Carlos Hathcock

Carlos Norman Hathcock II
May 20, 1942 - January 23 1999 (aged -1942)
Nickname "White Feather"
Place of birthLittle Rock, Arkansas
Place of deathVirginia Beach, Virginia
AllegianceUSMC
Years of service1959-1979
RankGunnery Sergeant
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsSilver Star Medal
Purple Heart
Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II (May 20, 1942February 23, 1999) was a United States Marine Corps sniper with a service record of 93 confirmed kills and more than 300 probable kills during the Vietnam War. Hathcock's record and the extraordinary details of the missions he undertook made him a legend in the Marine Corps. His fame as a sniper and his dedication to long distance shooting led him to become a major developer of the United States Marine Corps Sniper training program. He has, in recent years, also had the honor of having a rifle named after him. This variant of the M21 is dubbed the Springfield Armory M25 White Feather, in honor of GySgt Hathcock.

Early life

Carlos Norman Hathcock, II., was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 20, 1942. He grew up in rural Arkansas, living with his grandmother after his parents separated. He took to shooting and hunting at a young age, partly out of necessity to help feed his poor family. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood [1], and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Hathcock married Jo Winstead on November 10, 1962. Jo gave birth to a son, Carlos Norman Hathcock, III, the next year. Carlos Hathcock III would later join the Marines.

Marine Corps career

Before deploying to Vietnam, he won many shooting championships, including the Wimbledon Cup — long-range shooting's most prestigious prize — in 1965. A year later he was sent to Vietnam.

Hathcock started his deployment in Vietnam as an MP, and later became a sniper. During his time in Vietnam, Hathcock became recognized as the Marines' most proficient sniper; killing a confirmed 93 North Vietnamese Army and Viet-Cong personnel.[2] His actual total is believed to be well over 400, with at least an additional 300 being unconfirmed, which the official count does not reflect. (During the Vietnam War, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party: this was feasible on a battlefield, but snipers usually worked in pairs (shooter and spotter) and often did not have an acting third party present, which made confirmation difficult.) He is third only to U.S. Marine Corps sniper Chuck Mawhinney and US Army sniper Adelbert Waldron on the list of most kills for an American sniper.

North Vietnam even put a bounty of $50,000 on his life, which was far more than other rewards put on U.S. snipers—typically only $50-$100. The Viet Cong and NVA called Hathcock Long Tra'ng du'Kich, translated as "White Feather Sniper", because of the white feather he kept in a band on his bush hat. After a platoon of trained Vietnamese snipers were sent to hunt down "White Feather", many Marines in the same area donned white feathers in their covers to deceive the enemy. These Marines were aware of the impact Hathcock's death would have, and took it upon themselves to make themselves targets in order to preserve the life of the true "White Feather". (This gesture is reminiscent of a scene in the film Spartacus (film), in which Crassus address the 6000 survivors of Spartacus's army that his army has defeated in a battle: he offers to spare from "the lingering agonies of crucifixion" the man who identifies Spartacus. One by one, the men declare "I am Spartacus" until all are doing so.)

One of Hathcock's most famous accomplishments was shooting an enemy sniper through his scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him. Hathcock and John Burke, his spotter, were stalking the enemy sniper in the jungle near Hill 55, the firebase where Hathcock was stationed. The sniper had already killed several Marines, and was believed to have been sent specifically to kill Hathcock. When Hathcock saw a flash of light (light reflecting off the enemy sniper's scope) in the bushes, he fired at it, shooting through the scope and killing the sniper. Surveying the situation, Hathcock concluded the only feasible 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. In theory, the two snipers could have killed each other simultaneously. The enemy rifle was recovered and the incident is documented by a photograph.

Hathcock only once removed the white feather from his bush hat while deployed in Vietnam. During a volunteer mission on his first deployment, he crawled over a thousand meters of field to shoot a commanding NVA general. He wasn't informed of the details of the mission until he was en-route to his insertion point aboard a helicopter. This effort took four days and three nights without sleep of constant inch-by-inch crawling. In Carlos's words, one enemy soldier (or "hamburger" as Carlos called them), "shortly after sunset", almost stepped on him as he lay camouflaged with grass and vegetation in a meadow. At one point he was nearly bitten by a bamboo viper but had the presence of mind to not move and give up his position.[3]

After the arduous mission of killing the general, Hathcock returned to the United States in 1967. However, he missed being away from the Marine Corps and returned to Vietnam in 1969, where he took command of a platoon of snipers.

