Chris Kyle

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Chris Kyle
Chris Kyle January 2012.jpg
Kyle during a book signing at Camp Pendleton in January 2012
Birth name Christopher Scott Kyle[1]
Nickname(s) "Chris", "Shaitan Al-Ramadi" ("The Devil of Ramadi"), "Legend"
Born (1974-04-08)April 8, 1974
Odessa, Texas, U.S.
Died February 2, 2013(2013-02-02) (aged 38)
Erath County, Texas, U.S.
Buried at Texas State Cemetery, Texas, U.S.[2]
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1999–2009
Rank CPO collar.png Chief Petty Officer[3]

US Navy SEALs insignia.png United States Navy SEALs

Sniper element, platoon "Charlie", SEAL Team 3
Battles/wars Iraq War
Awards Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star Medal (2)
BronzeStarV copy.jpg Bronze Star Medal (Valor; 5)
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (1)
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2)[3][4]
Spouse(s) Taya Kyle[5]
Relations Wayne Kenneth Kyle (father)
Deby Lynn Mercer (mother)
Children: 2[6]
Other work American Sniper (2012)
American Gun (2013)

Christopher Scott "Chris" Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.[7] Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the "Devil of Ramadi" and placed a series of ever increasing bounties on his head, purported to have eventually reached the low six figures.

Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in January 2012. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas, along with friend Chad Littlefield. The man accused of killing them is awaiting trial for murder. A film adaptation of Kyle's autobiography, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in December 2014.

Early life

Kyle was born in Odessa, Texas, the son of Deby Lynn (née Mercer) and Wayne Kenneth Kyle, a Sunday school teacher and a deacon.[3][8] Kyle's father bought his son his first rifle at eight years old, a bolt-action .30-06 Springfield rifle, and later a shotgun, with which they hunted pheasant, quail, and deer.[3] Kyle attended high school in Midlothian, Texas, where he played football and baseball.[9] After school, Kyle became a professional bronco rodeo rider and worked on a ranch, but his profession ended abruptly when he severely injured his arm.[citation needed]

Military career

After his arm healed, Kyle went to a military recruiting office, interested in joining the U.S. Marine Corps with a special interest in special operations. Kyle signed up, but was rejected because of the pins in his arm. Kyle met with a U.S. Army recruiter next, who told him about the Special Forces and the Rangers. A U.S. Navy recruiter told him about the U.S. Navy SEALs as he was leaving the recruiting office. After initially being declined, he received a call to BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL school). He joined the U.S. Navy in 1999.[10]

Assigned to SEAL Team 3, sniper element, platoon "Charlie" (later "Cadillac"),[7] within the Naval Special Warfare Command, and with four tours of duty, Kyle served in many major battles of the Iraq War.[3] His first long-range kill shot was taken during the initial invasion when he shot a woman approaching a group of Marines while carrying a hand grenade. An article by CNN reported that the woman was cradling a toddler in her other hand.[11] As ordered, he opened fire, killing the woman before she could attack.[12] He later stated, "the woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any Marines with her."[7] Because of his track record as a marksman during his deployment to Ramadi, the insurgents named him Shaitan Ar-Ramadi (English: 'The Devil of Ramadi'), and put a $21,000 bounty on his head that was later increased to $80,000. They posted signs highlighting the cross on his arm as a means of identifying him.[3][12] In 2008, outside Sadr City, Kyle made his longest successful shot after spotting an insurgent who was about to fire a grenade at the U.S. Army convoy.[13] Kyle fired one shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum-chambered McMillan Tac-338 sniper rifle from about 2,100 yards (1,920 m) away, killing the insurgent.[7]

During four tours of duty in the Iraq War, Kyle was shot twice and caught up in six separate IED explosions.[12] He accumulated 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. These numbers are based on individual shooter logs, filled out at the end of a mission, and reported to higher command. Kyle stated that he did not know his official kill record, and only counted the lives he felt he could have saved. U.S. Special Operations Command treats sniper kill counts as "unofficial". Confirmed kills must have a witness.[3][14][15] His other weapons included the Mk 11 7.62×51mm NATO semi-automatic sniper rifle, the Mk 12 5.56×45mm NATO Designated Marksman Rifle, the SIG Sauer P220 pistol, an M4 carbine and a .300 Winchester Magnum-chambered sniper rifle.[16] He became known by the moniker "Legend" among the general infantry and Marines whom he was tasked to protect. This title initially originated in jest among fellow SEALs following his taking of a sabbatical to train other snipers in Fallujah.[17]

