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John Sack (Continued)

(24 March 1930 27 March 2004)

James Stewart

Nicholls State University

...In 1991, at sixty years old, Sack returned to Esquire, this time covering the Persian Gulf War and becoming the only person to cover every American war for the past 50 years. Following much the same procedure that he had used in M, Sack was attached to a company in the First Infantry Division (Mechanized) as the unit trained at Ft. Riley, Kansas, during December 1990 in preparation for duty in Saudi Arabia. Soon after the unit arrived in Saudi on New Year's Day, Sack tried to rejoin it, once again running afoul of military edicts. Though Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, supreme allied commander, had previously given Sack permission to link up immediately with the company at its desert location upon his arrival in Saudi, he was still being held at headquarters in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when the air war began on 16 January 1991. So, in direct violation of military press restrictions, Sack "bought a pair of green pants, a green shirt, and a green hat, and, rolling through all the checkpoints saying 'Good morning,' I drove eight hours in a Cherokee jeep out to the desert and Company C."

He spent the night hidden from authorities by soldiers of Company C before being discovered and ordered to Dhahran. He returned to the soldiers on 7 February, this time with the military's permission after members of the print media voted him onto the combat pool 3 February. After spending the intervening days living with the men and sleeping on the tops of 63-ton Abrams tanks, Sack rode with the group at the spear tip of American invasion troops rolling across the Iraqi border on 24 February. He stayed with Company C as it fought in the "Battle of Al Qarnain" (with 1,800 allied tanks involved, the largest armored battle American forces have participated in) and until the fighting ended on 28 February. Of the fifteen hundred accredited journalists covering the conflict, Sack was the only one to stay with a front-line unit throughout the war. After leaving Saudi Arabia in March, Sack was at Ft. Riley in May when Company C returned. During the time he spent with them he had amassed 135 hours of taped interviews, 575 pages of typed transcripts and 950 pages of handwritten notes. Sack used the material he had gathered, as with M, for three Esquire articles: "The Salvation of Gunner Penn" (April 1991); "Captain John E. Bushyhead and the Surrender in Indian Country" (May 1991); and "C Company" (December 1991). The material became a book, Company C: The Real War in Iraq (1995).

The 241-page book presents a view of the war unseen by most Americans, who formed their impressions of the conflict from television coverage. Far from the video-game image created by broadcast coverage, the combat, as Sack described it, was as brutal, confusing and frightening as in any other war. Dick Lipsey, an Associated Press reporter who interviewed soldiers included in Sack's book, quoted Col. Greg Fontenot, Company C's battalion commander during the war, as saying, "I think the greatest tragedy of Desert Storm is that it has been made to appear easy. . . . If you want to understand what people feel like under extreme pressure and tension, this is a good book."

Two years before the book version of Company C was released Sack published what is arguably his most controversial book, An Eye for an Eye (1993). In fact...  More

Dictionary of Literary Biography:

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Books by John Sack