Selected for Common Reading at:
Siena Heights University
The T. Boone Pickens Leadership Institute
After graduating from Princeton, Donovan Campbell, motivated by his unwavering patriotism and commitment, decided to join the service, realizing that becoming a Marine officer would allow him to give back to his country, engage in the world, and learn to lead. In this immediate, thrilling, and inspiring memoir, Campbell recounts a timeless and transcendent tale of brotherhood, courage, and sacrifice.
As commander of a forty-man infantry platoon called Joker One, Campbell had just months to train and transform a ragtag group of brand-new Marines into a first-rate cohesive fighting unit, men who would become his family: Sergeant Leza, the house intellectual who read Che Guevara; Sergeant Mariano Noriel, the “Filipino ball of fire” who would become Campbell’s closest confidant and friend; Lance Corporal William Feldmeir, a narcoleptic who fell asleep during battle; and a lieutenant known simply as “the Ox,” whose stubborn aggressiveness would be more curse than blessing.
Campbell and his men were assigned to Ramadi, that capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province that was an explosion just waiting to happen. And when it did happen–with the chilling cries of “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad!” echoing from minaret to minaret–Campbell and company were there to protect the innocent, battle the insurgents, and pick up the pieces. After seven months of day-to-day, house-to-house combat, nearly half of Campbell’s platoon had been wounded, a casualty rate that went beyond that of any Marine or Army unit since Vietnam. Yet unlike Fallujah, Ramadi never fell to the enemy.
Told by the man who led the unit of hard-pressed Marines, Joker One is a gripping tale of a leadership, loyalty, faith, and camaraderie throughout the best and worst of times.
“Campbell’s narrative humanized a war, and challenged me to critically examine the ideas of leadership and social responsibility; topics I thought I had a handle on prior to reading Joker One.”—Rachel Duff Anderson, Director of First-Year Experience, Siena Heights University
“Donovan Campbell, first as a Marine and then as a writer, shows us that the dominant emotion in war isn’t hatred or anger or fear. It’s love. His story stands as a poignant tribute to his men–their courage, their dedication, their skill, and their love for one another, even unto death. This is a deeply moving book.”
–Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
“Joker One is the finest small-unit description of a platoon at war in Iraq. Hang on and cheer them on.”
–Bing West, author of The Strongest Tribe
“Joker One is the real goods, what Hemingway called ‘the true gen.’ The classic military story: one platoon leader, the men of his platoon, and the impossibility and urgency of the assignment. The book will sharply take its place in ranks beside Black Hawk Down and Jarhead. If you want to know what American fighting will look like in this century, you need to read Campbell. Like the best stories, military and nonmilitary, it’s a story about love, community, and a brotherhood.”
–David Lipsky, author of Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point
“Donovan Campbell was a platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Anbar in 2004–the unit that had my flank. In Joker One, he tells the story of that hard fight from the ground level better than I thought possible. This is how it was in Ramadi in 2004, before the Surge, before the Awakening, when Iraq fell apart. And this is what it is like to lead men in battle. Read this book if you are going to war, or if you have gone to war, or if you want to know what war is.”
–Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl (Ret.), “Centurion 3,” author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife
Contact us about speaking engagements with Donovan Campbell
Donovan Campbell graduated with honors from Princeton University and Harvard Business School, finished first in his class at the Marines’ Basic Officer Course, and served three combat deployments–two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and a Bronze Star with Valor for his time in Iraq. He is now working for PepsiCo and living in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and daughter.