By Honor Bound by Tom Norris and Mike Thornton with Dick Couch

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If you get your hands on a copy of By Honor Bound (St. Martin’s Press, 288 pp., $26.99; $12.99, Kindle), skip the blurbs on the book’s jacket as well as the Forward, Preface, Introduction, and Epigraph. The book’s subtitle—Two Navy SEALs, The Medal of Honor, and a Story of Extraordinary Courage—provides all the background you need.

Start reading on the first page—”Part 1: Bat 21″–in which prolific author (and former SEAL) Dick Couch tells the story of Tom Norris and Mike Thornton so completely and seamlessly that if you are the least bit militarily inclined, he will instantly capture your full attention. His narration unreels with mounting suspense.

I was continually dazzled by the selfless dedication of Norris and Thornton, both of whom received the Medal of Honor for carrying out rescue and reconnaissance missions behind North Vietnamese Army lines near the Cam Lo bridge and inside the Demilitarized Zone in 1972.

Couch took me into the SEAL world and I simply could not stop reading. In one sitting, I finished the book’s first 170 pages, which describe Norris and Thornton’s heroic efforts. The magnitude of their dilemmas and feats left me teary-eyed and speechless, incapable of reading the best passages aloud to my wife.

Their operational principle was “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.” They encountered the worst of the worst. I won’t say more about what happened because I might lessen the impact for readers of the surprise, awe, and admiration produced by their actions. It is better to hear the facts from Couch.

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Dick Couch

Yes, other people have written about these men, but never with so much depth and detail. Norris and Thornton told their stories to Couch, and he expanded them with interviews from eyewitnesses and his own expertise as a SEAL veteran of the Vietnam War. Couch also flawlessly interweaves history lessons relevant to their heroic actions.

By Honor Bound is his twenty-second book related to military activities, eleven nonfiction and eleven fiction.

The last part of the book describes the post-war lives of Thornton and Norris, which include Navy and FBI adventures almost as fascinating as their earlier experiences. These accounts also include eyewitness testimony.

In a final tribute to Norris and Thornton, Couch says, “Not only were they incredibly heroic during these events, but they were almost superhuman—even by Navy SEAL metrics.”

If you read this book, I predict that you will agree.

—Henry Zeybel

Always Faithful, Always Forward by Dick Couch

Dick Couch graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967 and spent five years in the Navy serving with Underwater Demolition and SEAL teams. His Vietnam War service included leading one of the few successful POW rescue operations as a platoon leader with SEAL Team One in 1970. He later joined the CIA.

In his third career Couch has become a prolific author, specializing in books about military special ops. His many volumes include novels such as SEAL Team One and Covert Action, and nonfiction books including The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228, Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior, Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger ,The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy SEALs and the Winning of al-Anbar, and The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident.

Couch

In his latest book, Always Faithful, Always Forward: The Forging of a Special Operations Marine (Berkley Caliber, 353 pp., $26.95), Couch zeroes in on  the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which formed early in 2006. Couch offers a brief history of American U.S. military special ops, then goes on to chronicle the progress of a class of seventy-nine Marines who went through the nine-month Individual Training Course at Camp Lejeune that started in November 2012.

—Marc Leepson