Carlos Hathcock - US Marine sniper in Vietnam


The exploits of Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam are legendary. Hathcock joined the Marines at 17. He quickly proved to be a superior marksman and the Marines sent him to Vietnam in 1966 - where a legend was born.

Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills during his two tours of duty - the actual count is far higher. During the Vietnam War, kills had to be confirmed by a third party. While this is feasible on a battlefield, snipers usually work beyond friendly lines and often do not have an acting third party present, which makes confirmation difficult. Hathcock's unconfirmed kills are believed to be in the hundreds. Hathcock killed so many North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, a bounty of $30,000 was put on his head. [1]

Two accomplishments by Hathcock were spectacular. In one mission, Hathcock and John Burke, his spotter, were stalking an enemy sniper in the jungle near Hill 55, the firebase Hathcock was operating from. The sniper was believed to have been sent specifically to kill Hathcock and had already killed several Marines. When Hathcock saw a flash of light reflecting off the enemy sniper's scope, he fired at it, shooting straight through the scope and killing the sniper. Hathcock concluded that the only possible way he could have put the bullet straight down the enemy's scope and through his eye would have been if both snipers were zeroing in on each other at the same time, and Hathcock fired first, which gave him only a few seconds to act. Given the flight time of rounds at long ranges, both snipers could easily have killed one another. The enemy rifle was recovered and the incident is documented by a photograph.

In another mission, he crawled over 1,500 yards through a field to shoot a North Vietnamese commanding general. This effort took four days and three nights, without sleep, of constant inch-by-inch crawling. At one point he was nearly bitten by a bamboo viper but had the presence of mind to avoid moving and giving up his position. As the enemy general got out of his vehicle Carlos fired a single shot that struck the general in the chest, killing him. He had to crawl back instead of run when soldiers started searching for him.[2][3][4]

Hathcock said in a book written about his career as a sniper: "I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're gonna kill a lot of these kids we got dressed up like Marines. That's just the way I see it."[5]

Hathcock died in 1999, at age 57, of Multiple Sclerosis.

1. "Sniper Rifles". GlobalSecurity.  "During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army placed bounties from $8 to $2,000 on the heads of Marine snipers. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, with 93 confirmed kills, actually held the record bounty of $30,000 and killed every Vietnamese marksman who sought it."

2. Henderson, Charles, (1988) Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills . ISBN 978-0425103555

3. Henderson, Charles W. Silent Warrior, Berkley, 2003. (ISBN 0-425-18864-7)

4. Sasser, Charles and Craig Roberts (1990). One Shot, One Kill. New York: Pocket Books. . ISBN 0-671-68219-9

5. Washington Post Obituary February 27, 1999, quoted in SniperCentral