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Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  6,450 ratings  ·  633 reviews
Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

Sea Stories begins in 1960 at the American Officers' Club in France, where Allied officers and their wives gathered
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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This is the memoir of retired full Admiral William H. McRaven. As most people in the military today, he grew up in a military family. McRaven became a SEAL and went up the ranks until he was the Commander of U.S. Special Forces. McRaven tells of his early life, but most of the book is about this naval career. To me, the most exciting part of the book is about the first-hand account of the killing of bin Laden.

The book is well worth the read. I recommend it.

I read this as an audiobook downloaded
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, favourites
This is truly my best book of 2019, and I have read some good ones this year.
While reading this book, the quote from Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", was in my head the whole time, and luckily for the world William McRaven is one of those good men who did something, and is filled with stories of other good men and women who did something. The stories filling these pages are amazing and the man has truly lived a full life, he is a bri
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
“As the RHIB tumbled underwater I was trapped in the bolster seat, rolling over and over again as the force of the wave pushed me along the bottom. Shotline, that thin nylon cord that SEALs use to tie down loose gear, had somehow gotten wrapped around my neck and my arms. It was like a wire garrote, strangling me as I cartwheeled over and over. Grabbing the line, I tried to pull it away from my neck, but the tension was too tight and the more I pulled the tighter it got.

“There had been several t
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book. I was not sure I was going to like this one but was pleasantly surprised! Each chapter was an action packed tale that kept me reading. I loved how the author was introspective and much could be taken away from every story. Worth a read.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. By all accounts retired Admiral William McRaven is an impressive guy. 37 years as a Navy SEAL, led the team that captured Saddam Hussein and led the team that killed Bin Laden. He’s definitely lived an eventful life.

Having said that, the problem with a memoir from a commander is that you get the administrative/top down view of the incident (as in the search for Hussein and Bin Laden) and not the on the ground, action-packed view. This makes for frankly boring reading at times. I enjoy
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful and vivid memoir.

McRaven’s narrative is pretty straightforward but heavy on anecdotes, covering his childhood, his experience as a SEAL, and his various command experiences. His special operations career takes up the majority of the book. McRaven does, of course, provide firsthand accounts of the capture of Saddam, the rescue of Richard Phillips, and the bin Laden mission; these are probably the most gripping parts of the book.

Throughout the sections on his career, McRaven provides
Wooden writing, but—if you believe it—this Navy Seal hung on long enough to make Three Star Admiral. And be involved (by that time at a high level) in the capture of Saddam and killing of Usama bin Laden. Some of the earlier stories are more interesting where there’s fewer flat screens and more foreign mercenaries. There’s the obligatory wife, 2.5 kids, and pix at the end.

His career nearly went off the rails when going on as a senior officer on routine training mission, and the guy below’s chut
Wow! What a life and successful military accomplishments. I borrowed this book in audio form and it was read by the Admiral himself. It was excellent! He is a very talented narrator.

The book started off with young Bill in France to becoming a Navy SEAL candidate. Later it covers him as an operator in hostage rescue missions in various locations, recovery of a Navy recon plane that went missing in 1948 with nine crew (at the bottom of a lake in British Columbia). As a Commander we see the planni
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, but it is very pro military and of course, the author is the Best Military Man Ever.

The author never met another military man that he didn’t like. Everyone is competent, trustful, fit, super intelligent....and likeable. The author doesn’t write a negative word about anyone or anything.

Come on, 35 ish years in the bureaucratic military and no suggestions or comments on how things could be run better? I’ve been on jobs for less than a month and I could tell you who’s incom
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Admiral William H. McRaven for your service to this country. We need to hear more stories of our brave men and women who have served and sacrificed to give us our freedom. This book is not just stories about Admiral McRaven's career, but he describes what its like for all SEAL team recruits. He writes of the heroes, the wounded and the fallen. He acknowledges the families who stand behind them and gives credit where credit is due to his team members and those who helped him throughout ...more
Jeff Wheeler
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really love biographies and this one, of a career Navy Seal, was hugely entertaining and well written. The first time I heard of McRaven was during his UT commencement speech about the virtue of making your bed each morning. It was an impressive talk that went viral. But this book goes into the behind-the-scenes episodes of many things I'd only read about in the news and seen in movies. It's a tremendous and inspiring story. Someone who has lived a life that most can't even imagine. ...more
Terri Gill
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Sea Stories” is a GREAT READ. It tells the story of the life of a man who made a difference in the world. It brings every emotion to the surface, tears and often a smile. I am proud to say I know the author, went to school with him, and am so impressed by all the things he accomplished with so many brave men at his side. I loved the book and have gained a new appreciation for our military. Life lessons, so well written, and well spoken. Thank you Admiral Bill McRaven for your lifetime of servic ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew I would love this book from the "Make Your Bed" author. Loved the early years stories..."Mothers!" I wish more children had early beginnings like his. Great book!!

