Case Study

Operation Medusa

Preparatory bombardment. Effective fire. FragO. Even the best narratives sometimes need interpreting.

Preparatory bombardment. Effective fire. FragO. Even the best narratives sometimes need interpreting.

The challenge

Great storytelling often involves balancing esoteric jargon with real-life anecdotes. Operation Medusa walks the line between those two extremes and tells the story of Canada’s most intense battle since the Second World War.

Kandahar, Afghanistan. September 2006. A Canadian-led, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) battlegroup prepared to face Taliban fighters using conventional warfare tactics. Over the course of twelve terrible days, Major General David Fraser oversaw the most important battle in NATO history. It did not go as originally planned. Yet, when the dust settled, NATO had met its objective: Kandahar would not fall under Taliban rule. But at what cost?

Twelve years later, General Fraser looked to Brian Hanington to help chronicle the never-before-told story behind how the battle was planned and executed. Brian’s expertise and leadership in the art of persuasive writing gave him the ideal skillset to lead readers through the tactically complex and emotionally draining story of Operation Medusa.

“Brian has been a good book fire-team partner. I will always be very appreciative of his efforts.”

Major-General (Retired) David Fraser
Survivors guilt

Brian knew that obtaining the most colourful range of insights would require drawing on as many stories as possible. He conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with Canadian Armed Forces members who worked for and beside General Fraser during the operation to get the view from the trenches. Literally. He also spoke with three of the highest-ranking military commanders for their never-before-shared insights into the events leading up to and during the battle.

Stiff supported Brian by transcribing the many interviewees’ deeply personal accounts, allowing Brian to draw from rich observations found within them. Stiff strategists also conducted secondary source research to deliver additional context outside the personal recollections of those interviewed. Brian then wove together the events of Operation Medusa, effectively translating the technical descriptions and military acronyms into a deeply compelling, nuanced story that every Canadian could appreciate.

“I have survivor’s guilt, of course.
We all do.”


A tactical slog

This was a tactical slog on difficult terrain against significant enemy numbers.

Operation Medusa played out in a complex and unexpected manner that is challenging to picture. Brian and the Stiff design team worked together to create maps to guide readers through the timeframe of the battle in a way that enhances the reality and intensity of the situation. That map now serves as the book’s front and end papers.

To create meaningful graphics, Stiff’s design team poured over charts and explanations of the battle. Using a combination of textures, Stiff created a visual that explained the hierarchy of information to help readers visualize the locations and battle from the book.