Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Lone Survivor is a nonfiction book. It tells the true story co-authored by the man who lived it, US Nayv SEAL, Marcus Luttrell. It was recommended to me by someone who wanted me to understand the mentality and tasks undertaken by Special Forces. This is not a read for the faint-hearted.

The Blurb

This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, 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 his teammates, who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left-blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, but still armed and still breathing. Over the next four days, badly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell fought off six al Qaeda assassins who were sent to finish him, then crawled for seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a Pashtun tribe, who risked everything to protect him from the encircling Taliban killers.

A six-foot-five-inch Texan, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell takes us, blow-by-blow, through the brutal training of America’s warrior elite and the relentless rites of passage required by the Navy SEALs. He transports us to a monstrous battle fought in the desolate peaks of Afghanistan, where the beleaguered American team plummeted headlong a thousand feet down a mountain as they fought back through flying shale and rocks. In this rich , moving chronicle of courage, honor, and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare-and a tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. 

The Review

The first half of Lone Survivor, I found to be really slow. The author narrates the story of giving the news of his comrades deaths to their loved ones. I appreciate that would have been traumatic both for them and for him, however, it added nothing to the progress of the story for me and the loved ones of the dead SEALs were not relevant or important to the story.

The rest of the first half of the book told of the authors background, his youth and how he came to join the SEALs. Again, this was turgid stuff, but did set the background for the determination and mindset of the author. That is important when he becomes the Lone Survivor.

The second half of the book begins with the travel to the scene of the attack in Afghanistan. Again, I do not need to know this, indeed, the author was not appraised of the exact route taken therefore I cannot see that it was worth the ink to appraise the reader.

The story really starts when the group of four SEALs are overcome by the Taliban forces but fight bravely on, each for as long as is possible, even after sustaining injuries severe and eventually life-threatening in nature. It is then that much of the background the author gave about the SEAL training, determination and loyalty to each other became relevant. The author details the ambush he and his comrades encountered vividly. He then goes on to describe the injuries sustained by his comrades in gruesome detail. This is necessary to accomplish his desire to explain to the reader the outstanding bravery of his comrades. He achieves this. Luttrell is much less forceful when detailing his own bravery. he emphasises the heroism of those Afghanis who sheltered him and cared for him in the face of Taliban threats. he commends his US military colleagues who rescue him, and those who died trying.

Nevertheless, Luttrell suffered horrendous injuries, all of which he down plays. When he is finally able to return home to his family’s horse ranch in Texas, it is clear that the author still felt it an honour as well as a duty to have served his country and the President, his commander-in-chief.

This is definitely a book of two halves. On balance, Lone Survivor achieved what my friend hoped it would. I understand the mindset of Special Forces much better now, To that end, it is a fascinating book. However, I would be careful to whom I recommended Lone Survivor, but personally, I found it more useful than enjoyable.

The Author

Born and raised in Texas, Luttrell and his twin brother, Morgan, attended Sam Houston State University. They began training for the SEALs at age 14 with former United States Army soldier, Billy Shelton, who lived nearby. As kids they loved to hunt and fish and wrestle alligators! Martial arts training has been an important role in Marcus’ life from the time he was a child.

I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down i will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

Luttrell joined the United States Navy in March 1999. He began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training with Class 226 in Coronado, California. He graduated with Class 228 after suffering a fractured femur early in his training. Marcus graduated 18 Delta in 2001, making him a team Medic.

On June 28, 2005, Luttrell and SEAL Team 10 were assigned to a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah (nom de guerre Mohammad Ismail), a high-ranking Taliban leader responsible for killings in eastern Afghanistan and the Hindu-Kush mountains.

Val Penny

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