Thank you to Goodreds for a copy for my review.
Terry Cornell
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At first, I wasn't sure I would like this book. The first chapters are stories of McRaven's life as a child before the military. He seemed a little full of himself, and I thought a whole book of this would be just a little much. However, by the time he joined the Navy, went through SEAL training, and told of his exploits as both a SEAL team leader, and later as a planner of special combat operations the book became hard to put down. The book demonstrates that often military training is often mor ...more
Justin Levy
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Of all of the Special Forces, military, and autobiographies, this is easily one of my favorite. Admiral McRaven oversaw some of the highest profile and dangerous missions, including the highjacking of the Maersk Alabama and the raid on Bin Laden's compound. ...more
Ruth Meyer
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating inside look at military life as experienced by Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven. Written by a man who was involved in capturing Saddam Hussein, rescuing Captain Richard Phillips from pirates, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, it reads rather like an adventure novel. Admiral McRaven had a number of close calls with death, suffered and recovered from a near-disastrous parachute accident, and even served at the White House. If fiction, it would be unbelievable that one perso ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book... I absolutely love this book. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought this book was a sequel to Forrest Gump! As a matter of fact, this book is essentially a book form of Forrest Gump, except everything in it is real. The book is written to highlight significant milestones and events in Admiral McRaven's career, and boy what a career... September 11, Usama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Captain Phillips, etc etc, the man was truly in the center of some of the significant events ...more
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations by William H. McRaven

“Sea Stories” is a riveting memoir that captures the epic missions of retired Admiral William H. McRaven. The retired U.S. Navy Admiral takes the reader behind-the-action-packed scenes of his illustrious 40-year career. This enthralling 353-page book includes the following eighteen chapters: 1. The Greatest Generation, 2. Operation Volcano, 3. It’s a Wonderful Life, 4. The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, 5. The Hand of God? 6. A Gorill
Apr 16, 2021 rated it liked it
*Score: 6/10*

Written by retired Admiral William H. McRaven of US SEALs, book is chronological detailing key highlights of the author's life serving his country, from childhood till his later years as part of special operations. From Saddam Husain to Osama Bin Laden captures, it goes into some very risky operations.

The book was a rollercoaster ride for me, but not in the best way. The initial part was boring as the examples brought up from his childhood were not very exciting, and dragged for a b
Allison Bedford
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
William MCRaven is definitely a “good man” with an amazing career. This book is full of stories we have seen in the news or have been made into movies but from his viewpoint as one of the commanding officers of the operation. Im not even a military person and still really enjoyed the book. This book does not celebrate his career but celebrates the incredible men he has served with, their character and their hard work that helped these missions succeed and those who have inspired him.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Randal White
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
What a guy! I couldn’t be more impressed with the author. His service, his morals, his leadership. His ability to find good things to say about everyone he served with.
And what adventures he had! Wow!
Truly one of the most inspirational books I have read in years!
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
Great book of stories from the Admiral that was in charge of the seal team that killed OBL
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
A fast-paced, enthralling account of 40 years of service, this was a fun and inspiring read. At the end of the book, McRaven reflects on his career and calls it "a cosmic adventure... an odyssey. This is an accurate description. The chapters are self-contained, each offering a brief glimpse into McRaven's life as a Navy SEAL and the challenges, triumphs, and difficulties that came in myriad forms. The episodic structure not only allowed the book to cover a wide array of topics and stories, but a ...more
Raimo Wirkkala
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Setting aside some glorification of war, trivialization of peace, and prehistoric notions of what constitutes "manhood", it must be said that McRaven has a knack for story-telling. This episodic military memoir is certainly chock-full of stirring tales; none more so than the penultimate chapter about the conception, preparation, and execution of the Bin Laden-raid; but the author, while glorying in the triumphs, is far less sanguine when it comes to failures that are mentioned only in passing an ...more
Admiral William H. McRaven spent 37 years as a US Navy SEAL.

Why I started this book: Love to read biographies of the SEALs, and it was fascinating to learn of a career that continued past the operator stage.

Why I finished it: The problem with working in Special Operations for 37 years is that most of your life is classified. You can't talk about what you've seen or done. McRaven talks about some of the training missions, and the missions that have been declassified like Captain Philips, killing
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book of stories has a strong American Hero theme running through it that some people will find inspiring and endearing and other people may find over the top. I had mixed feelings but I continued reading because McRaven has had some incredible experiences that make for really good stories and he is a skilled storyteller which made this a pretty interesting and engaging read overall.
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes "schmaltzy," but always fascinating look into the life of a real life SPEC OPS leader...from his childhood, as a "military brat," and his life as a Navy SEAL, including his command positions in many operations, including the well-publicized rescues of Captain Richard Phillips and the Osama bin Laden raid, William "Make Your Bed" McRaven's story is a story worth telling...Top Read!!! ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What is it like being the longest serving Navy SEAL commando and an Admiral of the Navy Seals and other Special Operations Forces? This book is a memoir of Admiral McRaven whom most people probably know for his leadership of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that pulled off the mission that target Bin Laden. There’s not a lot of SEALs that picked up the rank of admiral and I believe he’s the second SEAL that achieved that rank. This audio book is read by the author himself and looks back n ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is not surprising that someone with a 40 year career leading the Seals and other Special Forces around the globe was going to have some great stories.. My brother had an extra copy of this book as McRaven is now speaking at some corporate leadership events. I imagine he is quite a good orator. The book was certainly an entertaining read and you do get a lens into the psyche behind some of the highest performers in the military.

The mental toughness Seals develop going through BUDs training, g
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Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) served with great distinction in the Navy. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He is now Chancellor of the University of Texas System.

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