When a talkshow host asked “American Sniper” Chris Kyle who the greatest sniper in history was, his answer was Vietnam War sniper Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock enlisted in the Marines at 17 and quickly gained a reputation as a sharpshooter, even winning the 1965 Wimbledon Cup shooting championship. The next year he deployed to Vietnam, quickly becoming a thorn in the side of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Earning the nickname “white feather” for the feather he wore on his bush hat, Hathcock quickly proved to be one of the deadliest snipers in Vietnam; the NVA placed a bounty on his head worth $30,000.
Hathcock’s most important mission involved killing a top NVA general. For four days and three nights, Hathcock low crawled without food or sleep for 1500 yards, inching closer to the general. Once he was in a good position, Hathcock observed the general walking out onto a porch. He took his shot, eliminating the general from 700 yards away. However his mission was not complete until he crawled to safety, avoiding detection from all of the alerted NVA. Despite getting close enough to step on him, Hathcock was blended so well into the environment that the NVA never found him, and he had made it back to safety three days later.
Hathcock’s most memorable shot occurred when the NVA deployed their best sniper specifically to kill him. This NVA sniper known as the “Cobra” had killed many Marines in an attempt to get at Hathcock, but he remained patient. After a days’-long duel between the two snipers, Hathcock saw a glint (the sun’s reflection off of the scope of a rifle) from some tall grass. It disappeared for a moment and then reappeared as Hathcock immediately took his shot. He achieved a once-in-a-lifetime hit that went straight though the “Cobra’s” scope, instantly killing him.
Hathcock came back to Vietnam in 1969 after returning to the United States; however his second tour was short-lived. The vehicle in which he was riding hit an anti-tank mine. He pulled out seven Marines from the burning vehicle, receiving severe burns himself. He received a Purple Heart for his sacrifice and received a Silver Star in 1996 for his actions. Hathcock returned to the United States as one of the deadliest snipers of the Vietnam War with 93 confirmed kills and up to an additional 300 unconfirmed kills. His furthest confirmed kill was at 2,460 yards—nearly a mile and a half away.
Hathcock later helped establish the Marine Sniper School at Quantico, and he instructed police departments and even SEAL Team Six. Carlos Hathcock’s intense missions and his incredible record have cemented him as a legend in United States Military history.
Written by Landon Park