American Sniper (book)

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American Sniper
Paperback cover
AuthorChris Kyle
Scott McEwen
Jim DeFelice
CountryUnited States
SubjectPersonal memories
PublisherWilliam Morrow and Company, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication date
January 2, 2012
Media typeHardcover

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History is a work of autobiographical creative nonfiction by United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The book was published by William Morrow and Company on January 2, 2012[1] and appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for 37 weeks.[2]

The memoir has sold over 1.2 million copies across all formats (hardcover, paper, and ebook), including 700,000 copies in 2015 alone, making it one of the best-selling books of 2015.[3] It landed atop all the major best-seller lists, including the aforementioned The New York Times, as well as Publishers Weekly and USA Today, and it reached No. 2 on Amazon.[4] Its film adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood and starring actor Bradley Cooper as Kyle was released in 2014.

Plot overview[edit]

American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who completed four tours in Iraq from 1999 to 2009. The book describes Kyle's upbringing in Odessa, Texas, Navy SEAL training, and combat experiences in Iraq.[5][6]

Kyle describes his role in the battle for control of Ramadi, events he claims led to Iraqi insurgents' nicknaming Kyle the "Devil of Ramadi" and placing a bounty on his head.[7][8] He writes that after his first confirmed kill, "the others come easy. I don't have to psych myself up, or do something special mentally—I look through the scope, get my target in the cross hairs, and kill my enemy, before he kills one of my people."[9]


Post-publication retraction[edit]

In July 2014, the sub-chapter "Punching Out Scruff Face" was removed from later editions of the book, after a three-week trial in U.S. Federal Court wherein the jury found that the author, Chris Kyle, had unjustly enriched himself by defaming plaintiff Jesse Ventura. In the book, Kyle described blackening the eye of "Scruff Face", whom he later identified in media interviews as Jesse Ventura.[10] The jury awarded Ventura $500,000 for defamation and $1,345,477.25 for unjust enrichment.[11][12] In December 2014, attorneys for Ventura filed a separate lawsuit against HarperCollins, the parent company of the publisher, for failing to check the accuracy of the story it used in publicity. The suit alleges that the false account used in publicity had "increased sales" and generated "millions of dollars for HarperCollins."[13] On June 13, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated the verdict on the defamation count, remanding the case for a new trial on that count, and reversed the unjust enrichment verdict outright.[14] The court cited legal and procedural errors in the trial without deciding whether Kyle's allegations were true or not. In December 2017, Ventura settled with Kyle's estate and dropped his suit against HarperCollins.[15]

Charity donation claims[edit]

Some sources claimed Kyle's family had said all his book proceeds were donated to veterans' charities. Salon and National Review disputed the donation amount, asserting that around 2 percent ($52,000) went to the charities, while Kyle's family received $3 million.[16][17]

Military record claims[edit]

In May 2016, The Intercept claimed that Kyle's autobiography "embellished" his military record, and that he had been warned by Navy officials about the inaccuracies before publication.[18][19][20] Others, including co-author Scott McEwen, disputed this.[21] On May 28, The Hollywood Reporter did an analysis, concluding that the newly released internal Navy documents were inconclusive — that the document that typically is the definitive record of military service matched Kyle's claims and that the Navy had not yet publicly stated this document or the facts within it were incorrect. Kyle's DD Form 214 listed a total of two Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars, more than he claimed in his book.[22] On July 8, 2016, the U.S. Navy corrected Kyle's DD-214 regarding some decorations listed on his original discharge document.[23] The Navy revised it to one Silver Star and four Bronze Stars with valor.[23] The Navy said "Kyle would have played no role in the production of his personnel files other than signing the DD-214 upon his discharge" and "[a]fter thoroughly reviewing all available records, the Navy determined an error was made" and "issued a corrected copy of the DD-214, which accurately reflects Kyle's years of honorable and extraordinary service."[23]

Film adaptation[edit]

In 2014, Clint Eastwood's film American Sniper was released, which was based on Kyle's autobiography of the same name. It had its world premiere on November 11, 2014, at the American Film Institute Festival, followed by a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 25, 2014. It received a wide release January 16, 2015.[24][25][26] In the film, Kyle was portrayed by actor Bradley Cooper.[27] For his portrayal of Kyle, Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and the film was also nominated in five other categories, including Best Picture.[28] The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.[29]

Memorial Edition[edit]

In 2013, after Kyle's death, a memorial edition was published which includes more than 80 pages of remembrances by his parents; his wife, Taya; his brother; lifelong friends; Marcus Luttrell and other fellow SEALs; veterans and wounded warriors; and many others.


