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Author Biography: Kevin Dockery has been a soldier in The President's Guard under Presidents Nixon and Ford, been a grade-school teacher, radio broadcaster, gunsmith, and historian. He even spent time in Iraq and Kuwait during Desert Storm as what he refers to as a "corporate mercenary." He has written a number of books detailing the history of the Navy SEALs and the lives of the men who lived that history.
Posted August 26, 2001
Navy SEALs is an oral history book in the tradition of The Greatest Generation. 34 fascinating personal histories are contained, and are put into context by carefully researched essays to link together the action tales. The histories are well chosen to highlight key points in the history of U.S. underwater operations by individuals prior to 1975. Each history is impressively illustrated by extensive photographs that make you feel like you are on the scene. The Navy SEALs, the direct action component of the Navy's special warfare community, were not established until 1962. The bulk of this book looks at the predecessor organizations in World War II and Korea which developed the expertise that ultimately led to the establishment of the SEALs. The book also briefly describes the launching of the SEALs and the role of the SEALs in Vietnam. The original concept of individual in-the-water warfare dated back to World War II. In the 20th century, U.S. forces had had no amphibious landings prior to that time. Suddenly, a capability was needed to clear underwater obstructions to support such landings. Seebees were initially recruited as volunteers for their demoliton skills, and taught how to swim so that mines and other obstructions could be blown away. Later, Navy Scouts and Army Rangers developed skills to do reconnaissance on landing sites before the battles occurred. Poor surveillance and planning at Tarawa meant that more Marines drowned than were killed by the Japanese when the transports could not get over the reefs. Underwater Demolition Teams were critical in landings to make room for the troop and tank transports. Although the valuable role of these brave men soon became known to the Navy, there were not enough of them. Hitler's Fortress Europe came with lots of obstructions that needed to be eliminated for any landings to succeed. For the critical landings on D-Day in Normandy, UDTs were supplemented by other personnel. Despite this increase, they were only able to complete their assignments in clearing 5 of 16 50-yard areas on Omaha beach (after taking a horrific 50 percent rate of casualties). Without the courage and skill of these heroes, D-Day might not have succeeded. The book is equally interesting as an example of how to create an elite, high-performance unit within a large organization. People in government organizations and large businesses will be fascinated by the ways that individual initiative can be encouraged. I especially enjoyed the many stories about how those who couldn't stand the hum-drum life on board ship and ship's discipline joined the SEAL predecessors. The book also recounts how key equipment and methods were developed. The current SEAL concept is vastly removed from its predecessors. The predecessors were usually expected to stay below the high water line, where the Marines were to take over. Today, SEALs (standing for SEa, Air, and Land) are expected to be able to parachute, fight guerrilla battles on land, and conduct extensive underwater operations. The same dedication to excellence and to country is maintained as a common heritage. I would also have enjoyed this book if it had been edited differently to isolate the different aspects of what these men experienced. For example, all of the references to training could have been put together with material about these experiences. All of the references to reconnaissance could have been put together. That would have made the book more of a history, and less of an oral history, but it would probably have made for smoother reading. Perhaps Mr. Dockery will rework the material into that more familiar form at some point in the future, as well. Clearly, you will be glad to read the stories in this book. It will make you proud of some of our fellow Americans in new ways. After you finish enjoying this book, I suggest that you find someone who served in the SEALs or one of its predecessors. Ask them about their experiences iWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.