An eye-widening, fascinating memoir of a young man’s sentimental education in the fine arts of infiltrating “denied areas,” blowing things up, slashing a few throats, and otherwise visiting mayhem on the bad guys.
Now a Hollywood screenwriter (The Jackal, Hard Target, and, of course, Navy SEALS), 40-something Pfarrer had the usual longhaired, dope-smoking, misspent youth of the ’70s. When his Navy officer dad exiled him to military school, he became born-again tough, and, after trying his hand at civilian life, decided to sign up for the service with the demand that he be put on a SEAL team. For his sins, he got the assignment, enduring training meant to weed out all but a small percentage of applicants. Those who survive spend the rest of their careers being constantly tested, evaluated, and sent into dangerous places. Pfarrer explains that SEALs are something like the Army’s Green Berets—only, of course, tougher and better in every way—but far fewer in number: “although the exact number of SEALs operational at any one time is classified,” he gamely writes, “I can say that our organization is considerably smaller than the Hells Angels.” (Later he writes that the total number of SEALs to have served since WWII is under 10,000.) The operations Pfarrer participated in and here describes are certainly hair-raising, whether storming the airplane carrying the Palestinian hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro (and nearly provoking a firefight with Italian troops in the bargain) or working behind the lines in “Wallyworld,” slang for Lebanon, where, he writes, “we took what pleasure we could in not being shelled every day.” Pfarrer writes proudly but without false bravado, even as he admits that he feels no guilt for having killed. “There are some people,” he grimly notes, “who need to go to hell and stay there.”
Frank, well-written, and memorable. A companion to Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead as a warts-and-all, unromantic look at life under arms.