When West Point Rugby Went to War

Before 9/11, the rugby team at West Point learned to bond on a sports field. This is what happened when those 15 young men became leaders in war.

Filled with drama, tragedy, and personal transformations, this is the story of a unique brotherhood. It is a story of American rugby and a story of the U. S. Army created through intimate portraits of men shaped by West Point’s motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Some of the players deployed to Afganistan and Iraq, some to Europe. Some became infantry, others became fliers. Some saw action, some did not. One gave his life on a street in Baghdad when his convoy was hit with an IED. Two died away from the battlefield but no less tragically.

Journalist Martin Pengelly, a former rugby player himself, was given extraordinary access to tell this story, a story of a brutal sport and even more brutal warfare.

Brotherhood breaks the heart with its dramatic story of a fraternity of teammates broken by war.”
David Abrams, author of Fobbit

“A memorable and moving book, a significant contribution to the literature of the American military after 9/11.”
Thomas E. Ricks, author of Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1968

“In rugby, we often talk of ‘going into battle’ with your team. It’s just a game, of course, but in Brotherhood, sport, war, and friendship leap from the pages as players really do become warriors—and heroes.”
Dan Lyle, U.S. Rugby Hall of Famer and NBC Sports analyst

Martin Pengelly is breaking news editor for Guardian US, based in New York City where he lives in Washington Heights with his wife and three daughters. Born in Leeds, UK, he played rugby for Durham University and Rosslyn Park FC and worked for Rugby News, the Guardian and the Independent before moving to the US in 2012. Since then, he has written about politics, books, and rugby in America. His work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times. Brotherhood is his first book.

H. R. McMaster is the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University. He is also the Susan and Bernard Liautaud Fellow at The Freeman Spogli Institute and Lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He serves as chairman of the advisory board of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Japan Chair at the Hudson Institute. A native of Philadelphia, H.R. graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1984. He served as a U.S. Army officer for thirty-four years and retired as a lieutenant general in 2018. He remained on active duty while serving as the twenty-sixth assistant to the president for national security affairs. He taught history at West Point and holds a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.