23 July 2011

FWS Book Review: SEALs: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force

There seems to be no end to the books devoted to NAVSPECWAR, and since SEAL Team Six killed UBL, it looks to explode even further. Given this number of books on the same subject, I wanted to find a good read on NAVSPECWAR that was not the standard text on BUD/S, but something on their current combat operations in A-stan and Iraq. That led me to this Osprey Book (one of the big names in military books), written by Chris Osman (a former SEAL) and veteran military writer Mir Bahmanyar (a former member of the Army Rangers).
SEALS: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force is 2011 trade paperback book that uses primary sources, a ton of unpublished pictures, to inform the reader on SEAL operations since 1989's Invasion of Panama, leading all the way to present day. Omitted or lessened from this text is certain operations that fall within the time-frame of the book, namely Anaconda, Mogadishu, and Red Wing.  


SEALS: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force is beautifully done, punctuated with rare or completely unseen photos that appear only in this book, which makes SEALS: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force an impressive package for 12 bucks. Also as impressive as the photos is the access that the authors had to SEAL operations that are rarely talked about outside of the SPECOPS community, like the combat divers in Panama, the dual of snipers in Iraq.
The SEAL primary sources added a elements that I have never read in any other contemporary text with these levels of sources and information. These sources changed the focus of the board sections of the book from general information to boots-on-the-ground-level that left me shocked at the realism.  
This level of honesty is continued to the section on BUD/S and SQT training, making SEALS: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force one of the better text on the life of a SEAL for their first two years in the teams. I especially enjoyed reading about some of the headaches with actually getting into a BUD/S class, and the training of a SEAL sniper.
Another added bonus to the authors level of experience with writing about the teams was difference between SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, the older UDT, and the "regular" SEAL teams.


That is biggest complain I have about SEALS: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force, how selective the book is about modern SEAL missions. It often skips over certain events,or pays little attention to them. For example operation like Anaconda, (one of the biggest SPECOPS operations in years). Given the access that the authors had to current and past team members, I was expecting something more and unique. I was disappointed especially with the events surrounding SEAL deployments to Somalia were barely mentioned. This was a wasted opportunity for these author to shed some light on SEAL operations during Blackhawk Down.


I am really the last person that should mention this, given that my blogpost have made English teachers cry, but this book suffers from lack of editing. This book was the product of a major military book publisher with experiences writer, and editors. However, at times, the structure of the text falls with a dull thud and the book seems to have a lack of polish.
Often quotes are not used effectively, especially in the latter sections of the book, causing those portions of text to not live up to the rest of the book. That was the odd thing to me, the portions on Panama were very well done, but the longer the book continued, the worse the book became. I was floored how these beautiful pictures were framed with such limited text. But no where, does the text fail worse than end section of this book, when they talk of the future of NAVSPECWAR...more or less, it was waste of ink. Given the authors of this book, I expected some interesting insight into the future of the teams...but my expectations were not met.  

Should You Buy/Read this Book?

If you wanting something different on the SEAL teams that is the not the standard text on BUD/S, Hell Week, but focused more on the modern SEAL operations, then this is the best on the market, and not a bad price either ($12).Just remember, the first portion of the book is the best.


  1. you would do well reading books that go past the facade and myth of these so called 'elites' and seek the truth behind their grueling operations including their disasterous failures. Focusing only on the glories and the myth of special forces only give wrong impression about them. Myth works on fictional stuff like Master chief or Space Marine chapters , but not in the real world military..

    Here's a few suggestion on the major disasters involving special forces (worldwide)
    - Disasterous Delta force Kandahar Mullah Omar Complex raid , Afghanistan 2001 , Seymour Hersh
    - Massacre of elite Israeli Naval Commandos in Ansariya village by hezbollah ambush , Lebanon 1997
    - Real details on the Navy SEAL ambush during USMC Operation Redwings , from the overconfidence , lack of experience and many tactical mistakes , Ed Darack.

    Try to balance the enthusiasm of military victories with dose of reality , for example :
    - The highly propagandized 'victory' during Ia Drang helicopter assault , in reality it was a slaughter for the 7th Cav's 2 Batallions.
    - Ambush and Destruction of so many USMC company sized units on the DMZ during Vietnam war , so much so that the brass only allow BATTALION sized unit to operate on the area due to massive casualties inflicted by NVA ambushes.
    - US Marines Sniper team (plus their security) , 2 teams (6 men each) got ambushed in their own hide (due to complacency / overconfidence / predictability ?) and all got killed / captured by iraqi insurgents.