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The Best Books About Navy Seals

by Borba de Souza 9 days ago in navy

For anyone interesting to know more about the navy's most famous elite force.

The Best Books About Navy Seals
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Here is a list with some of the best books you can choose for reading, watching and following the basic principles of a US Navy Seal.

If you want to purchase any of the books listed below, click on the titles. They are affiliated links that will take you directly to the store.

By Water Beneath the Walls: The Rise of the Navy SEALs

Among the many grace notes in Benjamin Milligan’s By Water Beneath the Waves: The Rise of the Navy SEALS are the mentions of the influence of his grandparents. The book is dedicated to the beloved grandfather whose interest in history and books rubbed off on (and inspired) the author. His grandmother asked the question that motivated the book – why was her grandson (then on active duty as a Navy SEAL) carrying out operations in the deserts of Iraq? Not satisfied with his response (“I am not a sailor, Grandma, I am a Navy SEAL”) and the conventional “origin story” of the SEALS, Milligan decided to write a comprehensive account of how and why the elite American commando force is part of the Navy. In a footnote in the back of the book is the revelation that the grandfather, a World War II combat Marine, had volunteered for the UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams) training in preparation for the planned invasion of Japan.

The book is not a conventional history of the SEALS, but an overview of US military irregular commando units that scouted, gathered intelligence, and conducted daring raids behind enemy lines from the 1940s to the 1960s—the precursors to the modern-day SEALS. The role of the Navy began with the World War II missions of frogmen to scout out potential landing sites and to disarm underwater mines and fortified beachheads. Over time, the distinction between combat missions originating from the sea or land became less important than the value of relatively small cohesive units that relied on stealth, self-reliance, calculated risk-taking. Although other military units also sponsored elite commando style units, the outsized role played the Navy was also secured by ambitious leadership and the impressive record of Naval units in combat.

In addition to its long historical sweep, the most important contribution of By Water Beneath the Waves is the significance of intensive training to prepare commando units for combat. It takes steady hands and practiced expertise to disarm hair-trigger underwater explosives as well as dozens of other complex and specialized tasks. Like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall— “practice, practice, practice” is the only way to produce effective and resourceful commandos. Simple bravery without sufficient training is likely to lead to recklessness. The best training not only simulated combat conditions, but also included “hell-week” experiences where prospective commandos were deprived of sleep, pushed beyond all reasonable limits of physical exhaustion, and were still expected to perform demanding tasks with precision. The basic model for training was established with the World War II NCDU (Naval Combat Demolition Units) that made history on D-Day in Europe and in countless invasions of Pacific islands. The super-human endurance and high expectations for performance mean that only a small fraction of the highly skilled and motivated volunteers for commando training are successful. The high level of attrition meant that it was difficult to scale up programs during periods of high demand.

By Water Beneath the Waves is also a notable achievement because of the prodigious research that went into it as well as a compelling story-telling style of writing. The 80 pages of notes provide a detailed record of sources that substantiate the observations and conclusions in the volume, including published books and articles, government records, memoirs, papers and correspondence by veterans who served in commando units, and interviews by the author. Few stones were left unturned. Readers will also appreciate the author’s writing style. Most sections of book are told though vignettes that highlight the lives, personalities, and actions of individuals who influenced the evolution and deployment of commando forces in the American military and of those who led them in. Not all such units were successful, and the author offers reasoned interpretations why some combat missions were successful and others failed.

All in all, By Water Beneath the Waves: The Rise of the Navy SEALS is a very impressive first book. Hoping that there will be more books from Milligan in the coming years, I have some suggestions. First, a minor, but important issue—it is difficult for a most readers to keep track of the countless military acronyms and individuals in a book that regularly jumps from one episode to another. The index is a partial guide, but it might be useful to have short glossaries of terms and people inside book chapters. Another suggestion is the importance of having a substantial concluding chapter. Although I will never admit to being one of those people who skim the introduction and conclusion of a nonfiction book before deciding to read the entire volume, but there are serious readers who do. Even for those who read a book from start to finish, there is an anticipation that the conclusions will not only summarize the major themes of the volume, but also offer the author’s insights on broader questions and issues.

Hell Week and Beyond: The Making of a Navy SEAL

Scott, you did it again. This look at the rite of passage for some of our most accomplished service members went way past the headlines, Hollywood portrayals, and rumors as to what it truly takes to be in the top echelon of the most dangerous profession. Many of the same traits identified for successful SEAL candidates are consistently used in business, but the context of teamwork, leadership, sacrifice, determination, and initiative changes when the tab for mission success is "up to and including my life" and dedication to the group is "I'd rather die than be responsible for losing a team mate". Identifying the successful characteristics and life lessons throughout the book was powerful; since I like to believe I've personally implemented many of those lessons, it was certainly affirming that I have been on a track with proven results. At the same time, I was ridiculing myself for thinking that an all-nighter to finish a proposal or pushing proteges to step up and lead even remotely resembles the commitment required for any uniformed service member, let alone our elite special forces community. The stakes are so insanely different that it's hard to believe the lessons could apply, but you clearly tied this together through your personal experience as well as those of your sources. Well done, my friend!

Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story

The authors conducted some amazing research to create this book. Knowledge management is difficult to document in a special operations environment and this book definitely documents some important pieces of history and firsthand experiences by some of the most professional units in the US military. A must read for educators that are willing to forge our future special operations warriors.

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

The autobiography of a man who started life terrified of his stepfather only to learn as a BUD/S candidate that his acquired mental toughness made him a natural for the SEALs. The story continues with the transition from SEAL Team Two to Team Six and sniper school, and culminates with the story of the SEALs in Mogadishu in the run up to the battle depicted in "Black Hawk Down." Wasdin and co-author Templin spend enough time on his upbringing and family to humanize a military professional who otherwise could have come across as a fictional superhero found in an airport thriller. Sniper kills at 800+ yards? Check. Shot three times, but still pouring fire into the enemy? Yep. Offered a job training SEALs in recognition of his excellence? You bet. But what sticks with you is how hard Wasdin fought to become something he'd never been as a Spec Ops careerist: a good father and husband.

Navy SEAL Dogs: My Tale of Training Canines for Combat

This is an excellent book on the selection, training and operations of Navy Seal Dogs. The author describes his love of dogs, his entry into the Navy and his eventual ascension to the SEALS. He found his calling training SEAL Dogs and their handlers for combat. The author describes the training in detection, tracking and apprehension and how soldiers lives have been saved by the actions of these highly trained dogs. There are numerous stories of canines and their handlers in combat and throughout the emphasis is on the bond that develops between the handler and his/her dog. There is an appendix at the end of the book on the use of dogs in the military from WW1 to present times, this section was eye opening and informative. The author is now involved with Military Working Dogs that are retired from active combat and helping them adjust to this stage of their life. If you are a Dog lover and a NAVY SEAL admirer you are in for an informative, action filled read about mans best friend and their importance in todays world involving dangerous operations. Recommended.

Navy SEALs: The Combat History of the Deadliest Warriors on the Planet

This is a wonderfully well written history and account of truly heroic warriors. The narrative is clear for the layman and moves at a pace to keep the reader engrossed in the action. I particularly like the broad historical overview punctuated with first hand accounts of events. The authors do a fantastic job of ensuring the reader sees the SEALS as husbands, fathers, brothers, giving their all. One can't help but be moved by the selflessness and heroics portrayed.

The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best

Excellent read. I always knew Navy SEALs must have to endure a lot to get through their training, but I had no idea! I like that what the reader learns from Webb is applicable to any sphere of life that requires a commitment to excellence. I bought this for myself, but after reading it in one sitting I plan to pass it on to my 14-year-old nephew because it has so many valuable lessons.

To all the reviewers who are rating this book down because of its similarity to The Red Circle, please note that the description clearly says that The Making of a Navy SEAL is essentially a young readers edition of that book!

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

If you were to judge a book by its cover, you would think that "Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead And Win" is a book which would only be applicable to military veterans and historians. You would be wrong.

This isn't a self-help book from some "gurus", nor does it provide an ideology or set of steps for how to approach specific problems. Extreme Ownership is a mindset which applies to everything you do. Authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have crafted a guidebook for success in all ventures of life. They explain hard-learned principles of leadership, which they experienced first-hand as US Navy SEALs, specifically in and around their 2006 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq, one of the most dangerous places and times in the war. These principles can be applied to any relationships or walks of life; they are simple enough for anyone to understand, and broad enough to use in any situation.

The book is separated into 12 chapters, each which highlights a principle of leadership. Each chapter is then broken into 3 seconds. The first section is an anecdote providing an example of how US Navy SEALs use their military experience to demonstrate each principle. The second section is how & why the principle works. The third section is an example of how that principle transforms from the battlefield, into world of businesses of all types & sizes, as experienced by the authors and their customers. It is very easy to read and understand, despite the regular use of military jargon (which is either footnoted or explained so even non-military readers can comprehend).

Military recruits & officers, parents, corporate executives, students, low-level management, spouses, shop foremen, independent contractors, and sole proprietors will all benefit from the lessons of Extreme Ownership.


Borba de Souza

Writer and business founder that enjoys writing about history and culture.

Founder of Small Business Hacks and My published books:

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Borba de Souza
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