Navy documents show ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle embellished military record

The man known as the “deadliest sniper in military history” — who went on to write a bestselling autobiography about his time as a Navy SEAL– reportedly distorted his military record.

Chris Kyle wrote in his book that he was awarded two Silver Stars– the third-highest award given for battlefield conduct. He also claimed that he ended his career as a SEAL with five  Bronze Stars– all for valor. However, according to internal Navy documents obtained by The Intercept, he received only one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars.

A former SEAL officer who attended Kyle’s Silver Star ceremony said it was a “poorly kept secret in the naval special operations community that Kyle embellished his record.”

That officer went on to say: “The SEAL leadership was aware of the embellishment, but didn’t want to correct the record because Kyle’s celebrity status reflected well on the command.”

Kyle’s book American Sniper has sold more than one-million copies and the movie adaptation became the ‘highest-grossing war film in American history’.

Interestingly, Kyle did not say in his book what the 2 Silver Stars were for, but according to military records,  his single Silver Star was awarded to him for a 2006 deployment in Ramadi, Iraq.

“During 32 sniper overwatch missions,” the citation reads, “he personally accounted for 91 confirmed enemy fighters killed.”

Kyle wrote in his book that he had 160 “confirmed kills” as a sniper. He spent more than a decade as a Navy SEAL and separated from the Navy in 2009. Kyle was murdered by a mentally disturbed vet, that befriended him, four years later.

During the 2004 American siege of Fallujah, Kyle saved an injured Marine’s life by “dragging him to safety while taking and returning fire down an alleyway.” That incident resulted in a Bronze Star with Valor, one of the three that Kyle was awarded.  His commanding officers also recommended a Silver Star, for Kyle’s actions that November day — but it was denied by the secretary of the Navy at the time.

According to two current Navy officials, inaccurate information about Kyle’s awards is also contained in his DD214, the official service record of a veteran. The form lists two Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars with Valor among his decorations. That differs from the number of Bronze Stars with Valor that Kyle listed in his book– which was five .

Cullen James, a spokesperson for the Navy Personnel Command, told The Intercept: “The form DD214 is generated locally at the command where the service member is separated. Although the information on the DD214 should match the official records, the process involves people and inevitably some errors may occur.”

It is the duty of the personnel clerk who is handling a sailor’s separation to ensure that the awards match the service member’s official personnel file.

One official described Kyle as a “decorated war hero” and questioned the “motivations” of looking into Kyle’s account, but a retired SEAL who also deployed to Iraq said: “[the embellished record] takes away from the legitimate heroism he showed.”

Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, a military historian, says it is “inexcusable that Kyle, or any other veteran, would inflate his record, even if the veteran, like Kyle, had demonstrated clear heroism during his service.”

Not everyone agrees with Bateman.

One of Kyle’s former commanding officers, Jocko Willink said, “Chris Kyle, like many of the SEALs, soldiers, and Marines I had the honor to serve with, deserve much more than whatever ribbons and medals they received.”

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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