The late Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL known as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, exaggerated his military record and the accolades he received for his service, documents show.
Kyle’s bestselling memoir, “American Sniper,” has sold more than a million copies and was adapted into a film starring Bradley Cooper. It is remains the highest-grossing war film of all time.
“I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze, all for valor,” Kyle wrote.
But internal Navy documents published by The Intercept show that Kyle, who was murdered by a fellow military veteran he was helping work through post-traumatic stress, actually earned one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor.
The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration, while the Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.
The former SEAL was warned at least once that his medal count in his autobiography was wrong, a Navy officer told The Intercept.
The exaggeration violates the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to lie about military accomplishments for personal gain.
“The SEAL leadership was aware of the embellishment, but didn’t want to correct the record because Kyle’s celebrity status reflected well on the command,” a former SEAL officer told the online magazine. “Everybody went on a pilgrimage to his funeral at Cowboys Stadium knowing full well his claims weren’t true.”
Kyle wrote in his memoir that he had 160 “confirmed kills” as a sniper, a self-reported statistic.
Members of the SEAL community told The Intercept that Kyle had tainted his commendable accomplishments with the embellishment.
“It takes away from the legitimate heroism he showed,” a retired SEAL told the magazine.
This is not the first instance that Kyle was found to lie about incidents in his book, as a jury found one year after Kyle’s murder that he lied in ‘American Sniper’ and defamed former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Ventura claimed Kyle lied about punching him in the face at a California bar and was awarded $1.8 million. Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, is appealing the ruling.
Kyle was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009 after serving 11 years as a SEAL. He and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were fatally shot by schizophrenic ex-Marine Eddie Ray Routh at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge-Resort in Texas.