American Sniper

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You wouldn’t know it by talking to the soft-spoken, invariably polite Texan, who addresses his interviewer as “sir,” but Chris Kyle is the deadliest man in American military history. The now-retired Navy SEAL sniper has 255 kills to his credit, 160 of which have been confirmed by the Department of Defense. That distinction earned him the nickname “the legend” among his fellow SEALs, Marines and soldiers, while Iraqi insurgents, for the same reason, dubbed him “the Devil of Ramadi.” Kyle’s deadly accuracy is only part of his story, however. In his ten years of service in the Navy SEALs, from 1999 to 2009, Kyle served four tours in Iraq, was shot on six occasions and involved in six different IED explosions. A fearsome marksman, he was a constant threat to insurgents, even recording a kill from 2,100 yards away. For his service, Kyle was awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. Kyle joined FrontPage to discuss his new book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

FP: The Pentagon credits you with 160 kills as a sniper, which is more than any other American service member, past or present. In American Sniper, you write that the overall number is not important to you. But are there any kills that stand out in your mind as especially significant or memorable?

CK: Probably the most memorable was in Ramadi. My SEAL platoon was providing cover for Marines as they searched abandoned houses for insurgents. That’s when they came under attack. Soon they were engaged in a draining firefight. I was in a building about 200 yards away, trying to catch out the bad guys whenever they came into view. At one point in the battle, the Marines moved out to clear some houses. It was then that I saw an insurgent armed with a rocket-propelled grenade emerge and head toward them. I’m not sure if the RPG would have gone off, but if it had, the Marines would have been in trouble. They couldn’t see him coming. I took my shot, right over the head of the Marines, and took him down. With all the shooting going on, the Marines didn’t know what was happening. One of the Marines got on the radio and asked why the hell I was shooting at them. I got on the radio and responded, “I’m not shooting at you dumbass, I’m shooting over your head! Look down the street!” Afterwards, the Marines were asking who had been shooting over them. I spoke up and said it was me. Then one of the Marines took his gloves off. He was the one who I’d called a dumbass on the radio. I figured I was in trouble at that point. Instead he said, “I want to shake your hand. You saved my ass out there!” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more grateful Marine.

FP: Iraqi insurgents nicknamed you “Al-Shaitan Ramad,” or the “Devil of Ramadi” and offered an $80,000 bounty for killing or capturing you. How did that nickname come about and how did it make you feel to be singled out with a price on your head?

CK: It made me feel pretty good. So much of warfare is getting into the psyche of your enemy. That’s why the military invests so much in psychological operations. When they put a price on my head, I thought, “I’m actually having an effect on the war.” As for the devil part, I think it was a confirmation that I was a pretty lethal sniper. I took at it as proof that I was raining devastation down on the enemy. The only thing with that is the insurgents put out a picture so I could be identified. But when I saw the picture, it turned out to actually be a buddy of mine. I thought, “Good, I’ll let him take the rap!”

FP: You write that you have a clear conscience about doing your job as a sniper. Indeed, you wish that you had killed more insurgents while in the line of duty. In our politically correct age, that might sound like a shocking admission. Can you elaborate on what you mean? What is it about the day-to-day work of gunning down enemy insurgents that inspired you, that drove you on?

CK: Well, like you said earlier, I didn’t care about numbers. It’s not about how many insurgents I killed. It’s not killing for the sake of killing. I saw my role more as a guardian angel if you will. I was protecting the guys on the ground. I saw guys go down under insurgent fire, and my only thought was to stop that from happening. I still wish I could have done more. I wish I could have taken out more of the enemy before they had a chance to fire a shot. If I had managed to do that, maybe more Americans would have come home. And not just American troops. There were also other coalition forces, plus Iraqi civilians that we were trying to protect. That responsibility is what inspired me.

FP: As you say, a key job of a sniper is protecting his fellow soldiers from enemies of whose presence they are often unaware.  How did you cope with the life-or-death pressure of being your comrades’ crucial and sometimes last line of defense?

CK: To be honest, it really gets to you. Seeing guys come home in body bags brings you down. At one point, while serving in Iraq, I called my wife back home on a satellite phone and I just broke down crying. I felt that I hadn’t done enough, that more guys would have come home if I had done more. But that’s also what kept me going. Whether it was the guys on the left or the guys on my right, my job was to make sure they came home safe. That’s what being a sniper is all about.

FP: Your preferred weapon reportedly is the .300 Winchester Magnum custom sniper rifle. Why that particular rifle?

CK: At the time I was serving, it was the most accurate rifle available to me.

FP: Your most storied kill happened in Baghdad’s Sadr City in 2008, when you killed an insurgent armed with a rocket launcher from over 2,100 yards away just as he approached an Army convoy. What does it take to be that accurate from that distance?

