Saturday, May 08, 2021
40.0°F

HISTORY CORNER: SNIPERS: THE MOST FEARED WARRIORS

by SYD ALBRIGHT
| March 28, 2021 1:00 AM

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place.” — Malcolm McDowell

During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese had a $30,000 bounty on the head of U.S. Marine Corps sniper Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock. Usually, they only offered from $8 to $2,000 for killing an American sniper.

Hathcock was special. He was a legend in the jungle — for both sides, and the communists had to take him out.

They couldn’t.

Here’s how he worked:

Hathcock volunteered for a dangerous mission before he even knew what it was.

Camouflaged with local vegetation, he crawled inch-by-inch across a grass-covered meadow into the enemy camp to kill a North Vietnamese Army general.

It took him four days and three nights to get there. The days were tropical hot and humid. There were always insects. And there was no time to sleep.

While creeping through the tall grass, he was almost bitten by a bamboo viper — a nasty little green snake with an extremely painful bite. A wound would feel “as if it had been branded with a hot iron, and the pain does not subside until about 24 hours after being bitten (and) within minutes…the surrounding flesh dies and turns black.”

While watching the serpent, Hathcock didn’t move a muscle — not wishing to give away his position. The snake slithered away and the Marine kept crawling.

Just after sunset, as he lay motionless and camouflaged in the foliage, an enemy soldier almost stepped on him.

He was about 700 yards away when the general emerged from his quarters onto the porch and took a stretch.

“I thought to myself, ‘This'll be good…really good,’” he said.

Carefully lining up his target in the crosshairs of his scope, Hathcock slowly squeezed the trigger.

The shot hit the general square in the chest.

Mission accomplished!

Hathcock would boldly challenge the enemy snipers looking for him by wearing a white feather in his hat band. They called him “Trắng Lông,” meaning “White Feather Sniper.”

Hathcock’s fellow Marines protected him by also wearing a white feather — and risking their own lives, while confusing the enemy counter-snipers searching for him.

One report said that he killed every known Vietnamese marksman who tried to collect the bounty.

On another mission, Hathcock and his spotter, John Roland Burke, were stalking an enemy sniper in the jungle southwest of Da Nang. A commie sniper they called “The Cobra," had already killed several Marines and was believed to be looking for Hathcock.

Hathcock saw him first.

Seeing a glint in the sunlight of the enemy’s scope, Hathcock took aim and fired. The bullet went right through the scope and hit him in the eye — killing him instantly.

Hathcock brought the dead sniper’s gun back to camp as a trophy — but somebody stole it.

By the time he was sent back to the U.S. in 1969 having suffered severe burns while rescuing seven Marines from a burning vehicle, he’d killed 93 enemy combatants — maybe hundreds more that couldn’t be confirmed under military protocols.

While serving as a combat commander in Vietnam, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and Annapolis graduate Kenny Moore of Hayden was part of a staff conference that included talking about the best firing techniques.

Hathcock said, “Breathe in…breath out…relax… then squeeze.”

“That’d be easy for him,” Moore said. “He had a heartbeat of only 41.”

It takes incredible training and mental toughness to become a military sniper.

Shooters and spotters are trained to work as a team, with the objective of hitting the enemy target with one shot.

Before they take that shot however, there are a lot of variables that must be factored in — such as type of gun and ammunition used, distance to target, point of impact, bullet trajectory, wind conditions, humidity, elevation and even the Coriolis Force caused by the Earth’s rotation, and other factors.

Some of this is calculated by electronic and optical equipment — the rest by the sniper and spotter. Handheld computers with ballistic-prediction software help contribute to the accuracy.

All of this has to be calculated quickly: adjusting the rifle for the conditions and shooting before anything changes, or the target moves.

Snipers and spotters go through rigorous physical and academic training to do all this.

They are elite warriors of the Modern Age.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Adelbert “Bert” Waldron of Virginia was another one of them.

He served in Vietnam as a sniper with the 9th Infantry Division, and during his eight-month tour of duty had 109 confirmed kills — the most by any American sniper during the Vietnam War.

His job in Nam was to ride shotgun on a U.S. Navy Tango “brown-water” boat in the highly dangerous Mekong Delta, infested with communist Viet Cong guerillas.

“Allied troops would launch countless search and destroy operations throughout South Vietnam in an effort to break the insurgency,” said a report in Military History Bunker, “but the VC would simply melt away into the jungles and villages…

“The VC utilized classic guerrilla tactics of ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, booby traps, bombings, and snipers to gradually inflict losses on Allied troops.

“While the Americans and their allies roamed openly in the daylight, the VC and North Vietnamese Army owned the night.”

But one night as his boat was moving along the river, Waldron shot and killed an enemy sniper in a tree 900 yards away.

He was good at shooting at night.

On another night, his recon patrol ran into about 40 armed Viet Cong, and a battle broke out.

Ignoring the danger, he left the patrol to take a sniper position. With his night vision scope, he could see the VC moving in the dark. He killed and wounded so many of them that they disappeared into the jungle. That earned him a Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor.

