31 pages 1 hour read

Jim DeFelice

American Sniper

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2012

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Summary and Study Guide


American Sniper is the autobiography of Chris Kyle, the single deadliest sniper in the history of the United States military. The narrative, co-written by Chris Kyle, Jim deFelice, Scott McEwen, and Chris’s wife Taya, opens with events that took place in 2003 in Iraq. At the time, Chris was providing protective fire for a group of Marines; a female insurgent attempted to attack the Marines with a grenade, but Chris shot her, registering his first sniper kill.

After explaining some of the realities of his time as a sniper—including his belief that constantly being in combat explains his large number of kills—Chris describes his background. He hails from a Texas family defined by hard work and Christian values, and performed ranch work as a young man. Yet, he was drawn to a military lifestyle and enlisted in the SEAL training program, BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/Scuba), which involved constant tough exercise to build both physical and mental endurance.

At around the same time that Chris graduated from BUD/S and was assigned to a SEAL team, he met Taya, the woman he would soon marry. These events took place in the early months of 2001; later that year, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Chris was eager to get into combat. He was eventually deployed to help search freighters for weapons. As it became increasingly obvious that America would go to war in the Middle East, Taya’s fears for Chris’s safety continued to mount.

Chris serves as a gunner on a desert patrol vehicle (DPV). After this first deployment in the Iraq War, he returns home in a bad state, disgusted with the civilian response to the war and somewhat paranoid as the result of combat. Nonetheless, he enrolls in sniper school, and develops a more scientific approach to his shooting skills. Before returning to combat, he sees the birth of his first child, a son.

Chris’s next deployment takes him to Iraq, where he works alongside the GROM (a Polish military unit) for a time. Then he is sent to Fallujah, where he works out of apartment buildings, shooting insurgents as American forces move through the city. Over the course of his subsequent time in combat, Chris establishes a reputation as a feared sniper and, at least within his platoon, as a devoted leader and warrior. His achievements are accompanied by losses. One SEAL to whom Chris is close, Ryan Job, is seriously wounded and blinded; another, Marc Lee, loses his life. Meanwhile, the relationship between Chris and Taya is further strained by Chris’s extended absences from his family, which now includes a daughter.

After a final deployment takes him to Iraq’s Sadr City and brings its own combination of shocks and victories—the experience of being shot in the back, a promotion to Chief Petty Officer—Chris leaves the SEALs to devote himself to his family. He cofounds the company, Craft International, designed to offer tactical and weapons expertise to its clients. Devoted to his wife and children, Chris harbors regrets about the lives he could not save. He realizes that he has been altered by his time at war, as he acknowledges in the final pages of American Sniper.