American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

by Chris Kyle

ISBN: 9780062082350

Publisher William Morrow

Published in Biographies & Memoirs/Memoirs

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Book Description

He is the deadliest American sniper ever, called "the devil" by the enemies he hunted and "the legend" by his Navy SEAL brothers.

From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyles kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan ("the devil") and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle earned legendary status among his fellow SEALs, Marines, and U.S. Army soldiers, whom he protected with deadly accuracy from rooftops and stealth positions. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle¿s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

A native Texan who learned to shoot on childhood hunting trips with his father, Kyle was a champion saddle-bronc rider prior to joining the Navy. After 9/11, he was thrust onto the front lines of the War on Terror, and soon found his calling as a world-class sniper who performed best under fire. He recorded a personal-record 2,100-yard kill shot outside Baghdad; in Fallujah, Kyle braved heavy fire to rescue a group of Marines trapped on a street; in Ramadi, he stared down insurgents with his pistol in close combat. Kyle talks honestly about the pain of war - of twice being shot and experiencing the tragic deaths of two close friends.

American Sniper also honors Kyle's fellow warriors, who raised hell on and off the battlefield. And in moving first-person accounts throughout, Kyle's wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their marriage and children, as well as on Chris.

Adrenaline-charged and deeply personal, American Sniper is a thrilling eyewitness account of war that only one man could tell.


Sample Chapter

Bustin’ Broncs and Other Ways of Having Fun Just a Cowboy at Heart

Every story has a beginning.

Mine starts in north-central Texas. I grew up in small towns where I learned the importance of family and traditional values, like patriotism, self-reliance, and watching out for your family and neighbors. I’m proud to say that I still try to live my life according to those values. I have a strong sense of justice.

It’s pretty much black-and-white. I don’t see too much gray. I think it’s important to protect others. I don’t mind hard work. At the same time, I like to have fun. Life’s too short not to.

I was raised with, and still believe in, the Christian faith. If I had to order my priorities, they would be God, Country, Family.

There might be some debate on where those last two fall—these days I’ve come around to believing that Family may, under some circumstances, outrank Country. But it’s a close race.

I’ve always loved guns, always loved hunting, and in a way I guess you could say I’ve always been a cowboy. I was riding horses from the time I could walk. I wouldn’t call myself a true cowboy today, because it’s been a long time since I’ve worked a ranch, and I’ve probably lost a lot of what I had in the saddle. Still, in my heart if I’m not a SEAL I’m a cowboy, or should be. Problem is, it’s a hard way to make a living when you have a family.

I don’t remember when I started hunting, but it would have been when I was very young. My family had a deer lease a few miles from our house, and we would hunt every winter. (For you Yankees: a deer lease is a property where the owner rents or leases hunting rights out for a certain amount of time; you pay your money and you get the right to go out and hunt. Y’all probably have different arrangements where you live, but this one is pretty common down here.) Besides deer, we’d hunt turkey, doves, quail—whatever was in season. “We” meant my mom, my dad, and my brother, who’s four years younger than me. We’d spend the weekends in an old RV trailer. It wasn’t very big, but we were a tight little family and we had a lot of fun.

My father worked for Southwestern Bell and AT&T—they split and then came back together over the length of his career. He was a manager, and as he’d get promoted we’d have to move every few years. So in a way I was raised all over Texas.

Even though he was successful, my father hated his job. Not the work, really, but what went along with it. The bureaucracy. The fact that he had to work in an office. He really hated having to wear a suit and tie every day.

“I don’t care how much money you get,” my dad used to tell me. “It’s not worth it if you’re not happy.” That’s the most valuable piece of advice he ever gave me: Do what you want in life. To this day I’ve tried to follow that philosophy.

In a lot of ways my father was my best friend growing up, but he was able at the same time to combine that with a good dose of fatherly discipline. There was a line and I never wanted to cross it.

I got my share of whuppin’s (you Yankees will call ’em spankings) when I deserved it, but not to excess and never in anger. If my dad was mad, he’d give himself a few minutes to calm down before administering a controlled whuppin’—followed by a hug.

