A young cowboy from Texas who joined the elite US Navy Seals became the most deadly sniper in American history. In a book published this month he provides an unusual insight into the psychology of a soldier who waits, watches and kills.
As US forces surged into Iraq in 2003, Chris Kyle was handed a sniper rifle and told to watch as a marine battalion entered an Iraqi town.
A crowd had come out to greet them. Through the scope he saw a woman, with a child close by, approaching his troops. She had a grenade ready to detonate in her hand.
“This was the first time I was going to have to kill someone. I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to do it, man, woman or whatever,” he says.
“You’re running everything through your mind. This is a woman, first of all. Second of all, am I clear to do this, is this right, is it justified? And after I do this, am I going to be fried back home? Are the lawyers going to come after me saying, ‘You killed a woman, you’re going to prison’?”
But he didn’t have much time to debate these questions.
“She made the decision for me, it was either my fellow Americans die or I take her out.”
He pulled the trigger.
Kyle remained in Iraq until 2009. According to official Pentagon figures, he killed 160 people, the most career sniper kills in the history of the US military. His own estimate is much higher, at 255 kills.
According to army intelligence, he was christened “The Devil” by Iraqi insurgents, who put a $20,000 (£13,000) bounty on his head.
Married with two children, he has now retired from the military and has published a book in which he claims to have no regrets, referring to the people he killed as “savages”.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History