Saturday, January 24, 2015

American Sniper: It's a Book Also

Update:  The "American Sniper" film has created a resurgence of interest in Chris Kyle's book "American Sniper," written in conjunction with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen.  The book is back on the NYT best seller lists. It's published by Morrow (I'm interested in such things). It's an exciting read, contains lots of information about modern military weapons systems and equipment. (also interest in such things as these).  Reminds me of the exciting "Black Hawk Down" though about a different military scenario. 

I’m planning to be in a movie theatre this afternoon to watch Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” The movie is a blockbuster, which was released at a time when blockbusters aren’t supposed to happen. I could write a bunch on why “American Sniper” has caused a great deal of Hollywood penis envy, but today I want to remind people that the movie came off of the “American Sniper” book written by the late Chris Kyle.

It’s not James Joyce but that is a good thing (no disrespect to James Joyce, a great writer) “American Sniper” is both readable and informative and “fun” for people who like to read Soldier of Fortune magazine. That would include types like me. I’m one of those screwed up neo-intellectuals who have morphed from blue-collar to whatever I am now. Here’s a clue: I’m always checking the air on my Ford F-150 pickup truck tires in case I have to move into battle position while taking Geritol or another old-age supplement. I go to the range as often as I can.  I do fitness drills, gym workouts, boxing exercises almost daily. I don’t know what I’m fighting for or fighting against, but it’s all because I’m American and appreciate that America let my grandparents, and my mom and dad into this country. We’re not great heroes like Chris Kyle but my clan has surely met its obligations to military service—from WWII until now--

Anyway, the book. “American Sniper starts out with training descriptions exercise—considerable discussion of weapons systems, and transport systems like DPV (desert patrol vehicles) and limitations thereof.
There was a horribly naïve “movie critic” Jan 23 who was trying to put down the film version by saying there were parts of it that weren’t realistic—b/c it showed the Kyle character, in the midst of a shooting war, talking to his wife on the telephone.  “Now  that wouldn’t happen,” she said cluelessly.” It was shocking to see such techno-dumbness from a supposedly young hipster movie type. But this is what passes for “film critic these days.  Give me gay Rex Reed any day.

There is much of Kyle’s wife Taya in the book, including letters she sent, worrying about her husband’s safety and her own sanity.  The letters show how families at home are sacrificing.  The war fighters and their families have to risk everything and suffer so that I can sit on my ass in the EZ chair without bullets and shrapnel flying or anyone trying to cut off my head.

Well, I should admit I did my bit in military service, ultimately ending up in an MP battalion.  It was a trifling bit dangerous once in a while, but nothing like the dangers experienced by real war fighters like Chris Kyle. Still, it gave me some insight, updated and modernized, into weapons and tactics used today.  It was heartening to read, for example, that one of my favorite weapons, the M-60 machine gun, is still in use today (albeit with some updates and improvements and a name change).  It was called a “pig” when I was in uniform and it’s still called a “pig” today.  I guess that’s because of the fast fire and way it eats up ammo. I was put on a range detail once to set up four M-60s on a range at Fort Benning Georgia.  We had to set the guns up, set boxes of ammunition near, and test fire them. With no one shooting back, it was thrilling fun. The M-60 is almost as fast as my chain saw for cutting down timber.  I never killed one bad guy but I chopped up lots of Georgia pine.  But that’s not in the book. I mention it only because there are millions of former soldiers out there who might enjoy the weapons, tactics, and equipment discussions in the early parts of “American Sniper.”  Stay tuned, however—I’m on page 70, where Iraqi Freedom and the shooting starts.  Great book, so far, and a good companion read to the film. More on both will be forthcoming. 

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