Hathcock generally used the standard sniper rifle: The Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle with the standard Unertl scope. On some occasions, however, he used a different weapon: the .50-caliber M2 Browning Machine Gun, on which he mounted the Unertl scope, using a bracket of his own design. This weapon was accurate to 2500 yards in single-fire mode. At one point, he took careful aim at a courier carrying a load of assault rifles and ammunition on a bicycle. He had second thoughts when he saw a 12-year-old boy in his sights, but after considering the intended use of those weapons, he fired, hitting the bicycle frame. The boy tumbled over the handlebars, grabbed a gun and came up firing. Another shot put him down. (Source Marine Sniper, Chapter 1.)

Hathcock's career as a sniper came to a sudden end outside Khe Sanh in 1969, when the amphibious tractor he was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. Hathcock pulled seven Marines off the flame-engulfed vehicle before jumping to safety. He came out of the incident with severe burns over ninety percent of his body, 43% of which were third-degree burns [4]. He was evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where he underwent 13 skin graft operations. His injuries left him unable to perform effectively in combat with a rifle. He was told he would be recommended for the Silver Star, but he stated that he had only done what anyone there would have if they were awake, so he rejected any commendation for his bravery. Nearly 30 years later he was awarded the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third-highest award.

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."

After Vietnam

After returning from active duty, Hathcock helped establish a scout and sniper school at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. Due to his extreme injuries suffered in Vietnam, he was in nearly constant pain, but he continued to dedicate himself to teaching snipers. In 1975, Hathcock's health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — an incurable, degenerative nerve disorder. He stayed in the Corps but his health continued to decline and was forced to retire just 55 days short of the 20 years that would have made him eligible for 50% retirement pay. Being medically retired, he received 100% disability. He fell into a state of depression when he was forced out of the Marines because he felt as if the service kicked him out, which he later realized wasn't true. During this depression his wife Jo almost left him, but finally stayed. Hathcock eventually picked up the hobby of shark fishing with the locals, which is accredited to helping his depression.[5] Hathcock often paid visits to the sniper training facility at Quantico, where he was welcomed by students and instructors alike as being "bigger than life" due to his status in shooting circles.[6]

Hathcock once said that he survived in his work because of an ability to "get in the bubble," to put himself into a state of "utter, complete, absolute concentration," first with his equipment, then his environment, in which every breeze and every leaf meant something, and finally on his quarry.[7]</sup>

After the war, a friend showed Hathcock a passage written by Ernest Hemingway: "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it, never really care for anything else thereafter." He copied Hemingway's words on a piece of paper. "He got that right," Hathcock said. "It was the hunt, not the killing."

Hathcock died on February 23, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, after a long struggle with multiple sclerosis.

Decorations

Legacy

Hathcock remains a legend within the U.S. Marines. The Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock Award is presented annually to the Marine who does the most to promote marksmanship training.[8] A sniper range is also named for Hathcock at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In 1967, Hathcock set the record for the 20th century's longest combat kill with a Browning M2 .50 BMG machine gun mounting a telescopic sight. The distance was 2,286 meters or 1.42 miles. Hathcock was one of several individuals to utilize the Browning M2 machine gun in the sniping role. This success led to the adoption of the .50 BMG cartridge as a viable anti-personnel and anti-equipment sniper round. Sniper rifles have been designed for this round.

The record stood until the 21st century, when in 2002 it was broken during Operation Anaconda in Afganistan by a Canadian three-man sniper team led by Master Corporal Graham Ragsdale from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). The record itself was set by Corporal Rob Furlong with a shot of 2,430 meters from a McMillan TAC-50 Long-Range Sniper Weapon on a Taliban fighter.

On March 9, 2007, the rifle and pistol complex at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was officially renamed the Carlos Hathcock Range Complex.[9]</sup>

Hathcock was the subject of four books:
  • One Shot, One Kill by Charles W. Sasser and Craig Roberts tells the stories of several snipers, including Hathcock.
  • White Feather: Carlos Hathcock, USMC Scout Sniper--an Authorized Biographical Memoir by Roy F. and Norman A. Chandler.
  • Silent Warrior by Charles W. Henderson.
  • Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills by Charles W. Henderson

MythBusters

In an episode of the fourth season of the television show MythBusters (29 November 2006, Episode 67), hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempted to test the feasibility of shooting through the scope of another rifle, citing the confirmed Hathcock incident of shooting a North Vietnamese sniper through his victim's scope. They were unable to replicate the results in the story using the modern equipment they had on hand, so they declared the myth "busted." However, they did not replicate the exact conditions of Hathcock's combat incident. The MythBusters did not take into consideration powder loads, bullet weight, muzzle velocity, angle, or variations in air pressure and density. On the show, they conceded that they were not shooting at the same scope that Hathcock shot at and stated that under the exactly ideal conditions and with extreme luck, the shot may have been possible. In the episode aired on March 21, 2007, the MythBusters revisited this myth and confirmed that it was possible, however had to use armor-piercing rounds to fully penetrate the scope. They used a vintage scope this time, which was smaller than modern scopes, and Jamie successfully fired a bullet through the scope. The bullet penetrated the dummy's face to a depth of two inches, which would be lethal to a human. However, it should be noted that on the March 21, 2007 episode, that Jamie used an M1 Garand, whereas Hathcock used a Winchester Model 70 chambered in .30-06 Springfield, and utilized armor-piercing ammunition.

