The Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, learned from ABC News that they had “gazelle legs, no waist, and a huge upper body configuration,” not to mention calloused hands and gigantic egos. They learned from other American news sources that they had taken part in a 45-minute firefight and that an armed bin Laden, once cornered, had tried to defend himself in his final moments, staring straight at the fighters who would shoot him. Their raid was being turned into a bad action movie.

These distortions seemed funny at first. But “Mark Owen” (the pseudonym of one gutsy, transgressive member of the SEALs, who served 13 consecutive combat deployments) began to want to set the record straight. He hoped to deliver firsthand a visceral and often surprising version of the bin Laden raid and other SEAL stories. The emphasis of his “No Easy Day,” written with Kevin Maurer, is not on spilling secrets. It is on explaining a SEAL’s rigorous mind-set and showing how that toughness is created.

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