Carlos Hathcock

Carlos Hathcock (1942 – 1999) was a US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who served as a sniper in the Vietnam War. With 93 confirmed kills, he was the 4th most effective sniper in American history, trailing behind Adelbert F Waldron (109), Charles Mawhinney (103), and Eric R England (98). His exploits, both as a courageous soldier and a sniper, made him a legend in the Marine Corps. Hathcock became a major developer of the United States Marine Corps Sniper training program. Not only was Carlos extremely lethal as a sniper, but he was also a brave marine; he was awarded the Silver Star for his act in 1969 of saving the lives of seven fellow Marines after the amphibious tractor on which they were riding struck a mine. Hathcock was knocked unconscious, but awoke in time to race back through the flames to save his comrades.

Carlos Hathcock was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on May 20, 1942. Since his parents had separated, he lived with his grandmother in the country where he grew up. At a young age, Carlos learned to use a rifle, which his father had brought from Europe after World War II. Then, he would hunt wild animals to help feed his poor family.

In 1959, at the age of 17, Carlos Hathcock joined the Marine Corps. Before being shipped to Vietnam, he showed his natural skills as a marksman on the rifle range at Camp Pendleton where he was undergoing recruit training, winning the Pacific Division rifle championship while he was deployed in Hawaii as a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. In 1966, he was sent to Vietnam and became a sniper after Captain Edward J. Land Jr. had pushed the Marines into raising snipers in every platoon.

Operating from Hill 55, about 35 miles South-West of Da Nang, Hathcock and his fellow Marine snipers would decimate and sometimes annihilate whole columns of Viet Cong guerrillas. Once he was given the extremely dangerous solo mission of killing a Northvietnamese General, which he did from a 900-yards distance. This led the North Vietnamese Army to putting a $30,000 bounty on his head.

The Viet Cong called Hathcock "Long Trang," which means "White Feather," 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 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 confuse the communist counter snipers.

In the jungle near Hill 55, Hathcock and John Roland Burke, his spotter, were stalking an enemy sniper. 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 in the bushes, he fired at it, shooting through the scope and killing the sniper. Surveying the situation, Hathcock concluded that 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.

To kill the enemy, Hathcock generally used the standard sniper rifle: the Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle with the standard 8-power 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.

After the Vietnam War, 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. 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 full 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. During this depression his wife Jo almost left him, but she finally decided to stay. Hathcock eventually picked up the hobby of shark fishing with the locals, which helped him overcome his depression.

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

Carlos Hathcock (Video)

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