Kyle in January 2012
|Birth name||Christopher Scott Kyle|
|Nickname(s)||"Chris", "Legend", "Devil of Ramadi"|
April 8, 1974|
Odessa, Texas, U.S.
|Died||February 2, 2013
Erath County, Texas, U.S.
|Buried at||Texas State Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1999–2009|
|Rank||Chief Petty Officer|
|Unit||SEAL Team 3|
|Awards|| Silver Star Medal (2)
Bronze Star Medal (Valor; 5)
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (1)
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2)
|Spouse(s)||Taya Kyle (m. 2002–13) (his death)|
|Relations||Wayne Kenneth Kyle (father)
Deby Lynn Mercer (mother)
|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 over 160 kills officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. 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, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and numerous other unit and personal awards.
Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was published in 2012. A film adaptation based on Kyle's autobiography of the same name, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released two years later. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot dead at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas. His friend, Chad Littlefield, was also killed. The former Marine accused of killing Kyle, Eddie Ray Routh, was found guilty of murder and later sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Kyle was born in Odessa, Texas, the first of two boys born to Deby Lynn (née Mercer) and Wayne Kenneth Kyle, a Sunday school teacher and a deacon. Kyle's father bought his son his first rifle at 8 years old, a bolt-action .30-06 Springfield rifle, and later a shotgun, with which they hunted pheasant, quail, and deer. Kyle attended high school in Midlothian, Texas. After school, Kyle became a professional bronco rodeo rider and worked on a ranch, but his professional rodeo career ended abruptly when he severely injured his arm.
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. A U.S. Navy recruiter convinced him to try for the SEALs. Initially, Kyle was rejected because of the pins in his arm, but he eventually received an invitation to the 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL school (BUDS), which he joined in 1999.
Assigned to SEAL Team 3, sniper element, platoon "Charlie" (later "Cadillac"), within the Naval Special Warfare Command, and with four tours of duty, Kyle served in many major battles of the Iraq War. 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. As ordered, he opened fire, killing the woman before she could attack. He later stated, "the woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any Marines with her. It was clear that not only did she want to kill them, but she didn’t care about anybody else nearby who would have been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children on the street, people in the houses, maybe her child." 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. In his book, American Sniper, Kyle describes his longest successful shot: in 2008, outside Sadr City, he killed an insurgent about to fire a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) at a U.S. Army convoy with "a straight-up luck shot" from his McMillan Tac-338 sniper rifle from about 2,100 yards (1,920 m) away.
Kyle 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. During four tours of duty in the Iraq War, he was shot twice and survived six separate IED explosions.
Number of kills as a sniper
While neither the Pentagon, Navy nor SOC have challenged the claim of Kyle being the current top sniper, the exact number of sniper kills is obscure. To be counted as confirmed "They basically had to see the person fall and be clearly dead" according to Jim DeFelice, one of the coauthors of Kyle's autobiography. Kyle's shooter’s statements, filled out by every sniper after a mission, were reported to higher command who kept them in case some kill was contested as outside the Rules of Engagement. However, Wayne V. Hall, a spokesman for the Army, stated that "the U.S. Army does not keep any record, official or otherwise, of [the number of] confirmed kills", and the U.S. Special Operations Commands spokesman Ken McGraw says SOC treats a sniper's tally as "unofficial": "If anything, we shy away from reporting numbers like that. It’s so difficult to prove." The publisher HarperCollins states "The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyle's kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book." In his autobiography, Kyle wrote
The Navy credits me with more kills as a sniper than any other American service member, past or present. I guess that's true. They go back and forth on what the number is. One week, it's 160 (the "official" number as of this writing, for what that's worth), then it's way higher, then it's somewhere in between. If you want a number, ask the Navy—you may even get the truth if you catch them on the right day.
As a sniper, he was often asked about his weapons. While in training, he used four different rifles in order to know which weapon was the most useful in the given situation. In the field the following were used:
- a semi-automatic 7.62 NATO Mk 11 sniper rifle (patrol)
- a 5.56 NATO Mk 12 Designated Marksman Rifle modified with the lower receiver off a M-4 to get a collapsible stock and allow full auto (for urban patrol)
- a .300 Winchester Magnum M24 sniper rifle with MacMillan stocks and customized barrels, later replaced with a .300 Winchester Magnum Accuracy International. These two rifles were the ones mostly used while in overwatch
Kyle left the U.S. Navy in 2009 and moved to Midlothian, Texas, with his wife, Taya, and two children. He was president of Craft International, a tactical training company for the U.S. military and law enforcement communities.
In 2012, HarperCollins released Kyle's autobiographical book American Sniper. Kyle had initially hesitated to write the book but was persuaded to move forward because other books about SEALs were underway. 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." 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." American Sniper had a 37-week run on The New York Times bestseller list and brought Kyle national attention. Following its release, media articles challenged some of Kyle's anecdotes, 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", writes Michael J. Mooney, author of a biography of Kyle.
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 posttraumatic stress disorder. 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.
In interviews on Opie and Anthony 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." Kyle, in radio and television interviews following the book’s publication, admitted that "Scruff Face" was Ventura. Ventura, who denied the incident happened, filed a lawsuit against Kyle for defamation in January 2012. After Kyle was killed the following year, Ventura continued the lawsuit against Kyle's estate. The court found that the Kyle estate was unjustly enriched and awarded Ventura $1.8 million in damages. Kyle's widow is appealing the verdict on behalf of Kyle's estate.
On February 2, 2013, Kyle and a companion, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed by Eddie Ray Routh at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas. Both men were armed with .45-caliber 1911-style pistols when they were killed, but neither gun had been unholstered or fired. The safety catches were still on. Kyle was killed with a .45-caliber pistol, while Littlefield was shot with a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun. Both guns belonged to Kyle.
