The First Seals by Patrick K O’Donnell
I have read a number of books about special operations history, it is a kind of a hobby. Some of these were personal memoirs and others books about unit histories. The First Seals certainly ranks as one of my favorites. It tells a believable story that is still amazing. And it does it without too much machismo or chest pounding. It gives a broad history, but also focuses enough on specific individuals that you can understand the characters. After reading this one, I want to dig into the rest of O’Donnell’s works.
If you like books about military history, read this book.
If you like books about World War II, you will love the the back story. There are aspects of the war told in this book that I haven’t read anywhere else. Who knew that the Italians were the best in underwater demolition?
If you like books about sabotage, espionage, and partisan warfare, read this book.
If you like books about entrepreneurship, and people creating new things… If you like the books about people solving problems and taking risks, read this book. Not all creative people work in business.
If you’re one of those people who likes fiction, but thinks that truth is often better than fiction, you will enjoy this book.
Toward the end of the book when Lt. Taylor (one of the central figures in the story) is rescued from the Mauthausen concentration camp, I teared up. If I hand’t been driving, I would have cried. It is a great story not only of the units and tactics that would become the US Navy Seals, but a great example of American Heroism in the fight against fascism. What is amazing is that so many of the other prisoners sacrificed their lives to keep O’Donnell alive because they knew that the world would be more likely to believe an American officer. Taylor would later serve a key role in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
You can watch original footage of Jack Taylor’s interview the the US forces liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. He begins talking at 50 seconds into the video.
I first heard of the book in an article by O’Donnell in National Review that you can read here. “Christmas with America’s First Seal in A Gestapo Prison.”