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Book Review: Lone Survivor

Last night, I finished Marcus Luttrell and Partrick Robinson’s book, “Lone Survivor”. It was rather interesting. Marcus Luttrell is a Navy SEAL that during Operation Redwing was as the title says (and not giving away much of the story) the lone survivor.

Overall, it was a very quick read.  The book reads in a very personal fashion from Luttrell’s perspective.  He makes no attempt to hide his opinions about politics, news corporations, nor how awesome the Navy SEALs truly are.

The aspect I enjoyed most about his retelling of his story is that he includes more than just the facts of Operation Redwing.  He talks about growing up, surviving BUD/S and touches on a few other missions him and his SEAL team went through.  This in addition to his personal account of Operation Redwing, when his team was MIA, he tells the story of his family and friends back home, that he only found out later upon returning home.

Many times through the telling of his story, especially in Afghanistan, I found myself questioning the details of his story.  “How could this possibly have happened?  How is he not dead right now!?!”  But a lot of these questions go by the wayside when you remember the training they went through.  He only touches the surface of the amount of training he had, and it is seriously impressive.

The story isn’t all that “deep” really.  In fact, it is really just the story with one man’s opinions on paper.  Don’t expect to be analyzing the mental state of US Navy SEALs nor the Taliban or al Qaeda, but do expect to be entertained, captivated, and appreciative.

Here is the summary from the back of the #1 National Bestseller, Back Bay Books, Paperback edition:

On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission: to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader. Less than twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive.

This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything, the story of the men who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left. Luttrell recalls their valiant efforts in one of the most powerful narratives every written about modern warfare – a stirring tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Comments

Jason

This is a comment I received on Facebook after the review was ported there:

(From ‘Chang’):

I read the book last year. Thought it was okay. My thoughts of him are a little bit worse after reading the book than before reading it. I found him to be self-center, egoistical, and “SEAL” minded at the end that really made me question his perception of the world as it is not as how he want it to be. For instance he always talks about what ifs but it never will be like “Oh I am going to kick that Taliban kid’s ass IF I didn’t have a broken wrist – if he did he be dead meat” or “even thought the Rangers and Green Berets busted their ass to rescue me I still wanted to be rescued by the Navy SEALs writing this after knowing that 16 of my guys just perished doing just that but still I wanted SEALs instead of other services.” Give me a break. A remark like that shows no genuine appreciation for the hardwork of the rescue team for one and also undermines the sacrifice of the SEALs who perished that day. I also question the motto : “No man left behind” in this particular scenario because if a man is left behind dead or alive they left them because it was survivors group for themselves to make sure someone gets out alive at least. Even if they had a larger group I doubt the “no one left behind” motto will be implemented with the given circumstances. The worst what-if is his judgment on not killing the Shepherds which still haunts him to this very day. Up to this point the reader is led to believe that SEALs will kill in cold blood for the sake of the mission and here is some false sense of compassion that resulted in one of the worst loses in SEAL history. Lesson learned: Kill or be killed, there are no exception.

You are right in that he doesn’t give any real specific info on the whole SEAL deal and if one were interested in that sort of stuff read Dick Crouch’s book Warrior Elite. Amazon reviews complained about how Luttrell whined about doing pushups which I never found.

All-in-all a decent read but I don’t think I will read it again anytime soon.

Jason

Hah, thanks for the comment Chang!

You will find no argument from me about Luttrell being egoistical and “SEAL” minded. Although I would give a little argument for him being overly self-centered. I think situational awareness could easily be confused with self-centered in a lot of the scenarios presented in the book. Rather than him personally, but his thinking of all SEALs as one, he would be SEAL-centered.

I also had no real issues with the Army/Navy jostling he gives after his rescue. All parties involved, Rangers, Green Berets, and Luttrell himself know that he is happy to be alive and joking around after a very tense situation.

** Next comment could possibly be a spoiler for those that haven’t read the book. Skip to the next paragraph to skip the spoiler **
As for the comments about “No man left behind”, I also found myself questioning the implementation of this philosophy throughout the book. This was true especially when we found out that Axe might have remained alive for at least two more magazines of ammo. Luttrell just assumed him to be dead because of his own current state. Do I think Axe would have survived, prolly not, but Axe might have been cursing out Luttrell for not following through with the “No man left behind” code while he traveled his last 100 yards.

It is an all-in-all decent read, but like you said, it isn’t one that is read much more than once. Once you know the story, there isn’t much more to get out of the book.

Chang

I’m reading “Victory Point” right now by Ed Darack. The book points out a few glaring errors in “Lone Survivor” first of which being the name of the Operation which is actually Operations Red Wings (not Redwing). The operations were named after Hockey teams.

ref:
http://www.darack.com/sawtalosar/misinformation.php
http://onviolence.com/?e=234 (this one is pretty clear-cut)

Excerpt from second link:

“In Lone Survivor, Luttrell specualates that the ambush had probably 135 people in it, if not more. He describes his team as mowing down dozens of enemy. He describes multiple patrols of Taliban scouring the countryside for him. It feels like Luttrell is taking on an army.

Except that he didn’t. The ambush probably only used 6-8 of Ahmad Shah’s men, with “accidental guerillas” making up the rest. The ambush succeeded because of the use of RPGs, machine guns and terrain, not overwhelming numbers. Of course, explaining plunging fire is complicated, its much easier to simply say he faced a Taliban horde. In Luttrell’s initial after-action report, according to Darack, he said only 20-35 Taliban fighters were involved in the ambush. When Lone Survivor came out, the number climbed rapidly. “

Oscarmike

Why didn’t he seals just take the kids till helos came then let the kids go?

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