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House to House

House to House

An Epic Memoir of War

  • reading group guide
"Blood flows over my left hand and I lose my grip on his hair. His head snaps back against the floor. In an instant, his fists are pummeling me. I rock from his counterblows. He lands one on my injured jaw and the pain nearly blinds me. He connects with my nose, and blood and snot pour down my throat. I spit blood between my teeth and scream with him. The two of us sound like caged dogs locked in a death match. We are."

On the night of November 10, 2004, a U.S. Army infantry squad under Staff Sergeant David Bellavia entered the heart of the city of Fallujah and plunged into one of the most sustained and savage urban battles in the history of American men at arms.

With Third Platoon, Alpha Company, part of the Army's Task Force 2/2, Bellavia and his men confronted an enemy who had had weeks to prepare, booby-trapping houses, arranging ambushes, rigging entire city blocks as explosives-laden kill zones, and even stocking up on atropine, a steroid that pumps up fighters in the equivalent of a long-lasting crack high. Entering one house, alone, Bellavia faced the fight of his life against six insurgents, using every weapon at his disposal, including a knife. It is the stuff of legend and the chief reason he is one of the great heroes of the Iraq War.

Bringing to searing life the terrifying intimacy of hand-to-hand infantry combat, House to House is far more than just another war story. Populated by an indelibly drawn cast of characters, from a fearless corporal who happens to be a Bush-hating liberal to an inspirational sergeant-major who became the author's own lost father figure, it develops the intensely close relationships that form between soldiers under fire. Their friendships, tested in brutal combat, would never be quite the same. Not all of them would make it out of the city alive. What happened to them in their bloody embrace with America's most implacable enemy is a harrowing, unforgettable story of triumph, tragedy, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

A timeless portrait of the U.S. infantryman's courage, House to House is a soldier's memoir that is destined to rank with the finest personal accounts of men at war.
  • Free Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416571841 | 
  • September 2007
List Price $8.99

Video

Iraq War Hero David Bellavia

David Bellavia, author of "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War," talks about serving in Kosovo and Iraq

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Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. "As infantrymen, our entire existence is a series of tests: Are you man enough? Are you tough enough?...Can you pull the trigger? Can you kill? Can you survive?" How does the constant pressure -- of having to kill or risk being killed -- impose itself on the the infantrymen profiled in House to House? When Staff Sergeant David Bellavia writes of having to "surrender to the insanity" in the opening moments of combat, how literally does he mean it? What personality type or types does this profession seem to attract, and why?
2. Discuss how the soldiers use humor in even the most dangers of situations. To what extent is their humor a means of concealing their anxiety, or compensating for the work they do in the field? How does it enable them to perform more confidently in combat? To what extent does Bellavia's decision to share these humorous exchanges help to dramatize the very real and terrifying predicaments these soldiers face in wartime?
3. "Sergeant Major Faulkenburg is our father figure. He's the man I have most wanted to impress. I have wanted, and needed, to believe he was proud of me and what I've done with my squad." How does Bellavia's reaction to the unconfirmed news of Steve Faulkenberg's death reveal his respect and love? How does this "first angel" in the battle of Fallujah motivate Bellavia and others to pursue their enemies with even greater ruthlessness? Why does the atmosphere of military combat seem see more

About the Author

David Bellavia
Photo Credit:

David Bellavia

Staff Sergeant David Bellavia spent six years in the U.S. Army, including some of the most intense fighting of the Iraq War. He has been awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq, and recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor for his actions in Fallujah. In 2005, he received the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State's highest award for military valor) and was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. He is the cofounder of Vets for Freedom, an advocacy organization of veterans concerned about the politicization of media coverage of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other publications. He lives in western New York.

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