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First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging…
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First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite…

by Patrick K. O'Donnell

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It is one of those books that rely on a catchy title to draw people in... and then fails to deliver on it. It is the history of the units that would one day evolve into Seals - but calling them Seals is almost like calling the Wright brothers astronauts - the latter would not have existed without the first but the name is still not exactly correct.

If you ignore the name or do not take it too literally, it is actually a pretty readable story about the maritime units during the Second World War and the science and history that made them possible. But more than that, it is the story of a few men - the pioneers that risked their lives to help. And as with almost everyone in this war, none of them is a conventional hero or someone you would expect to be able to step up. And yet they do - against all odds, against the elements, sometimes against pure stupidity on all sides.

And time after time the chance seems to be on their side - near misses and extraordinary coincidences line up to make up the story of these men; and when you almost see things finally getting a bit more ordered and someone makes a mistake that looks so stupid and illogical that you wonder how people actually survived after that. Thankfully the other side was making at least as many mistakes as the good guys (even when the Italians had better equipment and understanding of the art of maritime and underwater combat).

Patrick K. O'Donnell had talked with a lot of those men that survived the war and had been a friend with some of them. A lot of the stories he tells are probably heard here for the first time. Because this book is not one cohesive story - it is more a string of happenings and glimpses. And as it is the story of the people, it covers their stories through prisons and camps, trips around the world and decision that change the world. It remains too shallow in places- I wish there was more depth to a lot of those stories - but it is an entertaining read for the most part.

If you expect a history book this is not for you - it is more a journalistic account than a historical research. Which does not mean that O'Donnell does not know what he is talking about - but he keeps it light. I wish he had gone deeper but even as it is, it ended up being a pretty readable book. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Mar 4, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306821729, Hardcover)

Beginning in the summer of 1942, an extraordinary group of men—among them a dentist, a Hollywood movie star, an archaeologist, California surfers, and even former enemies of the Allies—united to form an exceptional unit that would forge the capabilities of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams. Known as the Maritime Unit, it comprised America’s first swimmer-commandos, an elite breed of warrior-spies who were decades ahead of their time when they created the tactics, technology, and philosophy that inspire today’s Navy SEALs.

The pioneering men of the Maritime Unit conducted some of the most daring operations behind enemy lines and even survived one of the Third Reich’s infamous concentration camps. But after the war, their astonishing record of activity and achievement was classified, lost, and largely forgotten...until now. In First SEALs, Patrick K. O’Donnell unearths their incredible history—one of the greatest untold stories of World War II.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:35 -0400)

"The rich history of SEAL Team 6 that captured Osama bin Laden stretches back to World War II when US intelligence officials formed a team of special-operation combat swimmers. Under the leadership of Captain Jack Taylor, a California dentist, the Maritime Unit (MU) started training in 1942, learning underwater and covert operation techniques, as it developed an array of James Bond-like new equipment, including the recently invented underwater breathing apparatus, limpet mines, silent electric motors, and a collapsible eight-foot submarine. Finally deployed in 1944, the unit conducted some of the most daring, behind-enemy-lines operations of the war in Italy, where they linked up with fearsome Italian commandos. In one of its greatest coups, they captured the plans--and the architect--of Germany's famed Gothic Line, resulting in the Eighth Army's partial breakthrough. Filled with unforgettable characters, including the unit's charismatic leader, a Hollywood star, and a gritty New York City gas station owner, The First SEALs cinematically narrates one of the greatest untold stories of World War II and links their storied past to today's gloried US Navy SEALs"--… (more)

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