To hear my brother tell it, he and I were at each others throats most of the time. I don’t know if that’s true, but we did have our share of tussles. He was younger and smaller than me, but he could give as good he got, and he’d never give up. He’s a tough character and one of my closest friends to this day. We gave each other hell, but we also had a lot of fun and always knew we had each others back.

Our high school used to have a statue of a panther in the front lobby. We had a tradition each year where seniors would try and put incoming freshmen on the panther as a hazing ritual. Freshmen, naturally, resisted. I had graduated when my brother became a freshman, but I came back on his first day of school and offered a hundred dollars to anyone who could sit him on that statue.

I still have that hundred dollars.

While I got into a lot of fights, I didn’t start most of them. My dad made it clear I’d get a whuppin’ if he found out I started a fight. We were supposed to be above that.

Defending myself was a different story. Protecting my brother was even better—if someone tried to pick on him, I’d lay them out.

I was the only one allowed to whip him.

Somewhere along the way, I started sticking up for younger kids who were getting picked on. I felt I had to look out for them. It became my duty.

Maybe it began because I was looking for an excuse to fight without getting into trouble. I think there was more to it than that; I think my father’s sense of justice and fair play influenced me more than I knew at the time, and even more than I can say as an adult.

But whatever the reason, it sure gave me plenty of opportunities for getting into scrapes.

My family had a deep faith in God. My dad was a deacon, and my mom taught Sunday school. I remember a stretch when I was young when we would go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. Still, we didn’t consider ourselves overly religious, just good people who believed in God and were involved in our church. Truth is, back then I didn’t like going a lot of the time.

My dad worked hard. I suspect it was in his blood—his father was a Kansas farmer, and those people worked hard. One job was never enough for my dad—he had a feed store for a bit when I was growing up, and we had a pretty modest-sized ranch we all worked to keep going. He’s retired now, officially, but you can still find him working for a local veterinarian when he’s not tending to things on his small ranch.

My mother was also a really hard worker. When my brother and I were old enough to be on our own, she went to work as a counselor at a juvenile detention center. It was a rough job, dealing with difficult kids all day long, and eventually she moved on. She’s retired now, too, though she keeps herself busy with part-time work and her grandchildren.

Ranching helped fill out my school days. My brother and I would have our different chores after school and on the weekends: feed and look after the horses, ride through the cattle, inspect the fences.

Cattle always give you problems. I’ve been kicked in the leg, kicked in the chest, and yes, kicked where the sun doesn’t shine. Never been kicked in the head, though. That might have set me straight.

Growing up, I raised steers and heifers for FFA, Future Farmers of America. (The name is now officially The National FFA Organization.) I loved FFA and spent a lot of time grooming and showing cattle, even though dealing with the animals could be frustrating. I’d get pissed off at them and think I was king of the world. When all else failed, I was known to whack ’em upside their huge hard heads to knock some sense into them. Twice I broke my hand.

Like I said, getting hit in the skull may have set me straight. I kept my head when it came to guns, but I was still passionate about them. Like a lot of boys, my first “weapon” was a Daisy multi-pump BB rifle—the more you pumped, the more powerful your shot. Later on, I had a CO2-powered revolver that looked like the old 1860 Peacemaker Colt model. I’ve been partial to Old West firearms ever since, and after getting out of the Navy, I’ve started collecting some very fine-looking replicas. My favorite is an 1861 Colt Navy Revolver replica manufactured on the old lathes.

I got my first real rifle when I was seven or eight years old. It was a bolt-action 30-06. It was a solid gun—so “grown-up” that it scared me to shoot at first. I came to love that gun, but as I recall what I really lusted after was my brother’s Marlin 30-30. It was lever action, cowboy-style.

Yes, there was a theme there.

You’re not a cowboy until you can break a horse. I started learning when I was in high school; at first, I didn’t know a whole heck of a lot. It was just: Hop on them and ride until they quit bucking. Do your best to stay on.

