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Publisher's Summary

A gripping history chronicling the fits and starts of American special operations and the ultimate rise of the Navy SEALs from unarmed frogmen to elite, go-anywhere commandos - as told by one of their own.

“Deeply researched, well organized, and incredibly engaging.... This is our legacy with all the warts, the challenges, and the heroics in one concise volume.” (Admiral William H. McRaven, number one New York Times best-selling author and former commander, United States Special Operations Command)

How did the US Navy - the branch of the US military tasked with patrolling the oceans - ever manage to produce a unit of raiders trained to operate on land? And how, against all odds, did that unit become one of the world’s most elite commando forces, routinely striking thousands of miles from the water on the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, even Central Africa?

Behind the SEALs’ improbable rise lies the most remarkable underdog story in American military history - and in this audio, former Navy SEAL Benjamin H. Milligan captures it as never before.

Told through the eyes of remarkable leaders and racing from one longshot, hair-curling raid to the next, By Water Beneath the Walls is the tale of the unit’s heroic naval predecessors, and the evolution of the SEALs themselves. But it’s also the story of the forging of American special operations as a whole - and how the SEALs emerged from the fires as America’s first permanent commando force when again and again some other unit seemed predestined to seize that role. 

Here Milligan thrillingly captures the outsize feats of the SEALs’ frogmen forefathers in World War II, the Korean War, and elsewhere, even as he plunges us into the second front of interservice rivalries and personal ambition that shaped the SEALs’ evolution.

In equally vivid, masterful detail, he chronicles key early missions undertaken by units like the Marine Raiders, Army Rangers, and Green Berets, showing us how these fateful, bloody moments helped create the modern American commando - even as they opened up pivotal opportunities for the Navy.

Finally, he takes us alongside as the SEALs at last seize the mantle of commando raiding, and discover the missions of capture/kill and counterterrorism that would define them for decades to come.

Written with the insight that can only come from a combat veteran and a member of the book’s tribe, By Water Beneath the Walls is an essential new history of the SEAL teams, a crackling account of desperate last stands and unforgettable characters accomplishing the impossible - and a riveting epic of the dawn of American special operations.

©2021 Benjamin H. Milligan (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Fascinating.... Written with gusto and based on years of research, this history spans eight decades. Fast-paced and packed with colorful personalities and close-quarters gunfights, it vividly details the lineage of the SEALs. This tour de force confirms what we all suspected: SEALs are slightly crazy, and our nation is safer for it.” (Bing West, number one New York Times best-selling coauthor of Call Sign Chaos)

By Water Beneath the Walls is the SEAL book we needed. A deep dive into the SEALs’ roots, it is written with style and insight that could come only from someone who is part of the community. Milligan uses razor-sharp analysis and masterful storytelling to leave us with a clear understanding of not only how the SEALs came into being, but, more important, why.” (Kevin Maurer, number one New York Times best-selling coauthor of Lions of Kandahar and No Easy Day

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-12-21

Extra. Ordinary.

I very much enjoyed this book. Having heard a preview of it on the Jocko Podcast, and having previously read both Billy Waugh's "Chasing the Jackal" and Annie Jacobson's "Surprise, Kill, Vanish" I was ready for a true rendering of Navy SEALs history. There are 100 books to be written out of this book; 100 biographies. It is packed full of information, but accessible.

Was a great listen. I plan on getting the book version and re-reading.

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  • Jared
  • 21-08-21

Courageous Acts and Opportunities Seized

Compelling storytelling, insightful analysis, and deeply researched history. Learn and be inspired by this book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Pete Harrell
  • 07-12-21

Ugh, What a Slog

If ever an author and a book needed the strong hand of an editor, this is it. For fans of military history, this book will convince you to never to read another. The author gets so wound up in needless detail that the story gets lost. Obviously an incredible amount of research went into this book, but the reader doesn't need to hear every tiny detail of it. Is it really necessary to waste page after page on the controversy over berets as military headgear? Bottom line, it violates a primary tenant of authorship: Don't be boring. The story could be well told in half the number of pages if the author were able to discern what is important to record, and what is not. A painful listen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cameron Byers
  • 24-08-22

Excellent overview

The fits and starts of US Soecial Forces at the hands of politicians led to a series of "right men at the right time" to recognize the potential of small commando units both in and out of times of war. The country has had to learn many of the same lessons over and over again at the expense of the men most willing to charge forward and to never be out of the fight.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-07-22

The Unbiased Truth

The numerous element within the story have an untold number of details, but the author does an excellent job of maintaining focus, highlighting key information, and telling the valor of the many Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines this book is about in a way that a Veteran or civilian could have equal awe.

thankful to have heard about the author and the book in the Jocko Podcast!

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  • IAN POPE
  • 06-07-22

A must read

Well researched and written there is a perfect amount of humor in this very serious history of the creation of the Navy’s special warfare unit. The rangers have the saying, “Rangers lead the way.” After listening to this story maybe it should be, “the Teams lead the way.”

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  • mark
  • 24-06-22

Fantastic

Exceedingly well researched and well written. The author left no stone unturned in his history of one of the finest units in the US military

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  • Timothy Kraftson
  • 05-06-22

Well written history book.

This was a well written history book with a few accounts of direct action sprinkled in. If you are into pure history, this book is great. 2/3 is relatively dry and I had to fight through it a bit.

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  • Dorian Aniline
  • 28-05-22

Amazing history told through great stories

Decades of well researched detailed history telling the story of many of the special forces w a focus on the SEALS

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  • charles dryer
  • 21-05-22

Great

A wonderful book. well worth the time. Narration was good and easy to listen to.

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  • Alan
  • 29-08-22

What an amazing insight!

loved this, loads of info/history I was not aware of, my mind has a tendency to wander so when a good point/ dit starts getting spun by the narrator I'll sometimes come to about 10 mins later and need to relisten, 10/10 Recommended!

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  • D Healy
  • 09-11-21

Engrossing

I'm not an academic so can't leave an indepth literary review, I'm just a guy who enjoys military history. Loved this book, so engrossing and narrated well. Amazing to hear the various stories about the lineage of the SEAL Teams. Its a book I will keep and go back to again very soon.

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  • Sandy
  • 21-10-21

Excellet insight into the US Navy SEALS' origins.

I really enjoyed this title. Written by a former SEAL, it was refreshing to hear something different about the indivislduals and groups that formed the basis upon which this diverse navy was designed.
Ben Milligan writes like a historian, without the bias of so many former SEALs cashing in on experiences, near experiences and the bravery of others. This history of those who went before is a must read for anyone interested in modern warfare.