Brandon Webb of SOFREP, a website of news and analysis to the Special Operations Forces, wrote an article entitled ‘’The Long Shadow of Katrina’’ about the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. A State of Emergency had been declared[18] and the U.S. Army was asked to provide security in what became known as Operation Pelican.[19][20][21] Webb discussed the Operation with Kyle and wrote, “close contacts of his, many who were apparently still serving on active duty, took leave to work for the controversial PMC (Private Military Company), Blackwater. Chris went on to tell me that the bulk of the guys he knew directly had racked up over thirty kills between them near and around the Super Dome.”[22][23][24] Kyle and Webb discussed the morality of the operation, which both found troubling, and "the stuff a lot of people in Washington want to put under the bed and forget about." Webb noted "it clearly bothered him", and concluded, “now all we are left with is rumor and a few courageous individuals who are slowly coming out of the shadows to tell the truth.”[25]

Nicholas Schmidle, whose narrative account of the death of Osama bin Laden was completed without ever interviewing any members of SEAL Team 6,[26] posthumously wrote an article entitled ‘’In the Crosshairs’’ in The New Yorker. Schmidle sought out his own sources, ignoring Webb’s interview with Kyle’s comments. Schmidle claimed that at a late night drinking binge three unnamed sources told him Kyle personally shot 30 looters; none of the three agree in details, and one barely remembered anything.[27] An urban legend appeared having Kyle shoot 30 looters above the Super Dome and was widely dispersed within mainstream media sources and on the internet.[28]

Post-military life

Taya Kyle in August 2013

Kyle left the U.S. Navy in 2009 and moved to Midlothian, Texas, with his wife, Taya, and two children.[29] He was president of Craft International, a tactical training company for the U.S. military and law enforcement communities.[30]

Michael J. Mooney of D Magazine claimed Kyle told him he was the victim of an attempted carjacking of his Ford Super Duty truck at a gas station near highway 67 in Texas, sometime in January 2009, which resulted in the deaths of two armed carjackers whom he shot. Kyle, who had bounties on his head from international jihadis, further claimed that he gave the police that came to the scene a special phone number which resulted in no record of an investigation of the incident.[31]

In 2012, HarperCollins released Kyle's autobiographical book American Sniper.[32] Kyle had initially hesitated to write the book but was persuaded to move forward because other books about SEALs were underway.[33] In his book, Kyle wrote bluntly of his experiences. Of the battle for control of Ramadi he says "Force moved that battle. We killed the bad guys and brought the leaders to the peace table. That is how the world works."[34] In the book and in interviews following, Kyle stated he had no regrets about his work as a sharpshooter, saying, "I had to do it to protect the Marines."[35] American Sniper had a 37-week run on The New York Times bestseller list and brought Kyle national attention.[36] Following its release, media articles challenged some of Kyle's anecdotes,[37] but the core of his narrative was widely accepted. "Tales of his heroism on the battlefield were already lore in every branch of the armed forces."[38]

Kyle paired with FITCO Cares Foundation, a nonprofit organization which created the Heroes Project to provide free in-home fitness equipment, individualized programs, personal training, and life-coaching to in-need veterans with disabilities, Gold Star families, or those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.[39] On August 13, 2012, Kyle appeared on the reality television show Stars Earn Stripes, which features celebrities pairing up with a special operations or law enforcement professional who train them in weapons and combat tactics. Kyle was teamed with actor Dean Cain.[40]

In interviews with the Opie and Anthony Show and Bill O'Reilly in January 2012, Kyle claimed to have punched former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura at a bar in Coronado, California, in 2006 during a wake for Mike Monsoor, a U.S. Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient killed in Iraq. The story parallels an incident in his book which does not mention Ventura by name, and claims a character named "Scruff Face" said that the SEALs "deserved to lose a few guys."[41] Ventura, who was in the bar that night, filed a lawsuit against Kyle for defamation in January 2012.[42][43] After Kyle was killed the following year Ventura continued the lawsuit against Kyle's estate.[44] Witnesses disagreed years after the fact and a jury awarded Ventura $1.8 million in July 2014.[45][46] Kyle's widow is appealing the verdict on behalf of Kyle's estate. [47]


On February 2, 2013, Kyle and a companion, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas.[48] The suspected shooter was a 25-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran[49] Eddie Ray Routh, whom Kyle and Littlefield had reportedly taken to the gun range in an effort to help him with what they were told by his mother was post-traumatic stress disorder.[50][51] Local police captured Routh after a short freeway chase, which ended when Routh, who had left the scene of the shootings in Kyle's Ford F-350 truck, crashed into a police cruiser in Lancaster, Texas.[52] Erath County sheriffs said the motive for the killing was unclear.[53] Routh, from Lancaster, was arraigned February 2, 2013, on two counts of capital murder and was taken to the Erath County Jail for holding under a $3 million bond.[54] Routh's trial was set to begin May 5, 2014, but was delayed to allow more time to comply with DNA test requirements;[55] his trial is now set to begin February, 2015.[56]