CK: A lot of luck. I got very lucky on that shot. To hit a guy from that distance, everything has to fall into place. You have to concentrate. There can be no vibration in your rifle. You have to calculate the wind speed and the wind direction and control for the effect that would have on the trajectory of your bullet. You have to adjust for elevation. You have to control your heart rate – it has to be slow and steady – and squeeze easy on the trigger. As far as that shot goes, as I write in the book, “God blew on that bullet and hit him.”

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  • mrbean

    Liberal Female Reporter: "Tell me, as a Marine Sniper, what do you feel when you shoot someone with that big 50 calibre rifle and kill him?"

    Marine Sniper: " Just a little recoil m'am."

    Be patient with advertizement, enter your birth date, sound on and full screen ENJOY

  • kongMing

    That's awesome. Got to by the book.

    "…like a lion cornered round his young
    When hunters cross him, leading his cubs through woods –
    He ramps in all the pride of his power, bristling strength
    The heavy folds of his forehead frowning down his eyes"

  • gentlemanwarrior

    I salute you, Chris, for your service. You can't get ALL the bad guys, so take solace in the fact you DID make it possible for many of our military to make it back home to their loved ones. I'm a USN vet from the 70s and sometimes wish I were young again so I, too, could help out in the field.____Good job. I'll be picking your book up in the next few days. Any chance I could have you sign it if I send to you with return postage? :)

    • Asher

      We salute you Chris and Cheer for you…You Make Our Day!

  • Rifleman

    That .300 Win. is a fine round, long range, flat trajectory, and a heavy bullet. It's a substantial performance improvement over the venerable old .30-06, and would be my first choice in that line of work. I've been hearing about our snipers saving a lot of lives and monkey wrenching enemy plans.__ I imagine controlling my heart rate would be the hardest part. They've found that good long distance shooters squeeze off their rounds between heartbeats.

    • Stephen_Brady

      The very best snipers are those who can account for every factor which affects the placement of their shot. The .50 has such a long range, that you've even got to take into consideration the curvature of the earth. Wind … where you fire, between you and the target, and in the vicinity of the target, also has to be accounted for. And if you don't know the absolute ballistic characteristics of the round you're using, you will be dead meat.

      200 yards is interesting, and dangerous … to say the least … because the enemy can hit you back, if he zeroes in on your position. And the .300 Win is a fantastic rouond, I'll agree with that. But I get consistent groups using a Mosin-Nagant (manufactured in 1929), using handloaded casings and bullets (made by Norma), at 1000 meters.

      If you need a ballistic computer, you don't need to be a sniper!

  • mrbean

    "9/11 Truther" Jesse Ventura shot his mouth off to his fellow Seals got himself punched out. take my hat off to Chris for decking Jesse. Jesse showed up at a funeral for a decorated soldier and told these seals they "deserved" to lose a few guys over there. And this sniper did his job as an American and a solider and leveled him. In the future be careful who you mouth off around Jesse, this guys won't tolerate your nutcase crap.

    • Ennis

      He did? Is there a video of this? Or an article? Cos this is something I really want to see or hear more about.

    • Tim Nelson

      Jesse Ventura is an embarrassment to the state of Minnesota if not the human race. I'm embarrased to say I actually supported that jerk when he originally ran for Governor. (I didn't live in MN but I'm from there and have a million relatives and friends there). What a loon he turned out to be. I saw his moronic 9/11 junk and lost all respect.
      Then there's his pathetic TV show 'Conspiracy Theory' that panders to the conspiracy dopes with idiotic stuff on HAARP, (eek Earthquakes! Hurricanes! Mind Control!) Area 51… etc nauseum.
      I have nothing left for Ventura but contempt and disdain, as does the rest of my family who weathered his tenure as Governor.

  • BLJ

    This man is a true hero.

  • RoguePatriot6

    A fine article in tribute to a great American!!! I've done a few tours in Iraq and his service probably saved me along with some of my brothers and sisters in arms alot of grief.

  • xkn

    Now Chris, if you would just can the PC words like "insurgents" it would be great. You are not in military anymore, so you can speak straight!

  • Lady_Dr

    A great tribute to a real hero. Now what we need are snipers in the political arena to take out some 'insurgents' trying to bring down the greatest nation on earth.

    • Toa

      LOL- ditto that; we need about 1,000 Marco Rubio's for that task.

    • kafirman

      Yes. Political snipers, who can name the enemy, who can assert the superiority of natural law and its application to ALL men over the drivel of a mad man who sanctioned rape of non-muslims (e.g., Koran 4:3) and the religious subjugation of non-Muslims by an onerous tax "to make them feel subdued" (Koran 9:29), that is what we need. Unfortunately, Rubio is not even questioning the wisdom of granting 501(c)3 status to Islam yet.

  • davarino

    Got the book. Thanks Chris for your service. Live long and prosper.