hristopher Scott “Chris” Kyle (April 8, 1974 − February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL veteran and sniper. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He was awarded one Silver Star Medal, four Bronze Star Medals with “V” devices, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and numerous other unit and personal awards. Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and published his bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, in 2012. An eponymous film adaptation of Kyle’s book, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released two years later. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas. A former Marine with PTSD, Routh was found guilty and 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 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 deer, pheasant, and quail. Kyle and his brother grew up raising up to 150 head of cattle at a time. Kyle attended high school in Midlothian, Texas, and after graduating, became a professional bronco rodeo rider and ranch hand, 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 special operations. A U.S. Navy recruiter convinced him to try, instead, 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. CNN reported that the woman was cradling a toddler in her other hand. As ordered, Kyle 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 Kyle 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 sniper aiming at other members of the US military 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 as “The Legend” among the general infantry and Marines he was tasked to protect. The nickname originated among Kyle’s fellow SEALs following his taking of a sabbatical to train other snipers in Fallujah, and he was sometimes called “The Myth”. During four tours of duty in the Iraq War, he was shot twice and survived six separate IED detonations.
NUMBER OF KILLS AS A SNIPER
While the Navy, Pentagon, and U.S. Special Operations Commands (SOC) have not challenged the claim that Kyle was the current top sniper, his 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 (shooter’s statements are filled out by every sniper after a mission) were reported to higher command, who kept them in case any kill were contested as outside the rules of engagement (ROE). 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.”
On July 8, 2016, the U.S. Navy corrected Kyle’s DD Form 214 regarding some decorations listed on his original discharge document. The original discharge papers issued to him upon leaving the service (a DD-214) tally with his account given in his autobiography, of two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with valor. The Navy revised it to one Silver Star and four Bronze Stars with valor. 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 DD214, which accurately reflects Kyle’s years of honorable and extraordinary service.”
As a sniper, Kyle 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, he used the following:
- 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 he mostly used while in overwatch.[clarification needed]
- a .338 Lapua Magnum used for Long Range Targets
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 autobiography, 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 ensuing interviews, Kyle stated he had no regrets about his work as a sharpshooter, saying, “I had to do it to protect the Marines.”