Routh was a 25-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Lancaster, Texas. Kyle and Littlefield had reportedly taken Routh to the gun range in an effort to help him with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Routh had been in and out of mental hospitals for at least two years and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. His family also said he suffered from PTSD from his time in the military. On the way to the shooting range, Kyle texted Littlefield, "This dude is straight up nuts." in which Littlefield responded, "Watch my six", military slang meaning "watch my back".
After the killings, Routh went to his sister's house in Midlothian and told her what he had done. His sister, Laura Blevins, called 9-1-1 and told the emergency operator: "They went out to a shooting range ... Like, he's all crazy. He's fucking psychotic." Local police captured Routh after a short freeway chase, which ended when Routh, who fled the scene in Kyle's Ford F-350 truck, crashed into a police cruiser in Lancaster.
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, after a funeral procession from Midlothian to Austin, stretching more than 200 miles (320 km). Hundreds of people lined Interstate 35 to view the procession and pay their final respects to Kyle.
Routh 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. His trial was set to begin May 5, 2014, but was delayed to allow more time to comply with DNA testing requirements. The trial began on February 11, 2015.
On February 24, 2015, Routh was found guilty of the deaths of Kyle and Littlefield. The jury returned the verdict after less than three hours of deliberations. Since prosecutors decided beforehand to not seek the death penalty, the trial judge, Jason Cashon, immediately sentenced Routh to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
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.
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. For his portrayal of Kyle, Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and the film was nominated in five other categories, including Best Picture. The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.
Awards and decorations
In Kyle's book American Sniper, Kyle wrote a subchapter titled “Punching Out Scruff Face” about an alleged altercation in a bar. According to Kyle, the encounter took place at McP’s, a bar in Coronado, California, on October 12, 2006, during a wake for Kyle’s comrade, Michael A. Monsoor, who was killed in the line of duty. In the book he claims he got in an altercation with a man he refers to as "Scruff" who told Kyle, "You deserve to lose a few."
On January 4, 2012, Kyle appeared on the Opie and Anthony Show to discuss his recently published book, American Sniper. On the show Kyle alleged that the character "Scruff" in his book is former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
Following these allegations, Jesse Ventura filed suit against Kyle for charges of defamation, appropriation, and unjust enrichment. On July 29, 2014, the jury returned a divided verdict of 8 to 2 that Kyle was guilty of defamation and unjust enrichment, and not guilty of appropriation. The Jury concluded that the Kyle Estate owed Ventura $500,000 for defamation, and $1.34 million for unjust enrichment.
- List of snipers
- Longest recorded sniper kills
- Simo Häyhä, the record-holder for any major war with 505 confirmed kills
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Buiso, Gray (January 1, 2012). "Meet the big shot - SEAL is America's deadliest sniper". New York Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Chris Kyle (March 24, 2010). "Chris Kyle from HarperCollins Publishers". Harpercollins.com. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
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- "'American Sniper' Widow Recalls Heartbreaking Moment Kids Learned Navy SEAL Dad Chris Kyle Had Been Killed". Christian Post. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
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- "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Grateful Nation Award"."Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Kyle".
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- Sanchez, Raf (January 2, 2012). "'The Devil of Ramadi' named America's deadliest sniper". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 2, 2012.
- 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.
- Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Chris (February 5, 2012). American Sniper. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-208235-3.
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- "Craft International". Retrieved August 10, 2012.
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- Hoinski, Michael (December 22, 2014). "The Controversial True Story Behind 'American Sniper'". Mens Journal Magazine. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "Fitco Cares". Fitcocares.org. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
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- Laura Beil (November 5, 2013). The Enemy Within: The Inside Story of Eddie Routh, the Man Accused of Killing Legendary "American Sniper" Chris Kyle. Rodale.
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- 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.
- Lilley, Kevin (2013-03-17). "Chris Kyle statue created for SEAL's widow". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
- 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.
- VERRIER, RICHARD (April 23, 2014). "Eastwood starts shooting 'American Sniper' at Santa Clarita ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
- Patrick Hipes. "Oscar Nominations 2015: Full List Of 87th Academy Award Nominees - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
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- Holley, Peter (February 2, 2015) - "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Declares 'Chris Kyle Day' As 'American Sniper' Continues to Surge". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- Associated Press (January 30, 2015) - "Greg Abbott Declares Feb. 2 'Chris Kyle Day'". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- Howell, Kellan (January 30, 2015) - "Gov. Abbott Declares 'Chris Kyle Day' in Texas: 'We Honor Our Military Heroes'". The Washington Times. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- Kyle, Chris (2012). American Sniper. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0062082350.
- The Opie & Anthony Show. Sirius XM. 4 Jan. 2012. Satellite Radio.
- Jesse Ventura v. Chris Kyle (District of Minnesota United States District Court 08/07/14). Text
- Mooney, Michael J., The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL (e-book, 70 pp.), Little, Brown and Company (an imprint of Hachette), April 23, 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chris Kyle.|
- American Sniper at Harper Collins
- American Sniper at the Internet Movie Database
- Kyle on The George Jarkesy Show
- Chris Kyle Story in The New Yorker
- French, David, We Need More 'Extremists' Like Chris Kyle, May 31, 2013, National Review
- Mooney, Michael J., The Legend of Chris Kyle D Magazine, April 2013
- Audio interview with Chris Kyle by Matthew Bannister, for the BBC World Service's Outlook programme, broadcast January 5, 2012
- Craft International, tactical training company Kyle founded to serve the U.S. military and law enforcement communities.
- Discussion on C-SPAN with Kyle on American Sniper, April 7, 2012