The Year that was

This was the Year that ... Navy Seals Stormed Pop Culture

From ''Act of Valor'' to ''Zero Dark Thirty'' Navy Seals were ever-present in 2012

Navy Seals can fast-rope out of helicopters, parachute from planes, and jump off SOC-R boats. And this year the Navy's elite special-ops force had even more vehicles in its arsenal: a whole fleet's worth of entertainment projects. There were books (Chris Kyle's American Sniper, Mark Owen's firsthand account of the Osama bin Laden raid, No Easy Day), movies (Act of Valor, Zero Dark Thirty), a TV program (Nat Geo Channel's SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden), and videogames (Medal of Honor Warfighter, Call of Duty: Black Ops II).

There's little mystery as to why the American public is suddenly so hungry for SEALs: the killing of bin Laden by SEAL Team Six in 2011. ''It brought to an absolute frantic pitch the desire to know who they are, what they do, and how those specific missions unfolded,'' says former SEAL Rorke Denver, who stars in Act of Valor and has a book of his own, Damn Few, coming out in February. Some of this year's SEAL projects were in the works before bin Laden was killed, but that event has pumped up excitement and interest.

The military isn't necessarily thrilled about all of the attention (the Defense Department threatened legal action prior to No Easy Day's publication). But for anyone curious about these secretive heroes, it's hard to resist digging into something like the fascinating No Easy Day. ''I've done a large number of [the kinds of] things described in that book, so you would think I would be numb or disinterested,'' says Denver (who had his own book vetted by the Pentagon). ''I thought it read great. It was a page-turner.''

Originally posted Dec 21, 2012 Published in issue #1239-1240 Dec 28, 2012 Order article reprints