I have always been fascinated with stories of war and the heroes that fight in them. Ever since this book came out along with the 60 Minutes interview I have wanted to read it, just to get a better idea of what happened back in 2011 when an elite group of Navy SEAL’s successfully infiltrated and executed their mission with speed and precision of the professionals they were. Despite the success of their mission it was not without its share of controversy as was this book when it hit shelves. The author of the book goes by a fake name of Mark Owen, who at the time of the mission was a SEAL with years of experience.
The story like many others like it talks about the grueling training that the elite forces that protect this country go through. This is what makes these guys the best at what they do. I have read quite a few books about SEALs and other military operations including, Lone Survivor, Blackhawk Down, House to House, Shooter (not the novel), American Sniper and Sniper One. All have one thing in common and that is they go into great detail about the intense training these guys go through.
Mark Owen talks about his training and getting into the DEVRGRU, which is more commonly known as SEAL Team Six, which is an even more elite team of SEALs, this group is the best of the best of the best. These guys are called up to deal with the most extreme and dangerous military operations. One interesting thing is that Mark talks about a few of these other missions which include helping to rescue Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama in 2009 also Mark and his team led a mission to try an recapture U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was only recently released by the Taliban a few weeks ago.
This is the first book on the war that I have read that I knew what operations the book was talking about. In most other books you only hear about the operations way way after they are completed. In Lone Survivor the main mission was Operation Red Wings. I read the book in 2010 where as the operation was carried out in 2005. So there is quite a long time between when the mission was carried out and when the general public is informed. With this book it is a little different. The main mission in the book, Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in 2011 and the book hit shelves in 2012. So this mission was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Not to mention there was a movie, Zero Dark Thirty and a 60 Minutes interview with Mark Owen to go along with it.
I am always very interested in military history especially something as big as the killing of the world’s most infamous terrorist. After reading the book I felt a little let down, honestly I thought there would be some new insight that was not offered in the movie or the television interview. Honestly there was not, although you get to see a little more into the lives of the men on the ground carrying out the mission, but just barely. In other books I have read on the same subject it is always interesting to hear about their life outside the military. This book delves into this aspect very little, which is probably more of a security issue than anything else.
I hate to criticize a writing style and have never done so for other books, but throughout the story there are a lot of short choppy sentences. I am guilty of doing this as well so I will not be too harsh, but I have also not published a New York Times #1 Bestseller either. So that can be annoying if you are use to well written thought provoking sentences. There are some cool pictures in the book including a lot of the gear the SEALs use, which I always think is cool. Along with some detailed photos and diagrams of the operation and how it was carried out and how the actual raid went down. These photos show where Mark and his team entered the house along with a visual of the layout of the compound. I have always found it hard to visualize what the inside of a building looks like even from a detailed description so the graphics add another level of detail for the reader.
Like I mentioned above there is a lot of controversy surrounding this book when it was first released. The government claimed that the book released classified and top secret information about Operation Neptune spear. There was also a lot of uproar from the SEAL community. The author claims that there is nothing classified that was released in the book and changed the names of everyone involved. He also makes his intentions clear for publishing the book. He says he wanted to tell the REAL story of what happened and how it went down. I can understand where he is coming from, this is arguably the most important mission that has been carried out in the past 20 years, that we know about. From what I have gathered Owen did not want the mission to be speculated about and fall into the land of myth and legend that so many other missions do. He wanted the truth, or as much of it as possible, to be out there for everyone.
Overall this is not a bad book but, if you have invested your time watching the interview and watching Zero Dark Thirty I would say, and this might be the only time I ever say it, skip the book. If you are interested in the topic, like myself, you can invest a little more time and read it but honestly there is no new information in the book that has not been covered in the movie or interview. There were a few interesting aspects in the book that you do not get in the other sources of media but like I said unless you are very interested in the topic skipping the book is acceptable this time and only this time. But it is a quick read the words are very big and you can fly through the pages at a rapid pace even for those who read slow.