The Unforgiving Minute
A Soldier's Education
By Craig M. Mullaney
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143116875, 416pp.)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
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"One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life." -Bob Woodward
In this surprise bestseller, West Point grad, Rhodes scholar, Airborne Ranger, and U. S. Army Captain Craig Mullaney recounts his unparalleled education and the hard lessons that only war can teach. While stationed in Afghanistan, a deadly firefight with al-Qaeda leads to the loss of one of his soldiers. Years later, after that excruciating experience, he returns to the United States to teach future officers at the Naval Academy. Written with unflinching honesty, this is an unforgettable portrait of a young soldier grappling with the weight of war while coming to terms with what it means to be a man.
Craig Mullaney grew up in a blue-collar, Irish-Catholic family in Rhode Island and graduated from West Point in 2000. An Airborne Ranger, Mullaney earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. In 2003, he led an infantry rifle platoon along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. His platoon operated along the entire spectrum of operations—from humanitarian assistance to combat engagements against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Mullaney was later selected to join the Old Guard, the Army's elite honor guard for Arlington National Cemetery. He served three years on the history faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy, focusing on the history of American foreign policy. Mullaney’s military awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star Medal, and Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor. He was an adviser on the Obama-Biden campaign and is now a member of the President-elect's Transition Team.
"[The Unforgiving Minute] is one man's story, warmly and credibly told, and its focus is on the idealism that he brought to military service. In Captain Mullaney's mind there is no contradiction between loyally following orders and intelligently wondering what purpose those orders serve.... The Unforgiving Minute finds both suspense and pathos in the events that took place under its author's command. Its fierce climactic battle is recreated in searing detail. But what gives this memoir its impact isn't the external events that it describes. It's the inner journey of a man who is at first eager to learn as much as he can from service and scholarship. Later on he learns from his mistakes."
-The New York Times
"The Unforgiving Minute is a wonderful, beautifully written story of the education and development of a young soldier-scholar, the coming of age of an infantry officer, and the exercise of a small unit leader's responsibilities in a tough, complex, and frustrating situation in Afghanistan. It captures particularly eloquently and movingly the relationships among those who walk point for our nation as part of that most elite of fraternities, the brotherhood of the close fight."
-General David Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Central Command
"Craig Mullaney's memoir is a thoughtful, introspective work reminiscent of the great British memoirs of World War I. A thousand years from now, historians wanting to know about life in America after 9/11 would do well to look at this book. Equally important, it is an enjoyable and honest book. Read it."
-Thomas E. Ricks, author of New York Times bestseller FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and senior military correspondent, The Washington Post
"[Craig Mullaney] ultimately delivers far more than the boy-to-man story that he promised.... In this extraordinary book, Mullaney has taken the trouble to look very closely, and has had the courage to discover the limits to his own understanding. Readers will be fascinated to look over his shoulder."
-Washington Post Book World
"Craig Mullaney has lived every kind of American life-he has been a working- man's son, a prize scholar, a soldier-and what's come out of it is a classic memoir about what it means to be American. By marching so many terrains, he has covered the subjects central to every life: courage, pain, loyalty, honor, friendship, love and the tests any good life faces, year by year, minute by minute. He has also produced a page-turner, a brutally honest account of West Point life, the innocence-abandoned experiences of an American abroad at Oxford, and ultimately an indelible story of life and death on the battlefield. In words his squadmates might recognize, I recommend The Unforgiving Minute without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion."
-David Lipsky, contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller Absolutely American
"The Unforgiving Minute is one of the most compelling memoirs yet to emerge from America's 9/11 era. Craig Mullaney has given us an unusually honest, funny, accessible, and vivid account of a soldier's coming of age. This is more than a soldier's story; it is a work of literature."
-Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens
"Former Army Capt. Craig Mullaney admits up front that, emotionally, he takes after his expressive Irish mother, who is "incapable of stemming a tear." Mullaney is less candid and perhaps unaware of his talent for evoking emotion in others..... But The Unforgiving Minute is far from heavy and never maudlin. Mullaney's sense of humor is obvious....It is Mullaney's clear-eyed, warm- hearted candor that elicits empathy.... This self-effacing frankness makes his coming- of- age-in-uniform memoir a charmer.... Stunning [and] pertinent."
-The Army Times "The Unforgiving Minute is the ultimate's soldier's book-universal in its raw emotion and its understanding of the larger issues of life and death. Mullaney, a master storyteller, plunges the depths of self-doubt, endurance, and courage. The result: a riveting, suspenseful human story, beautifully told. This is a book written under fire-a lyrical, spellbinding tale of war, love, and courage. The Unforgiving Minute is the Three Cups of Tea of soldiering."
-Ahmed Rashid, author of the New York Times bestseller Taliban and Descent into Chaos
"The Unforgiving Minute is a gripping account of a young military officer's quest to prepare for the unknowns of leadership under fire, and his eventual testing in Afghanistan. With unflinching candor, Mullaney depicts his evolution from idealistic teenager to reflective veteran who retains his conviction and patriotism once his innocence is lost. His emotional, often funny memoir takes us to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, through the rigors of Army Ranger school, then on to drunken debates and romance at Oxford, where he had a Rhodes Scholarship.... The book [is] a departure from traditionally dry military memoirs --it reads like a work of literature.... Mullaney's evolution through his intellectual and emotional journey grips on every page; his writing contains a modesty that becomes more endearing as his achievements mount. This is a classic coming-of-age memoir and a valuable insight into post-Sept. 11 conflict."
"Mullaney writes a great story-a true privilege to read. Entertaining, balanced, and graceful, The Unforgiving Minute is a powerful narrative of purpose, responsibility, courage, and personal growth. Every young man and woman in America should read this book, and aspire to his standard of public service."
-General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.)
"The Unforgiving Minute is a classic memoir of war and personal development. Craig Mullaney has provided a far greater service to his nation by penning a riveting memoir that should be mandatory reading by every junior officer who dons the military uniform."
"I recommend The Unforgiving Minute because it is superb and important.... Read the book and you know the caliber of the men and women leading our troops and the troops themselves. More importantly, Craig shows the price of service to country and the cost of sacrifices so few individuals endure in our name."
-The Huffington Post
"Craig Mullaney has written a poignant and evocative book about the great hurdles in coming of age: love, death, belief, and betrayal. Learning from his experience can help us face our own unforgiving minutes. I couldn't stop reading."
-Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away
"Insightful... This book should be read, certainly, by everyone who has a loved one who is serving in the military, has served or might one day serve. But it also should be required reading for all Americans.... His is a remarkable journey, recounted with unflinching honesty, thoughtful reflection, occasional humor and hard-won wisdom.... An unusual book that combines grittily realistic accounts of war with highly educated reflection and introspection.... If enough people read [The Unforgiving Minute], then perhaps we as a country would not have such a profound lack of understanding of the volunteer troops we send to fight our wars, and of the sacrifices that they and their families make."
"One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life---education, love, self-knowledge, combat, and the fates of war."
"There have been a slew of memoirs, many very go