by Mitchell Zuckoff
13 Hours is the true story of the terrorist attack on the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound and the Annex, a nearby CIA station, in Benghazi, Libya. On September 11, 2012, a team of six American security operators fought for thirteen hours to drive away the attackers, risking everything to protect the Americans there. 13 Hours is the story as told by the operators themselves, replete with first-hand knowledge of the events and details that can be found nowhere else.
Several years ago, I watched the movie 13 Hours and sat riveted to the television screen the whole time. I was at least equally engrossed by the book. The insight from the operators stationed in Benghazi provides immeasurable value to the story, and Zuckoff does well in weaving a story that personalizes the operators while also highlighting how well they worked together as a team and how vital that relationship was that fateful night. Zuckoff provides a brief account of each operator’s personal background and includes details throughout the book that develop each character, ensuring that readers are able to sympathize with the operators and thus have a greater interest in the story.
13 Hours is a fast-paced page turner; it was difficult to put down especially once the attack began. Zuckoff includes many details as the action progresses, from the expression on a character’s face to the seemingly unimportant comment made by one of the operators. Rather than bogging down the flow of the story, the details serve instead to make the events more real, bringing sharp, clear images to the reader’s mind. In addition, despite the seriousness of the subject, Zuckoff is able to incorporate light, sparse humor without it seeming out of place.
This book does not seem political in any way. The story is centered around the experience of the operators, and there is no speculation about possible motives behind the slow response to the request for reinforcements. Readers can enjoy the book and learn from the first-hand account without worrying about thinly veiled political accusations or biased storytelling that paints one political party or figure in an unfavorable light. I believe the author and the operators were truly interested only in telling the truth of what happened that night in Libya.
I would highly recommend this book for older readers as well as mature younger readers. There is some profanity as well as details of violence that may not be appropriate for younger readers. Other than giving me knowledge of a significant episode of American history, reading this book reminded me of the very different lifestyle of GRS (Global Response Staff) operators and the important security role they play in the intelligence community. I was left with a greater appreciation for the risks many of the operators take to serve this country as well as the sacrifices made by their families.