on 19 March 2004
This book consists almost exclusively of interviews, printed verbatim, with former (and a few still active) Navy SEALS. As such it is quite different from almost all other books with a similar subject matter.
The interviewed SEALS come across as fairly average guys except that they liked adventure, didn't require a secure home life and were willing to take risks. The degree to which these SEALS displayed being rather average surprised me. In particular I had assumed that members of elite military forces would be fairly intelligent, but the impression I got from reading these interviews was that high intelligence was definitely not a requirement.
In a way the honesty displayed by this book is refreshing. The SEALS aren't made to look like supermen or even heroes. They were men who had elected to do a particular job, received training for that job and then went out and did it. Often they were successful, but often things went wrong, sometimes with fatal results.
One third of the book covers the Vietnam War during which the SEALS were involved in a lot of real combat. But the Vietnam War has two problems relative to a modern book about the SEALS: it happened 30 years ago and the USA lost that war.
The last half of the book covers developments and experiences since the Vietnam War. This includes up-to-date information about the newest diving and parachuting and water-borne landing techniques, all of which I found quite interesting. But this part of the book includes no real combat experiences except for a few pages about Grenada (including a disastrous mission where four SEALS died parachuting from a plane that was flying too low) and the Gulf War (a 4-page story about a group of four SEALS who saw the Iraqi army advancing on them and wisely retreated without firing a shot).
In conclusion, if you're looking for a book about how utterly fantastic the Navy SEALS are then you should steer clear of this one. If you're curious as to what kind of men enjoy jumping out of airplanes at 37000 feet and getting their eyeballs frozen, and prefer honest accounts that include disastrous missions where men died and objectives were not met, then this is a good source.