Books by Orr Kelly

Released: Feb. 1, 1995

These interviews with veterans of the US Navy's SEALs comprise an anecdotal, slackly organized, and often unpleasant oral history of the frogmen and ``special warfare.'' Veteran military reporter Kelly (King of the Killing Zone, 1989, etc.) seems to have more interest in the ``warrior'' spirit than he does in placing these men in a historical and military context. The SEALs (for SEa, Air, Land) have their origins in the Navy's WW II underwater demolition teams and the special forces naval combat demolition unit. Formal training for SEALs units began in 1962. According to Capt. Ronald Yeaw, SEALs differ from other fighting men and ``other mortals'' because they ``really, really, really want to go into life-threatening, extremely dangerous situations.'' ``It is better,'' he says, ``to die than look bad or lose.'' Not all of Kelly's subjects speak with such childish bravado. Some, like Norman Olson, found something beyond the glory of combat and speak with a zest for their experiences. A pioneer in the use of the parachute by Navy frogmen, Olson later founded demonstration teams called the Chuting Stars and Leap Frogs. He recalls, interestingly, test jumps in 1958 to learn if scuba equipment could withstand the impact. Kelly accepts without comment one frogman's horrible story of a sweep of a Vietnamese village during which he discovered an old man with a bad leg wound. ``I had to kill him,'' he says, and claims that he first injected him with morphine and then stabbed him to death. There are more laudable and pertinent recollections, such as those concerning the SEALs' involvement in the 1983 Grenada invasion and a planned SEALs operation to disable the Achille Lauro when it was hijacked in 1985. If one can get past the gung-ho nonsense, these men sometimes make illuminating, if informal, contributions to naval and military history. (b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >