I’m still posting book reviews from my Memorial Day Weekend.
Patrick K O Donnell. First Seals: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, October 28th, 2014. 320 pp.
The title of the book could be somewhat misleading. One might think this is a book on the early history of the US Navy SEALs which began its origin with the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) during World War Two. Typically most books on the history of the SEALs trace their lineage to the UDTs. Instead this book focuses the Office of Strategic Services’ Maritime Unit (MU). After getting over the initial expectation that this was going to be about the SEALs or the UDT the book turned out to be an amazing account of the men and the operations of Maritime Unit that was much ahead in their days of Naval commando operations even compated to their contemporary UDTs with the MU’s advance technological breathing masks, sea-to-land direct actions, parachuting capabilities, support for partisan fighters behind enemy lines, sabotage and advanced reconnaissance. Like the modern SEALs of today the role of those in the MU were at times blurred from land and sea operations. This book tells the incredible stories of these men that read like a novel. The most harrowing account in the book is the story of Navy Lt. Jack Taylor who was captured by the Nazis deep within enemy lines and was sent to a concentration camp. Taylor was marked for death many times by the Nazis but camp clerks who were made up of prisoners themselves kept on erasing his name and/or going in line ahead of him whenever the Nazis gathered people to be killed. Many of these European prisoners wanted Taylor to be alive so that America and Western Europe would have an American witness of the Camp’s atrocities and therefore convinced the West that the Holocaust was real. It made me tear up seeing how those in the Concentration Camp can act almost like animals in survival mode but somehow in the midst of the all the salvage brutality the all too human concern for truth and justice manage to come out. This is an incredibly good book.