Book Review: Lone Survivor

Finally, we were on the way to our real landing zone. The final call came – “Redwing is a go!” The landing controller was calling the shots: “Ten minutes out… Three minutes out… One minute… Thirty seconds!… Let’s go!”

One night in June of 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs embarked on Operation Redwing. They were dispatched from their base in northern Afghanistan to the mountainous Pakistani border, where they had orders to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader, who was known to be hiding in a Taliban stronghold. Less than 24 hours later, only one of those
Navy SEALs was left alive.

Lone Survivor is the story of Leading Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, one of the four SEALs engaged in Operation Redwing – and the only SEAL to make it out alive. In an honest and straight-forward style, Luttrell takes the reader through the bloody, heart-stopping events that took place during the ill-fated mission that resulted in the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history.

The phrase ‘page-turner’ is much overused these days, and many books sporting that lofty praise are anything but. However, when I say that Lone Survivor is a page-turner, I mean it is a page-turner. Every time I picked it up, I inevitably had a hard time putting it down. Yeah, it’s that good.

At times, I had to remind myself that I was reading a true story, and not some novel detailing the unbelievable exploits of James Bond. Consider: Luttrell endures a vicious firefight with an overwhelming enemy force, and miraculously escapes. Over the next four days, injured and presumed dead, he kills six al Qaeda assassins sent to finish him off, is shot multiple times, blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, and crawls seven miles before being sheltered by a Pashtun tribe, who risk their lives to protect him from the Taliban. Impressed?

Aside from being a powerful narrative about Navy SEAL life, the events of Operation Redwing, and modern warfare in general, Lone Survivor is the story of manly men. Brave men. Honorable men. Patriots in every sense of the word. Men who were not afraid to lay down their lives for their country and for each other. We need more men like that.

Luttrell’s story comes highly recommended by me, with a couple of cautions…

First, I must warn you that the language in this book is very heavy. I counted upwards of forty strong obscenities, as well as other swear words, including numerous uses of God’s name in vain. Thus, I am extremely hesitant to recommend it to anyone under 17.

Second, don’t read this if you have an aversion to political-incorrectness or liberal-bashing, because there’s plenty of both in Lone Survivor. I had a hard time not cheering when I read passages like this one:

It’s been an insidious progression, the criticisms of the U.S. Armed Forces from politicians and the liberal media, which knows nothing of combat, nothing of our training, and nothing of the mortal dangers we face out there on the front line. Each of the six of us in that aircraft en route to Afghanistan had constantly in the back of our minds the ever-intrusive rules of engagement.

These are drawn up for us to follow by some politician sitting in some distant committee room in Washington, D.C. And that’s a very long way from the battlefield, where a sniper’s bullet can blast your head, where the slightest mistake can cost your life, where you need to kill your enemy before he kills you.

And these ROE are very specific: we may not open fire until we are fired upon or have positively identified our enemy and have proof of his intentions. Now, that’s all very gallant. But how about a group of U.S. soldiers who have been on patrol for several days; have dodged rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs; have sustained casualties; and who are very nearly exhausted and maybe slightly scared?

How about when a bunch of guys wearing colored towels around their heads and brandishing AK-47s come charging over the horizon straight toward you? Do you wait for them to start killing your team, or do you mow the bastards down before they get a chance to do so?

That situation might look simple in Washington, where the human rights of terrorists are often given high priority. And I am certain liberal politicians would defend their position to the death. Because everyone knows the liberals have never been wrong about anything. You can ask them. Anytime.

You tell ’em, Marcus.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Lone Survivor”

  1. Excellent review son! It’s sad, but the language encountered in the book is the “norm” in military life. And before coming to Christ I never questioned it. Now it makes me cringe and stings my heart. Just don’t forget that there are God-honoring men in the military … yet when facing incredible stress in combat, it is even more imperative that our “inner conversation” be firmly rooted in God’s Word. Only then is there any chance that what comes out of our mouths in moments of stress will be edifying to those around us and pleasing to God our Father. Now I have to read this book!!!

  2. I don’t think I’ll be reading, even though I’m over 17. That much language would annoy me to the point that I would lose sight of the story. If he ever publishes a sanitized version . . .

    1. It was pretty disappointing to have to muck through all the coarse language. I’ll be taking a sharpie marker to my copy of the book, just in case anybody else in my family wants to read it… :)

  3. This is one of the most amazing combat memoirs I’ve ever read (and I’ve read quite a few). The language question is indeed tricky, but with some hesitation on that point I would say that this book should be considered a must-read for American adults. I could not help getting teary-eyed as I read it, it’s so powerful. I think it’s also important to mention that a substantial part of the book is about the SEAL training process, which is almost as incredible to read about as the combat itself. Our warriors deserve our gratitude.
    You write good reviews.

  4. This is a pretty old blogpost, but I just came across it now.

    I read Lone Survivor when I was 11 years old; it was, and remains, my favourite book. I reccommended it to my friend as soon as I was finished it, warning her about the language, and it was her favourite book also.

    Being religious, I did feel it was too bad that he used the Lord`s name in vain so often, but he was also religious (You hear of this throughout the entire book.) It is, as Mountain Man said, often the norm in military life, so…

    Anyways, it was a great review for an awesome book!

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