With today’s release of Zero Dark Thirty, the fictional portrayal of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. and last year’s launch of a first hand account of the raid that got the wanted terrorist, No Easy Day, the shadowy manhunt and assault has been thrust into the spotlight. The book’s release was not without controversy in a charged political environment, as well as cries of betrayal of secrecy from the community which former U.S. Navy SEAL Mark Owen served in.
However, strip away the noise, the haranguing and political posturing, what about the book itself? Having read dozens of contemporary military biographies and histories we cannot think of a single instance where information revealed wasn’t well known by scholars on the subject or easily accessible through magazines or industry journals. And No Easy Day falls squarely in that no great secret revealed class. What it does do is provide a clear, first-person account of the most momentous American history event of this century thus far. Co-written with journalist Kevin Maurer, No Easy Day follows not only Owen’s mission to find Bin Laden, but also his journey from novice SEAL to experienced member of the Navy’s most elite counter-terrorist team, DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six.
Owen and Maurer guide the reader through the nuts and bolts of selection to DEVGRU, the men that inhabit the legendary special operations team and the missions that drove the Alaskan-born SEAL from Virginia to every violent far-flung corner of the world. Owen gives the reader brief glimpses into the staggering operational tempo he and fellow Tier One operators have endured since 9/11. We fly from Iraq to Afghanistan, fight and withdraw, train for days, weary and worn, to then turn back around and ramp up for the next mission.
No Easy Day is also a work-man like look at the tip of the special operations spear here in the United States. It portrays the men of DEVGRU not as super human beings, glamorized by the familiarity lacking mainstream media or romanticized by the fans of both genders, but as blue collar soldiers. Men who have lockers filled with the most high-tech, yet deadly,and expensive tools fielded today. They love Taco Bell and obsess over the finest brewed coffee. They are the best soldiers we have and they normally inhabit the shadows. Yet when the burden of history, like that of the Bin Laden raid, weighs down it may be time to partially pull back the curtain for a view into their world.
So, you are curious about the Bin Laden raid itself and how much is revealed in the book? Well, it clears up some details and provides a methodical account, taking you through the days before to the thunderous accolades after. But it’s the intense lead up, the heavy training, the clear all obstacles efforts undertaken to ensure this operation would take place. The training, the dozens of walk through, the what ifs gamed out to the end, all provide the most insight into the historical event that would follow. And its in the hours before lifting off in the special operations Black Hawks do we see the gravity of the mission and how it effects not only Owen, but his fellow SEALs.
Overall, No Easy Day is a good first look at Bin Laden’s demise. And perhaps in the coming years equally as informed works on the operation will emerge and not be weighed down with political posturing and angry rhetoric. We have been given a rare opportunity to hear about this special moment in history and to get it from the point of view of one who was there. Think of historical events in the past 100 years that have become almost mythic, dogged by conspiracy and wild counter claims. No Easy Day provides the first data point for the history of the coming generations.
No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer was purchased for review by the Boston Book Bums.