Three nights later, he was camouflaged in a sniper location when he spotted a large group of Viet Cong. Stealthily moving from one position to the next through the rice paddies, he killed 11 of them — making them think they were being attacked by multiple shooters.

He held them off for three hours before he pulled out. His actions won him the Silver Star — the military’s third highest decoration.

Bert Waldron died in obscurity in California in 1995 at age 62.

The most amazing long-range sniper shot in history took place from a tower in Baghdad in 2017.

Using a McMillan TAC-50 rifle, a Canadian sniper (unnamed for security reasons) from Joint Task Force 2 fired a shot that killed an Islamic State (IS) insurgent attacking Iraqi forces 3,871 yards away — almost 39 football fields.

Video cameras and other information verified the kill.

During the Civil War, an unidentified Confederate soldier in Fort Sumter saw a Union soldier moving around 1,390 yards away at Battery Greg and took a shot at him. Probably using a Whitworth rifle, he hit the target — killing him.

Whether the shooter was a trained sniper, a good marksman, or just plain lucky is not recorded.

But the deadliest American sniper in history was U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle from Odessa, Texas, with 160 confirmed kills in the Iraqi War. “I don’t have to psyche myself up, or do something special mentally,” he wrote in his autobiography.

“I look through the scope, get my target in the cross hairs, and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people.”

His autobiography “American Sniper” was a bestselling book, that became a hit movie starring Bradly Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood, that received six Oscar nominations — including Best Picture.

Sadly, Kyle’s life ended tragically in 2013 at age 38 at a firing range outside Fort Worth when he and his buddy Chad Littlefield were shot and killed by a deranged ex-Marine named Eddie Ray Routh.

They’d taken Routh with them to the range to try and help him overcome personal issues and deal with his PTSD — at his mother’s request. He’d been drinking and smoking pot the previous night.

Routh, was found guilty of murder and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison, without possibility of parole.

The nation owes a lot to our Special Forces snipers who are among the military’s most elite warriors — selflessly helping to keep America great.

Bless them all.

• • •

Contact Syd Albright at silverflix@roadrunner.com.

• • •

Why a sniper has a tough job…

“Sniping is weaponized math. Although a .50 caliber sniper rifle bullet can fly as far as five miles, a host of factors…act upon the bullet as it travels. Even worse, these effects increase the farther the bullet travels. A successful sniper team operating at extreme distances must do its best to predict exactly how these factors will affect the bullet and calculate how to get the bullet back onto target.”

— Kyle Mizokami, The National Interest magazine

Where the name 'Sniper' came from…

The word appears to have originated in India in the mid-1700s, coined by the British Military when the troops were hunting the Snipe bird, which was fast and hard to shoot. Marksmen who were able to shoot the bird in flight were called “Snipers.”

U.S. Marine Corps…

"The Marine Corps has the best sniper program in the world," according to Gunnery Sergeant Richard Tisdale, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Scout Sniper School, with camps in California, North Carolina and Virginia. But the Army, Navy and Air Force also have snipers and might make the same claim.

What gun did Bert Waldron use in Nam?

For the gun techies: Waldron used the National Match quality M-21 with a Leatherwood 3-9X Adjustable Range Telescope (ART) graduated to 600 yards, with standard leather M1907 sling. Rock Island Arsenal converted some 1,435 of them for Vietnam in 1969, becoming the primary Army sniper rifle until 1988. The M21 was accurate to about 900 yards, firing M118 standard NATO 7.62mm rounds, using an early AN/PVS-2 Starlight night vision scope and suppressor.

Hathcocl and the JFK assassination…

During the Warren Commission investigation following the assassination of President Kennedy, a mockup of the site was built at the Marine Corps sniper school at Quantico, Va., to recreate what happened. Even with the best sniper rifle, ace Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock could not duplicate assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s fatal shot — made with a defective rifle. That finding was not included in the final Warren Report.

photo

GOOGLE IMAGES

Russian snipers in World War II.

photo

GOOGLE IMAGES

U.S. Navy Seal snipers camouflaged in trash dump.

photo

GOOGLE IMAGES

South Korean Army snipers in winter conditions.

photo

GOOGLE IMAGES

Legendary U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills as a sniper in the Vietnam War, and for 35 years held the record for a long-range kill, at 2,500 yards.

photo

GOOGLE IMAGES

U.S. Army sniper Adelbert N. Waldron had 109 confirmed kills during his eight-month tour in the Vietnam War.

photo

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Nathan M. Brown, Regimental Combat Team 7, at live-fire range in Helmand province, Afghanistan (2013).

photo

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Deadliest American sniper in history U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle with 160 confirmed kills in the Iraqi War was murdered at a Texas firing range.

photo

GUNS INTERNATIONAL

Civil War sniper rifle.

photo

BARRETT FIREARMS

The latest U.S. military sniper weapon is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design rifle (MRAD), designated as the Mk22, with ammo choice of 7.62mm, .300 Norma Magnum and .338 Norma Magnum.

photo

USMC

U.S. Marines training in sniper school.

photo

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Marines practicing in California.