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When West Point Rugby Went to War

by Martin Pengelly
Introduction by H. R. McMaster

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Product Details


ISBN: 978-1-56792-711-5
Pages: 300
Size: 6" x 9"
Published: October 2023
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“We’re better off for having these men among us.”—Wall Street Journal

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.

Praise for Brotherhood

“Weaves together multiple in-depth biographies to form a highly readable account of who these men were, where they came from, how they played the game and how they fought the longest war in U.S. military history….We’re better off for having these men among us.”
Wall Street Journal

Brotherhood is a mad, perfect book. Pengelly’s audacious act combining biography, war reportage and sports writing is like nothing I’ve read before. The ’02 West Point ruggers are painted in beautiful relief and their combat episodes are brilliantly rendered. Sports book? War book? I’m not sure, but I’m certain you must read it.”
Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

“An intimate portrait . . . Drawing on his own love of rugby, personal reminiscences from the [West Point] cadets, and in-depth reportage, Pengelly provides a vivid snapshot of his subjects and their experiences of war, combined with an elegiac meditation on the sport. It’s a poignant account.”
Publishers Weekly

“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

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

“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

“In a time when men struggle to find their place in society—a time of disheartening news on education, relationships, and lifespan itself—Martin Pengelly brings a rare story of encouragement. The young men of Brotherhood remind us of the best in men: courage, sacrifice, even nobility.”
Matthew Teague, co-author of The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It

Brotherhood captures men working through shared hardships, the lessons learned, and bonds forged through that journey. Ultimately, the book shares the stories of young men and their families who were willing to give everything for our country—and some who did.”—Matthew Sherman, West Point Men’s Rugby Coach
Author: Martin Pengelly
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.

Author: H. R. McMaster
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.