An epic account of the Navy SEALs of Alpha platoon, the startling accusations against their chief, Eddie Gallagher, and the courtroom battle that exposed the dark underbelly of America’s special forces—from a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter
“Meticulously assembled and brilliantly written . . . [a] remarkable and engrossing book.”—The New York Times
By official accounts, the Navy SEALs of Alpha platoon returned as heroes after their 2017 deployment to Mosul, following a vicious, bloody, and successful campaign to drive ISIS from the city. But within the platoon a different war raged. Even as Alpha’s chief, Eddie Gallagher, was being honored by the Navy for his leadership, several of his men were preparing to report him for war crimes, alleging that he’d stabbed a prisoner in cold blood and taken lethal sniper shots at unarmed civilians.
Many young SEALs regarded Gallagher as the ideal special operations commando. Trained as a sniper, a medic, and an explosives expert, he was considered a battle-tested leader. But in the heat of combat, some in his platoon saw a darker figure—a man who appeared to be coming unhinged after multiple deployments in America’s forever wars. Their excitement to work with a tough, experienced chief soon gave way to a grim suspicion that his thirst for blood seemed to know no bounds and a belief that his unpredictability was as dangerous as the enemy.
In riveting detail, Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent David Philipps reveals the story of a group of special operators caught in a moral crucible—should they uphold their oath and turn in their chief, or honor the SEALs’ unwritten code of silence? It is also a larger story of how the SEAL Teams drifted off course after 9/11, and of the “pirate” subculture that festered within their ranks—a secret brotherhood that, in a time of endless war with few clear victories, made the act of killing itself the paramount goal. The investigation and trial following Alpha’s deployment—and Gallagher’s ultimate acquittal on the most serious charges—would pit SEAL against SEAL, set the Navy brass on a collision course with President Donald Trump, and turn Gallagher into a political litmus test in a hotly polarized America.
A page-turning tale of battle, honor, and betrayal, Alpha is a remarkable exposé of the fault lines fracturing a country that has been at war for a generation and counting.
About the Author
David Philipps is an award-winning national correspondent for The New York Times, where he writes about the military. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Seattle Times, among other publications. His military coverage won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and he was twice named a Pulitzer finalist, for local reporting and for breaking news. His coverage of the violence at Fort Carson in the Colorado Springs Gazette won the Livingston Award, and his book Lethal Warriors won honorable mention for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his family.
“A dogged researcher and gifted writer, Philipps turns the story of Gallagher’s rise, his alleged war crimes and the botched Navy prosecution into an infuriating, fast-paced thriller.”—The Washington Post
“I’ve been haunted these last few days by Alpha. . . . It’s engrossing, full of horror and deeply damning.”—Sam Sifton, The New York Times
“Shakespearean . . . An excellent read from a seasoned reporter who covered the entire saga [of] Eddie Gallagher.”—TheSan Diego Union-Tribune
“Alpha is an important, infuriating, meticulously researched account of modern warfare that I found nearly impossible to put down.”—Jon Krakauer, New York Times bestselling author of Where Men Win Glory and Into the Wild
“This is one of the best books to come out of the Iraq war. It is also one of the saddest. There have been many books about Navy SEALs and snipers, but Alpha is by far the most important. I think it will be required reading for the Navy, as Black Hearts has become for the Army. Anyone who cares about the American military needs to read this.”—Thomas E. Ricks, bestselling author of Fiasco, First Principles, and The Generals
“This is a book to make your blood boil. Expertly reported and written, Alpha details a truly shameful national episode, and stands as a powerful corrective for those who mistake cruelty for toughness and equate war with murder.”—Mark Bowden, New York Times bestselling author of Black Hawk Down and Hue 1968
“Alpha is a phenomenally reported, deeply compelling portrait of moral courage and moral cowardice in the SEAL Teams. Philipps details not simply the many failures of leadership within SEAL ranks that enabled war crimes, jeopardized the mission, and risked the lives of service members, but also the culture that made accountability almost impossible. Superb.”—Phil Klay, National Book Award–winning author of Missionaries and Redeployment
“An enthralling, blow-by-blow account of the 2019 court-martial of U.S. Navy SEAL platoon chief Eddie Gallagher for stabbing a wounded ISIS prisoner to death . . . [Philipps] recounts the shocking events . . . in riveting detail. This is the definitive portrait of a saga that exposed deep fault lines within an elite fighting force.”—Publishers Weekly(starred review)