How does it feel to be in combat, to hear bullets zipping past your face and know they were meant for you?
This is one of the harrowing questions that comes up in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a book of war photographs and stories by Ashley Gilbertson.
Gilbertson, a young Australian, covered the Iraq war for the New York Times and other publications. His book, published in 2007 by the University of Chicago Press, shows the pain and suffering of combat on U.S. soldiers as well as the civilian population in Iraq.
Gilbertson's photos are often as gripping as they are tragic, revealing the human drama and waste of war. For us, his writing was equally impressive, explaining the stories behind the photos and adding an emotional weight that complements the images.
One of the most heartbreaking series of photos involves the deadly 2004 Falluja campaign. Embedded with a marine platoon, Gilbertson took photos of a number of marines who—as the captions explain—died in the fighting.
These are painful photographs. We see the faces of the brave young Americans, knowing they died only a few minutes or hours later.
Gilbertson was under fire many times too, taking extraordinary risks to get pictures for U. S. readers. From the perspective of 2010, it hardly seems worth it. Nevertheless, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, military-lingo for WTF, is a powerful document in its own right, a testament to the valor and misery that is combat.