American Warrior Book Review

American Warrior: The True Story of a Legendary Ranger

By Gary O’Neal with David Fisher

Hardcover in dustjacket, 291 pages, photographs

Published by Thomas Dunne Books May 2013

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 1-250-00432-2

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1-250-00432-1

Dimensions: ‎6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches

Gary O’Neal did not have a happy childhood.  He was estranged from his father and never knew his mother, being raised in the homes of various family members.  He never fit in.  When he was fifteen he stole a cousin’s birth certificate and enlisted in the Army.  It was 1967, he was sent to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne.  When his cousin’s draft number came up the MP’s came and O’Neal’s first stint in the Army ended, his service record annulled.  He did manage to re-enlist, and through a few fortuitous events managed to get himself assigned to the Long Range Recon Patrols (LRRPs) operating in small groups behind enemy lines.

That was just the beginning, the rest of his story reads like a Hollywood action movie.  Even though he never knew his mother, he embraced her Lakoda Sioux heritage.  He learned to fly helicopters in Vietnam, unofficially.  He was a founding member of the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, and the obscure Blue Light counter-terrorism unit which was formed while Delta Force was still working up.  He was in and out of the Army several times, working as a bouncer in a bar, movie stunt coordinator, and training troops in Nicaragua.  He managed to accumulate black belts in several martial arts and developed his own style of close combat working with Mike Echanis of Soldier of Fortune fame.

CWO Gary O’Neal was inducted into the U.S. Ranger Hall of Fame.  He is a larger-than-life figure who led a remarkable life.  Some have questioned the voracity of some of the incidents he relates in this book, and many of the stories are difficult if not impossible to verify.  Others claim there is even more to the story than is being told here.  There was controversy concerning details of the representation of events in Nicaragua which resulted in an apology from co-author David Fisher to the family of Mike Echanis.  An interesting book which reads like an adventure novel.