A memorial service was held for Kyle at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on February 11, 2013. Kyle was buried on February 12, 2013, at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas, after a funeral procession from Midlothian, Texas, to Austin, stretching over 200 miles.[57] Hundreds of local and out-of-state residents lined Interstate 35 to view the procession and pay their final respects to Kyle.[58][59]


The signing of the "Chris Kyle Bill" at the Texas State Capitol in August 2013

In August 2013, Texas governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 162, also known as the "Chris Kyle Bill", to recognize military training in the issuance of occupational licenses. The bill had been co-sponsored by Republican Representative Dan Flynn of Van and Democratic Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. The ceremony was attended by Kyle's widow Taya.[60]

Sculptor Greg Marra created a memorial statue of Kyle for presentation to his widow. Fundraising for production of the statue has been provided by members of the Tea Party movement.[61][62]

Clint Eastwood's 2014 film American Sniper is based on Kyle's autobiography. Kyle is portrayed by Bradley Cooper and his wife Taya Kyle is portrayed by Sienna Miller.[63] For his portrayal of Kyle, Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for Best Picture.[64]

Awards and decorations

US Navy SEALs insignia.png
Gold star
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png
Gold star
Combat Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).png
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
United States Navy Parachutist Badge.png
Badge Special Warfare insignia
1st row Silver Star Medal (2) Bronze Star Medal (5)
with Combat V
2nd row Purple Heart (2) Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2)
3rd row Combat Action Ribbon Navy Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal
4th row Iraq Campaign Medal
with 3 campaign stars
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
5th row Navy & Marine Corps
Overseas Service Ribbon
Rifle Marksmanship Medal
with Expert Marksmanship Device
Pistol Marksmanship Medal
with Expert Marksmanship Device
Badge Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia

See also


  • Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Jim (2013). American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. New York: W. Morrow, 2012. ISBN 0-062-08235-3 OCLC 733224029
  • Kyle, Chris; Doyle, William (2013). American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms. New York: William Morrow, 2013. ISBN 0-0622-4271-7 OCLC 813286737


