The Navy is examining allegations that famed Navy SEAL and "American Ssniper" author Chris Kyle claimed up to three combat valor awards that do not match those appearing in his official military records. he had two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor devices, but his records Navy show only one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor.
The discrepancy, first reported Wednesday by The Intercept, adds to the a list of disputed dubious claims made by Kyle, who was murdered in 2013, the former chief special warfare operator and further tarnishes his the legacy of one of the Navy's most effective snipers.
"All told, I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze [Stars], all for valor," Kyle wrote in his memoir, "American Sniper." Kyle's DD-214 form, an official document all service members receive upon separation, shows the same. However, Navy records indicate he earned one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars for his valor during four combat deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2008.
Kyle left the service in 2009.
"The Navy considers the individual service member's official military personnel file and our central official awards records to be the authoritative sources for verifying entitlement to decorations and awards," Cullen James, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command, told The Intercept.
In other words, Kyle's DD-214 may be inaccurate.
Navy Times first learned of this alleged discrepancy in 2014 but conducted an independent, months-long investigation between 2014 and 2015 and was unable to verify whether Kyle had been recognized privately for actions during classified operations — which could have accounted for a second Silver Star. As USA Today recently revealed, the Navy has awarded more than 100 Silver Stars under such circumstances going back to 9/11. Navy Times obtained those citations, which are redacted and do not include the recipient's name.
It remains a possibility that Kyle did receive a second award, a Navy official said Wednesday, but there's no paper trail to support that.
Kyle's Bronze Stars are another matter lacking full clarity. There are five listed in his DD-214. However, records obtained by Navy Times indicate he has three.
Notably, Kyle was nominated for a Silver Star in 2004 but the award was downgraded to a Bronze Star two years later.
Kyle has two other combat decorations, according to the publicly releasable biography provided by the Navy on Wednesday: a Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat "V" and a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat "V."
Navy Times opted not to pursue the story further because of the possibility that one of dozens of classified Silver Star citations may not have made it into his personnel file and Kyle's DD-214 does show he had two Silver Stars. Kyle was put in for a second Silver Star but the award was subsequently downgraded.
A spokesman for Navy Personnel Command told The Intercept that the records their records, provided Navy Times Wednesday, are authoritative.
"The Navy considers the individual service member's official military personnel file and our central official awards records to be the authoritative sources for verifying entitlement to decorations and awards," said Cullen James.
"The form DD214 is generated locally at the command where the service member is separated. Although the information on the DD214 should match the official records, the process involves people and inevitably some errors may occur."
The Intercept's report story also claims that Kyle was specifically warned by military officials that his medal count was wrong before publication of "American Sniper."
Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, did not immediately response to requests seeking comment. She is involved in a foundation established in her husband's memory to help service members reintegrate into civilian society. A colleague at the foundation said Taya Kyle was unavailable.
"Taya is currently focused on veterans and first responders at an event in Indiana and is not available for comment," he said.
Chris Kyle was shot and killed at a Texas shooting range in 2013 by a fellow veteran whom he'd befriended. The killer also shot and killed Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield.
One of Kyle's former Navy SEAL teammates who served with him in Iraq told Navy Times that he does not know whether Kyle fabricated any military awards. Regardless, the source said, Kyle was devastating sniper.
"He was pretty damn effective," said the SEAL, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to upset his ties to the SEAL community, a close-knit group that shuns the spotlight and media coverage. "Leadership kept putting him in the worst situations because they knew he was effective."
A verified Silver Star citation for Kyle, contained in Military Times Hall of Valor database, dates to a 2006 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. It credits him with killing 91 enemy combatants between April and August of that year.
Among the 112 redacted Silver Star citations reviewed by Navy Times, one closely corresponds to details about a Aug. 2, 2006, battle where Kyle was present. The citation is for a Navy SEAL with the same rank and unit information as Kyle's. The recipient's name, however, is redacted. Navy officials could not immediately identify that SEAL.
The date also corresponds to the day Kyle's friend, Marc Alan Lee, was killed by enemy fire in Ramadi.
The But the missing medals, if indeed fabricated, are the latest in a series of alleged misrepresentations. In 2014, a jury found that Kyle had lied when he said he had punched former Navy special operator and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was Navy special operator during the 1960s. In his book, Kyle claims he punched a man who criticized the SEALs, saying they deserved to suffer combat losses. In interviews following the release of "American Sniper," Kyle claimed that man was Ventura.
Taya Kyle is appealing the jury's decision.
Kyle has been accused of lying about providing sniper overwatch and shooting looters during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He is also accused of lying about killing two carjackers in 2010.