In fictional works

  • There is a nod to Hathcock in the movie, Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg stated, "the idea of a sniper putting a bullet through another sniper's scope came from the true story of Carlos Hathcock, who killed a Vietcong sniper who was stalking him by putting a bullet through the sniper's scope".
  • There is also a reference to Hathcock in the television show NCIS during the episode "One Shot One Kill", a small white feather is found at the crime scenes of a sniper's victims.
  • The protagonist of Stephen Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger Trilogy (consisting of the novels Point of Impact, Black Light, and Time to Hunt) is loosely based on Carlos Hathcock. The film Shooter is based on Stephen Hunter's work.
  • The movie Sniper[10] features actor Tom Berenger shooting the enemy sniper through his own scope. This is probably based on Hathcock's story as well (Berenger's character was loosely based on Hathcock).
  • In the episode 14 of the anime , Section 9 member Saito is shot through the scope of his Seburo SR50 bolt-action sniper rifle during his freelancer days in the Central/South American campaign, a tactic by Motoko Kusanagi similar to that used by Hathcock.
  • The movie RoboCop 2 contains a segment where the camera is from the point of view of the sniper scope. The sniper is looking at RoboCop, who turns around and shoots the enemy, the bullet going through the sniper scope.
  • In Frank Miller's graphic novel, Sin City, episode "To Hell and Back", protagonist Wallace shoots a sniper in the head, the bullet entering through the sniper's rifle scope.
  • In John Ringo's book, Unto the Breach (of the Paladin of Shadows series), it is stated about the sniper Lasko "He was going to beat Hathcock's record, probably within the next fifteen minutes. And that was the killer app in the sniper world."

See also

  • Jack Coughlin, a retired Marine sniper with over 60 confirmed kills whose service includes Iraq and Somalia.
  • M40 sniper rifle, the Marine Corps sniper rifle used by Hathcock.
  • Chuck Mawhinney holds the highest number of confirmed kills (103) for any USMC sniper in history.
  • Billy Sing, an Australian World War I sniper who had an unconfirmed 201 kills.
  • Simo Häyhä, a Finnish World War II sniper holds the world record of 505 confirmed kills.
  • Adelbert Waldron, who holds the record for the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history, with 109 kills in Vietnam.

Notes

1. ^ Charles Henderson. Marine Sniper, New York: Berkley Books, 1986. p.29. (ISBN 0-425-18165-0)
2. ^ Kennedy , Harold. Marine Corps Sets Sights On More Precise Shooting. National Defense Magazine. Headquarters Marine Corps. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.
3. ^ Sasser, Charles and Craig Roberts. One Shot, One Kill, New York: Pocket Books, 1990. p.208. (ISBN 0-671-68219-9)
4. ^ Charles Henderson. Marine Sniper, New York: Berkley Books, 1986. p.284. (ISBN 0-425-18165-0)
5. ^ Charles Henderson. Marine Sniper, New York: Berkley Books, 1986. p.306. (ISBN 0-425-18165-0)
6. ^ Charles Henderson. Marine Sniper, New York: Berkley Books, 1986. p.307. (ISBN 0-425-18165-0)
7. ^ Lantz , Gary.&#32;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.nrapublications.org/first%20freedom/Whitefeather.asp">White Feather. America's 1st Freedom. National Rifle Association. Retrieved on 2007-04-17.
8. ^ MARADMIN 148/06 - 2006 CAPITAL MARINE USMC AND USN ENLISTED AWARDS, United States Marine Corps, 3/28/2006.
9. ^ >Range complex named after famous Vietnam sniper. Marine Corps News. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.
10. ^

References

  • Henderson, Charles W. Marine Sniper, Stein and Day Publishers, 1986. (ISBN 0-425-10355-2)
  • Henderson, Charles W. Silent Warrior, Berkley, 2003. (ISBN 0-425-18864-7)
  • Chandler, Roy F. Carlos Hathcock "Whitefeather", Iron Brigade Armory Publishing, 1997. (ISBN 1-885633-09-2)

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