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5.0 out of 5 starsHistory that reads like a novel.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 7, 2021
A novelist could not invent a tale as exciting as this one. A remarkable book by any measure. A long book that doesn't feel long. This is the definitive origin story of Navy SEAL units now protecting us from terrorists and hostile states. This is something here for everyone.
Having read just about every book in the author's references, and then some, I'd say this a very thought-provoking book, not just on the origins of NSW, but of "Special Ops" in general. I have long thought the obvious (you would think) that the Jarheads SHOULD have had this mission, i.e., anything to do with sneaky naval stuff, but the author hits the nail on the head, with not only the Corp's refusal to fill this gap, but also the Army (and I guess we shouldn't leave out the Airforce). He thesis is very valid (not that he a genius just cuz I happen to agree with him), in that the services who should have been developing these types of capabilities, refused to do so, due to their bureaucratic inertias, biases, and just out-right bull-headeness. And I am referring to any type of, what is known today, as Special Warfare/Special Operations. Again to address the Jarhead's failures, it was their mantra for decades that every Marine is "special" or a "raider" or whatever you want to come up with. Therefore, no mission is outside their skillsets. And of course, no other title or honorarium required. We know that's complete and utter bullshit, but they managed to bury their heads in the sand for so long, until it became so ridiculous to repeat, and then finally joined SOCOM.
But that is just one piece of this story. Many other services, including the Army, and of course, the OSS and CIA, refused to form units capable of doing these things, or when they did, did such a shit job, that it was too easy to disband them. And then scramble to establish ad-hoc units at the next crisis. And that is the crux of the author's thesis, in that due to the other players refusing to address the holes or gaps in our capabilities, the way was left open for forward-thinking sailors to fill the gaps, even though not technically within their remit. And this is story told with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek, which makes it very entertaining reading, especially if you've ever been in the service, and/or suffered through all those self-serving biographies of all those people claiming credit everything but the sun rising. This is more like the senior enlisted man, who was there, setting you down and explaining what REALLY happened. So I would say this is must-reading for any serious student of miliary history, especially if our spotty history of fielding special ops teams is an area of interest.
And finally getting back to the actual Teams history. For the money I think you're getting the best chronicling of the actual facts that you are likely to find. Especially concerning the first Seal Team deployments to Vietnam. The author has a very good, no-bullshit way of explaining things that is sorely missing from most histories. Highly recommended.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I first heard of it on Jocko Willink's podcast last week; after 15 minutes, I paused the podcast, ordered the Kindle edition, and began reading it that night. Mr. Milligan is a first-rate historian and a great storyteller. Best of all, he doesn't focus only on the SEAL lineage but honestly assesses the foibles, failures AND successes of U.S. special operations since WWII. This is a clearly drawn history of the heroes in all branches whose DNA lies in the establishment and success of the SEALs.
So far enjoying the read and liked the authors interview on "Team House" BUT.., I've been trying to reach him via TH's Dave to give him valuable data on a huge beginning to the SEALS he has left out or probably not aware of.
As an Army Infantry man I've always wondered why the Navy had an organization like the SEALs who functioned as direct action infantry troops.... This book will enlighten you. See how politics really drive our military into what they are. In a perfect world, the Marine Corps should have been the Navy Seals... it's what they were designed for. But Politicians and blame heavy senior military generals/admirals are to blame for putting into motion a massive void that somehow the Navy was able to fill. Thank God these guys stuck to their guns. Because the politicians and senior general staff of the military were too weak to do so.
By Water Beneath The Walls is an outstanding historical account of the search for a Scout / Reconnaisance / Raider capable unit throughout the three separate Services of the U S Military, culminating with the founding and evolution of what would become today's Sea, Air, and Land Teams of the United States Navy. Mr Milligan has a gift for forming the perfect word picture metaphor for planting an image in the reader's brain. Highly recommended.