  1. ^ Bernstein, Adam (February 4, 2013). "Chris Kyle, Navy Seal and author of 'American Sniper', dies". The Washington Post. Christopher Scott Kyle was born in 1974 
  2. ^ Jamie Stengle; Paul J. Weber; Angela K. Brown (February 12, 2013). "Procession escorts ex-Navy SEAL Kyle to burial". Army Times. Associated Press. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Buiso, Gray (January 1, 2012). "Meet the big shot - SEAL is America's deadliest sniper". New York Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Chris Kyle (March 24, 2010). "Chris Kyle from HarperCollins Publishers". Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Taya Renae Kyle profile". Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ "'American Sniper' Widow Recalls Heartbreaking Moment Kids Learned Navy SEAL Dad Chris Kyle Had Been Killed". Christian Post. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d "American Sniper". Harper Collins. 
  8. ^ "Christopher Scott Kyle, Texas, Birth Index, 1903-1997". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL". Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  10. ^ Kyle, Chris (2012). American Sniper. HarperCollins. 
  11. ^ "'Chris Kyle, America's deadliest sniper, offered no regrets'". February 5, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c Sanchez, Raf (January 2, 2012). "'The Devil of Ramadi' named America's deadliest sniper". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  13. ^ "McMillan TAC-338 Sniper Rifle". Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  14. ^ Briggs, Bill (July 30, 2014). "Confirmed kills: A solemn secret for military snipers is becoming a pop-culture hit". NBC News. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  15. ^ "About The Book". American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. HarperCollins. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Chris Kyle: al-Shaitan of Iraq". March 14, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Chris Kyle1". YouTube. 
  18. ^ The Secret History of Hurricane Katrina, James Ridgeway, Mother Jones, Aug. 28, 2009.
  19. ^ "Operation Pelican - SOFREP". SOFREP. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  20. ^ Army Support During the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, James A. Wombwell, The Long War Series Occasional Paper 29, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2005.
  21. ^ Hurricane Katrina: DOD Disaster Response, Congressional Research Service, September 19, 2005.
  22. ^ *Jeremy Scahill (September 12, 2005). "Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans". Democracy Now!. 
  23. ^ "Blackwater mercenaries used in New Orleans". Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  24. ^ Alex Berenson and Timothy Williams (September 8, 2005). "New Orleans Begins Confiscating Firearms as Water Recedes". New York Times. 
  25. ^ The Long Shadow Of Katrina, by Brandon Webb, SOFREP Op-Ed, April 15, 2013.
  26. ^ Russ Baker (August 17, 2011). "Who’s behind the New Yorker’s bin Laden exclusive?". Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ "In the Crosshairs". The New Yorker. June 3, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  28. ^ Kyle File, 21 January 2015. Retrieved from 28 January 2015.
  29. ^ Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Chris (January 2, 2012). "American Sniper". Harper Collins. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Craft International". Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  31. ^ Mooney, Michael (Feb 8, 2013). "Here’s What American Sniper Chris Kyle Said About His Killing Two Men at a Gas Station in 2009". D Magazine blog. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  32. ^ Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Chris (February 5, 2012). American Sniper. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-208235-3. 
  33. ^ Fernandez and Michael Schwirtz, Manny (February 3, 2013). "Untouchable in Iraq, Ex-Sniper Dies in a Shooting Back Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  34. ^ Perry, Scott (March 5, 2012). "Book review: 'American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History' by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  35. ^ Botelho, Greg, Joe Johns and Ted Metzger (February 5, 2013). "Police: Man accused of killing ex-SEAL said he had PTSD, was hurting". CNN ( Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  36. ^ Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (January 14, 2014). "Here’s the faith in the ‘American Sniper’ you won’t see in the film". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  37. ^ LaMothe, Dan (July 30, 2014). "Jesse Ventura vs. Chris Kyle: A case where no one won". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  38. ^ Hoinski, Michael (December 22, 2014). "The Controversial True Story Behind 'American Sniper'". Mens Journal Magazine. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  39. ^ "Fitco Cares". Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Stars Earn Stripes Bio for Chris Kyle". Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  41. ^ Lamothe, Dan (July 30, 2014). "Jesse Ventura vs. Chris Kyle: A case where no one won". The Washington Post (Katharine Weymouth). Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  42. ^ Browning, Dan (February 24, 2012). "Jesse Ventura aims to get even with Navy SEAL in court". Star Tribune. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  43. ^ "The Ventura Verdict". The New Yorker. July 30, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  44. ^ Chasmar, Jessica (June 2, 2013). "Ex-Minn. Gov. Jesse Ventura sues Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's widow". The Washington Times. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  45. ^ "Jury awards Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in 'American Sniper' lawsuit". The Dallas Morning News. July 29, 2014. Retrieved July 29, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Chris Kyle trial: Jesse Ventura wins $1.8 million in defamation case". The Oregonian (Oregon Live). Associated Press. July 29, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  47. ^ "'American Sniper' widow to appeal Ventura defamation verdict". December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2014. 
  48. ^ "Noted sniper slain at Erath County gun range". WFAA TV. Retrieved February 3, 2013. [dead link]
  49. ^ "Father of Chris Kyle killer Eddie Ray Routh is already mourning the loss of his son - Daily Mail Online". Daily Mail. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  50. ^ Schwirtz, Michael (February 3, 2013). "'American Sniper' Author Shot to Death in Texas". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  51. ^ "Man charged in fatal shooting of ex-SEAL/author". Yahoo News. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  52. ^ "Author of 'American Sniper' among the dead at Rough Creek". Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  53. ^ "American Sniper author Chris Kyle shot dead in Texas". BBC. February 3, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  54. ^ Copeland, Larry (February 3, 2013). "Ex-SEAL Chris Kyle remembered after shooting death". USA Today. 
  55. ^ "Chris Kyle Murder Trial Delayed". Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  56. ^ "Crime and lawsuits cloud new American Sniper movie". Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  57. ^ "Chris Kyle Funeral Procession Arrives in Austin | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth". February 12, 2013. Retrieved July 15, 2014. 
  58. ^ "Details announced for Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's memorial service at Cowboys Stadium". The Scoop Blog. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  59. ^ "Residents Line I-35 To Pay Respects To Slain Navy SEAL". Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  60. ^ Fountain, Phil (2013-08-28). "Perry signs 'Chris Kyle Bill,' allows military experience for Texas state licenses". Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 
  61. ^ Lilley, Kevin (2013-03-17). "Chris Kyle statue created for SEAL's widow". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 
  62. ^ Harper, Jennifer (2013-11-10). "Tea party to honor fallen SEALs Chris Kyle, those at Benghazi with sculptures". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2015-01-24. 
  63. ^ VERRIER, RICHARD (April 23, 2014). "Eastwood starts shooting 'American Sniper' at Santa Clarita ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  64. ^ Patrick Hipes. "Oscar Nominations 2015: Full List Of 87th Academy Award Nominees - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 

Further reading

External links