I learned much more as I got older, but most of my early education came on the job—or on the horse, so to speak. The horse would do something, and I would do something. Together, we came to an understanding. Probably the most important lesson was patience. I wasn’t a patient person by nature. I had to develop that talent working with horses; it would end up being extremely valuable when I became a sniper—and even when I was courting my wife.

Unlike cattle, I never found a reason to smack a horse. Ride them till I wore them out, sure. Stay on them till they realized who was boss, absolutely. But hit a horse? Never saw a reason good enough. Horses are smarter than cattle. You can work a horse into cooperating if you give it enough time and patience.

I don’t know if I exactly had a talent for breaking horses or not, but being around them fed my appetite for all things cowboy. So, looking back, it isn’t very surprising that I got involved in rodeo competitions while still in school. I played sports in high school— baseball and football—but nothing compared with the excitement of the rodeo.

Every high school has its different cliques: jocks, nerds, and so on. The crew I was hanging out with were the “ropers.” We had the boots and jeans, and in general looked and acted like cowboys.

I wasn’t a real roper—I couldn’t have lassoed a calf worth a lick at that point—but that didn’t stop me from getting involved in rodeos around age sixteen.

I started out by riding bulls and horses at a small local place where you paid twenty bucks to ride as long as you could stay on.

You would have to supply your own gear—spurs, chaps, your rigging. There was nothing fancy about it: you got on and fell off, and got on again. Gradually, I stayed on longer and longer, and finally got to the point where I felt confident enough to enter some small local rodeos.

Bustin’ a bull is a little different than taming a horse. They buck forward, but their skin is so loose that when they’re going forward, you not only go forward but you slip side to side. And bulls can really spin. Let me put it this way: staying on top of a bull is not an easy matter.

I rode bulls for about a year, without a ton of success. Wising up, I went to horses and ended up trying saddle bronc bustin’. This is the classic event where you not only have to stay on the horse for eight seconds, but also do so with style and finesse. For some reason, I did a lot better in this event than the others, and so I kept with it for quite a while, winning my share of belt buckles and more than one fancy saddle. Not that I was a champion, mind you, but I did well enough to spread some prize money around the bar.

I also got some attention from the buckle bunnies, rodeo’s version of female groupies. It was all good. I enjoyed going from city to city, traveling, partying, and riding.

Call it the cowboy lifestyle.

I continued riding after I graduated high school in 1992 and started going to college at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. For those of you who don’t know it, Tarleton was founded in 1899 and joined the Texas A&M University system in 1917. They’re the third largest non-land-grant agriculture university in the country. The school has a reputation for turning out excellent ranch and farm managers as well as agricultural education teachers.

At the time, I was interested in becoming a ranch manager.

Before enrolling, though, I had given some thought to the military.

My mom’s dad had been an Army Air Force pilot, and for a while I thought of becoming an aviator. Then I considered becoming a Marine—I wanted to see real action. I liked the idea of fighting. I also heard a bit about special operations, and thought about joining Marine Recon, which is the Corps’ elite special warfare unit.

But my family, Mom especially, wanted me to go to college. Eventually, I saw it their way: I decided I would go to school first, then join the military. Heck, the way I looked at it, doing that meant I could party for a while before getting down to business.

I was still doing rodeo, and getting fairly good at it. But my career ended abruptly around the end of my freshman year, when a bronco flipped over on me in a chute at a competition in Rendon, Texas. The guys watching me couldn’t open up the chute because of the way the horse came down, so they had to pull him back over on top of me. I still had one foot in the stirrup, and was dragged and kicked so hard I lost consciousness. I woke up in a life-flight helicopter flying to the hospital. I ended up with pins in my wrists, a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, and a bruised lung and kidney.

Probably the worst part of the recovery was the dang pins. They were actually big screws about a quarter-inch thick.


Excerpted from "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" by Chris Kyle. Copyright © 0 by Chris Kyle. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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