I bought this book when I was going through a period of reading lots of the genre. Sniper One has to be one of the most honest stories I’ve ever read. Sergeant Dan Mills doesn’t hide anything.
The first thing that the reader has to accept is that snipers are a breed apart. They are specialists and they take great pride in their skill. To them, the more lethally effective they are, the better the chances of their comrades (and themselves) going home alive. If you deplore war, then don’t read the book! Dan Mills doesn’t pretend to be anything but a very effective specialist who enjoys being successful – bringing maximum harm to the enemy. There’s one point in the story when the sniper squad are immensely excited to have access to the superior weaponry and ammunition of an American special forces member, which reveals just how these men think of their job.
The story involves the deployment of Dan Mills’ platoon of snipers, part of an infantry battalion, to southern Iraq. The battalion’s mission: win the hearts and minds of the local people. It was supposed to be no more than that. Unfortunately, events elsewhere had led to an explosion of violence in many areas, and the battalion walked right into a hornet’s nest that somebody else had just kicked! What followed was nothing less than a small contingent of soldiers trying to operate to mission intentions while virtually under siege from heavily armed militia. They were, effectively, engaged in the longest, most dangerous firefight any British troops had experienced in over half a century.
Mortars pounding the compound the soldiers operated from, militia attacking at every opportunity, these soldiers were isolated, fighting virtually alone. The snipers came into their own. They inflicted heavy damage on the enemy ruthlessly. But they were, after all, only a small platoon. Casualties mounted slowly, but they couldn’t afford any losses. And then the enemy came in waves that threatened to overrun the British position.
A tale of courage, brutal combat, and a soldier’s celebration of his comrades’ outstanding performance under impossible conditions, Sniper One is reminiscent of the famous Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the 19th Century Zulu War (filmed in Hollywood style as Zulu).
It’s not the only tale of British forces facing such a position. Many of those who have served in Afghanistan can tell similar tales of facing impossible odds under siege conditions. What’s remarkable here is the honest pleasure in the execution of combat skills expressed by Dan Mills. It’s also one of very few books concerning the war in Iraq.
I don’t hesitate in giving this book 5 stars, but I repeat my warning: if you are sensitive, don’t read it. And do remember that, while I believe many young people would learn valuable lessons from these books about real warfare, this is very definitely a book for adults!