  1. ^ Bosman, Julie (18 March 2012). "A Wave of Military Memoirs With You-Are-There Appeal". The New York Times. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  2. ^ "Nonfiction – Best Sellers – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  3. ^ Andy Lewis (February 6, 2015). "'American Sniper' Book Sales See Continued Bump From Movie's Success". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  4. ^ Andy Lewis (February 6, 2015). "'American Sniper' Book Sales See Continued Bump From Movie's Success". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Taylor Dibbert (27 April 2015). "Book Review: American Sniper". Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  6. ^ Joshua Sinai (13 January 2012). "BOOK REVIEW: 'American Sniper'". Washington Times. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  7. ^ Buiso, Gray (January 1, 2012). "Meet the big shot – SEAL is America's deadliest sniper". New York Post. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Lindsay Deutsch (23 January 2015). "The fascinating life of Chris Kyle, the 'American Sniper'". USA Today. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  9. ^ Tony Perry (5 March 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 6 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Jesse Ventura's $1.8M award in defamation trial ruled reasonable". St. Paul Pioneer Press. August 8, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  11. ^ "Jury awards Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in 'American Sniper' lawsuit". Dallas Morning News. July 29, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "Chris Kyle trial: Jesse Ventura wins $1.8 million in defamation case". Oregon Live. Associated Press. July 29, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  13. ^ Holley, Peter (December 16, 2014). "Jesse Ventura sues HarperCollins over Chris Kyle's 'American Sniper'". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  14. ^ Ventura v. Kyle, No. 14-3876 (8th Cir. June 13, 2016).
  15. ^ "With legal battle over and settlement pocketed, Ventura calls Kyle 'American Liar'". Associated Press. December 4, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  16. ^ Jilani, Zaid (January 24, 2015). "7 heinous lies "American Sniper" is telling America". Salon. Alternet. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  17. ^ Delgado, A.J. (July 30, 2013). "Justice for Jesse: Ventura Was Right in His Lawsuit". National Review Online. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  18. ^ "Report: Chris Kyle overstated his military medal record, documents show". Fox 5 San Diego. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  19. ^ Cole, Matthew; McNeill, Sheelagh (May 25, 2016). ""American Sniper" Chris Kyle Distorted His Military Record, Documents Show". The Intercept. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Lamothe, Dan (May 25, 2016). "How 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle's truthfulness is in question once again". Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  21. ^ "'American Sniper' Co-Author Defends Chris Kyle's Military Record Over New Controversy". The Hollywood Reporter. 3 June 2016. We submitted the book for vetting with the DOD ... and certain parts of the manuscript were, at their request, redacted. [C]ertain other figures ... for example the number of Chris' confirmed kills —were agreed upon as something that could be released to the public.
  22. ^ "'American Sniper' Chris Kyle's Record Under Fire, But Is It a Memorial Day Rush to Judgment?". The Hollywood Reporter. 28 May 2016.
  23. ^ a b c Crawford, Jamie. "Navy: 'American Sniper' medal count corrected". CNN.
  24. ^ "Warner Bros. Dates 'American Sniper'; Moves 'Point Break', 'Man From U.N.C.L.E'". Deadline. August 12, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
  25. ^ Subers, Ray (January 15, 2015). "Lowest-Grossing Best Picture Nominees Since Category Expansion". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  26. ^ Subers, Ray (January 15, 2015). "Forecast: 'Sniper' Sets Sights on January Record". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  27. ^ Verrier, Richard (April 23, 2014). "Eastwood starts shooting 'American Sniper' at Santa Clarita ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
  28. ^ Hipes, Patrick (January 15, 2015). "Oscar Nominations 2015: Full List Of 87th Academy Award Nominees". Deadline. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  29. ^ Chumley, Cheryl K. (February 23, 2015). "'American Sniper' wins Academy Award — for sound editing". The Washington Times. Retrieved February 23, 2015.