Combat Swimmer: Memoir of a Navy Seal

Robert Gormly, Author
Robert Gormly, Author Dutton Books $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-94326-6
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-1431-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 310 pages - 978-0-451-19302-5
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This book is at once a memoir, a history and a warning. Gormly has been part of the SEAL community virtually since its emergence. In Vietnam as a junior officer, he met the absence of strategic policy with a tactical approach: killing as many Viet Cong as possible. Even in retrospect, Gormly concludes that the most effective U.S. approach might have been attacking the enemy's infrastructure by eliminating the ""cadres"" who spread and enforced Communist ideology by terrorist means. The limited political sophistication of this approach is suggestive, particularly in the context of Gormly's progress through the Navy's special operations system from 1968 to his assignment as commander of SEAL Team 6 in 1983. When Gormly relieved the notorious Richard Marcinko, he inherited a unit that had made a policy of pushing envelopes and ignoring rules. His description of the intraservice politics involved in taming the organization without breaking its morale is as good as anything in print on the challenge of maintaining effective special operations forces in the contexts of a democratic system. His account of the 1985 capture of the Achille Lauro's hijackers reveals a delicate balance of roles and responsibilities in managing doctrine and training considerations, tactical issues and policy questions. Gormly is no knight without fear and reproach in the mold of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. He is a warrior for the working day, not always right and not always wise. But in a harsh world, it will comfort many to know that men with Gormly's spirit, character and patriotism wear this country's uniform. 8 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. (June)
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