, sometimes I’ll go in a bookstore or library, browse two hours, and buy nothing. Like somehow I instinctively fear that whatever I start I won’t finish.)

But with all that said, I took said peek and literally devoured the book.

Frankly, I avoid most war memoirs. Most read slow and go into page after page about the author’s life — as if we care; we’re only here for the action! And I figured if I can barely get through some Navy Seal or Marine Sniper memoir, why in the world would I even attempt to read about a Marine’s time in logistics?

But Captain Jeffrey Clement writes one of the best war memoirs I’ve ever read in “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.”

First of all, the book will really challenge the thinking of a lot of infantry Marines. (Maybe Navy Seals, too?) The amount of danger these Marines faced is unbelievable. (And after an infantry unit fails to fight their way into Sangin, guess what Marines actually enter first? Yep, Lt. Clement’s Marines of CLB-6. [In fairness, it was partly due to their increased experience in road ops, but it’s still a reality that an infantry unit tried to fight their way in, was rebuffed, and the “logistical” Marines fought their way in first. And it’s a feat that can’t be knocked down or easily rebuffed.]

But Clement doesn’t try to make it sound like the logistics guys have it worse. He acknowledges that grunts have it worse from a suck perspective. Multiple times. (And he talks openly about the guilt he feels when he is able to get cleaned up while the grunts are out there in the mud and muck — something I had never considered from the flip side.)

But the Marines of Clement’s unit were seen as slow and easy targets, and the Taliban tangled with them all the time. (After all, who wants to tangle with some dirty, pissed off grunts looking to shoot something? Much more fun to shoot at the guys rolling 3 mph down the unimproved “road.” And seriously, my fellow trigger pullers, who wants to be in a truck pulling about 5,000 pounds of fuel alongside a couple of hillsides while bullets bounce off your trailer and IEDs explode to your front? That’s something I’d probably rather avoid doing.)

The book definitely opened my eyes to the logistical challenges faced in warfare period, but especially in Afghanistan. And it definitely doesn’t get bogged down in his personal life, like so many non-fiction memoirs seem to do.

In fact, one of the best things about the book is it takes you back to when you were serving. The hurry up and wait. The stupid regulations and games you have to play when you’re in a safe area and some stupid Gunny is complaining about your chewing gum or putting your hands in your pockets.

And just like when you served, there are stories of shocking bravery and leadership by Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. But on the other hand, Clement doesn’t hold back either — he shares stories of unfathomable incompetence by that same group of leaders, as well.

And he pulls all this together into a tight book that moves fast and takes you back to your own time, when you experienced these very same things… It’s really a moving, inspiring work, that’s enjoyable as hell, as well. 

Definitely one to buy. Here’s the link again: “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.”

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

12 thoughts on “A war memoir that I can actually recommend

  1. I tend to stay away from war novels, Stan. Most are written by people who were never in combat, and many who never wore a uniform. Or maybe they were a clerk in some garrison unit behind the lines. Never in a fire fight, but natural born killers, right? When it comes to war novels, I will read nonfiction memoirs by real soldiers, however. At least you know they know what they are talking about, even if they do stretch the truth a bit (LOL). Hey, we all like to tell war stories, right? You should have heard some of the tales my uncles told me when they returned from WWII: Vampires in their unit, camping on the limbs of trees (ha). They could sure tell some whoppers (G). I review a lot of books for publishers, but have yet to review a war novel. Now I did review Mike Black’s Executioner novel, but at least Mike is a Vietnam veteran.


    1. Well, at least on this one, Captain Clement had to have it approved by the Marine Corps, so it probably doesn’t have too many exaggerations! : )

      And vampires, camping on trees? Wow. Those are much better stories.

      These days, it seems every Marine’s a Sniper, every Soldier is Delta, and of course all sailors are Seals! (I guess this is just the Twitter generation, with shorter stories and weaker imaginations!)


  2. Do you think someone who has never served would enjoy the book, Stan? I’m wondering if I would be able to understand everything (is there a lot of military jargon, for example?).


    1. Hey Letizia!

      I think so. He really does a good job dumbing it down and avoiding jargon for those who didn’t serve — I’m assuming his editorial team were civilians and just caught anything he missed. Plus, he has pics in it of the various vehicles and even a glossary at the rear showing the various trucks and all. I’d go look at his website, where he has videos and other bits of info just to make sure, and I’ll add that address in my comment in just a sec!


    2. Hi Letizia! I really tried to strike a balance by making it sound realistic and to not insult the intelligence of people who were in the military, while at the same time not making it inaccessible to people who weren’t in the military.


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