The Duke of Sussex has come under criticism following media reports of his disclosure that he killed 25 Taliban insurgents while serving as an Apache pilot in 2012/13 during one of his two tours of Afghanistan.
(Read the full 987-word extract below)
Contents of the book were kept tightly under wraps in the run-up to its scheduled release on 10 January, but it accidentally went on sale in Spain on Thursday before being swiftly removed from book shelves.
Copies of the memoir have also been leaked in America, while the Guardian newspaper in the UK published extracts about Harry's claim he was physically attacked by Prince William.
A retired British Army colonel, a senior Taliban leader and a former Defence Secretary are among a number of senior figures to have accused the duke of turning against his “other family, the military”. He has also been accused of threatening his own security by disclosing his personal Taliban "kill count".
But Harry has also received support from within the military.
In response to criticism that Harry would not have known the number of insurgents he killed, friend and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers said: "In Modern Warfare it’s ‘Literally Recorded’, numbers kept, not by the pilot but by those who watch and command them. War is hellish and those who experience it first hand know the context and can ultimately reflect on it as they see fit."
Fellow veteran Dave Henson said: "Context is everything, and so crucial to support an accurate narrative. Unhelpful to jump on isolated sentences or figures."
Nathan Jones, a former Royal Air Force pilot and who competed in the Invictus Games and is now a mental health advocate, said: "A lot of people are having some very strong opinions on Prince Harry right now and most without any knowledge of the background of what they’re saying or commenting on. Be careful what you say as words can be incredibly damaging."
Yahoo News UK has seen an English language version of the full extract and has published it in full.
The passage includes:
Harry's admission that he had been well-trained to "otherize" Taliban insurgents to enable him to kill them and that he recognised this as "problematic"
That Harry's depiction of 25 'kills' is an accurate number based on a "timestamped... careful review" of every video taken from his Apache helicopter and that none of the missions in which he took the life of an enemy fighter were found to be "irregular"
Harry's regret that he was unable to help a group of Gurkhas pinned in by Taliban fighters
More context around his description of Afghanistan as a "war of mistakes", and that this was a view Harry and others feared to be true
The full 987-word extract is published below:
(The book is available to pre-order here)
We kept following the two motorbikes through several villages, while griping about the bureaucracy of war, the reluctance of higher-ups to let us do what we'd been trained to do. Maybe, in our griping, we were no different from soldiers in every war. We wanted to fight: we didn't understand larger issues, underlying geopolitics. Big picture. Some commanders often said, publicly and privately, that they feared every Taliban killed would create three more, so they were extra cautious. At times we felt the commanders were right: we were creating more Taliban. But there had to be a better answer than floating nearby while innocents got slaughtered.
Five minutes became ten became twenty.
We never did get permission.
Every kill was on video.
The Apache saw all. The camera in its nose recorded all. So, after every mission, there would be a careful review of that video.
Returning to Bastion, we'd walk into the gun tape room, slide the video into a machine, which would project the kill onto wall-mounted plasma TVs.
Our squadron commander would press his face against the screens, examining, murmuring- wrinkling his nose. He wasn't merely looking for errors, this chap, he was hungry for them. He wanted to catch us in a mistake.
We called him awful names when he wasn't around. We came close to calling him those names to his face. Look, whose side are you on?
But that was what he wanted. He was trying to provoke us, to get us to say the unspeakable.
Jealousy, we decided.
It ate him up inside that he'd never pulled a trigger in battle. He'd never attacked the enemy.
So he attacked us.
Despite his best efforts, he never found anything irregular in any of our kills. I was part of six missions that ended in the taking of human life, and they were all deemed justified by a man who wanted to crucify us. I deemed them the same.
What made the squadron commander's attitude so execrable was this: He was exploiting a real and legitimate fear. A fear we all shared. Afghanistan was a war of mistakes, a war of enormous collateral damage - thousands of innocents killed and maimed, and that always haunted us. So my goal from the day I arrived was never to go to bed doubting that I'd done the right thing, that my targets had been correct, that I was firing on Taliban and only Taliban, no civilians nearby. I wanted to return to Britain with all my limbs, but more, I wanted to go home with my conscience intact. Which meant being aware of what I was doing, and why I was doing it, at all times.
Most soldiers can't tell you precisely how much death is on their ledger. In battle conditions, there's often a great deal of indiscriminate firing. But in the age of Apaches and laptops, everything I did in the course of two combat tours was recorded, time-stamped. I could always say precisely how many enemy combatants I'd killed. And I felt it vital never to shy away from that number.
Among the many things I learned in the Army, accountability was near the top of the list.
So, my number: Twenty-five. It wasn't a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed. Naturallv, I'd have preferred not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind, but by the same token I'd have preferred to live in a world in which there was no Taliban, a world without war. Even for an occasional practitioner of magical thinking like me, however, some realities just can't be changed.
While in the heat and fog of combat, I didn't think of those twenty-five as people. You can't kill people if you think of them as people. You can't really harm people if you think of them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I'd been trained to "other-ize" them, trained well. On some level I recognized this learned detachment as problematic. But I also saw it as an unavoidable part of soldiering.
Another reality that couldn't be changed.
Not to say that I was some kind of automaton. I never forgot being in that TV room at Eton, the one with the blue doors, watching the Twin Towers melt as people leaped from the roofs and high windows. I never forgot the parents and spouses and children I met in New York, clutching photos of the moms and dads who'd been crushed or vaporized or burned alive. September 11 was vile, indelible, and all those responsible, along with their sympathizers and enablers, their allies and successors, were not just our enemies, but enemies of humanity. Fighting them meant avenging one of the most heinous crimes in world history, and preventing it from happening again.
As my tour neared its end, around Christmas 2012, I had questions and qualms about the war, but none of these was moral. I still believed in the Mis-sion, and the only shots I thought twice about were the ones I hadn't taken.
For instance, the night we were called in to help some Gurkhas. They were pinned down by a nest of Taliban fighters, and when we arrived there was a breakdown in communications, so we simply weren't able to help. It haunts me still: hearing my Gurkha brothers calling out on the radio, remembering every Gurkha I'd known and loved, being prevented from doing anything.
As I fastened my bags and said my goodbyes I was honest with myself: I acknowledged plenty of regrets. But they were the healthy kind. I regretted the things I hadn't done, the Brits and Yanks I hadn't been able to help.
I regretted the job not being finished.
Most of all, I regretted that it was time to leave.
Neither Buckingham Palace nor Kensington Palace have comment on the memoir.