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

Bantam. Jul. 2021. 640p. ISBN 9780553392197. $30. HIST
The culmination of an eight-year project, former navy SEAL Milligan’s first book is a study of how and why the United States Navy became the host service to one of the most prominent special operations units in the world. Beginning early in the Second World War and ending with the close of the Vietnam War, the author describes the planning, execution, and aftermath of special missions involving various units from the different branches of service. The text emphasizes successful navy-sponsored operations vs. shortcomings and failures those of other operations saw. A decent number of relevant photos are interspersed throughout the text. While on the whole an acceptable first book, there are some noticeable flaws. First, the jarring use of racist terms, which are transcribed within direct quotes from contemporary individuals, seems inappropriate and adds nothing to the story. In addition, the text is navy-centric and at times dismissive of other branches; Army Special Forces in Vietnam are described as “third world diplomats and well diggers.”
VERDICT Rich in action-packed narrative but light on analysis, this book is recommended for readers looking for a navy-focused popular history of special operations warfare.
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