a living legend of the U.S Marine Corps Feb 24, 2020 21:22:55 GMT
Post by bazooka on Feb 24, 2020 21:22:55 GMT
21 years ago today in 1999, a living legend of the U.S Marine Corps and one of the deadliest snipers of all time, Carlos Hathcock, passed into the Kingdom of Death at the age of 56 due to complications with multiple sclerosis which he had been struggling with for years. Known as the “White Feather” to his enemies, Hathcock is credited, amongst many other daring exploits worthy of a Hollywood motion picture, with 93 confirmed kills and two to three hundred unconfirmed kills.
Born in 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the height of the Second World War, Hathcock was raised by his grandmother until the age of twelve whilst his parents were separated from each other. As a boy he took to the art of shooting just as a fish takes to water. Armed with a Mauser rifle which his father had brought back from the war, he would stalk the local woods with his dog and pretend to fight imaginary Japanese soldiers. In time he came to put his rifle to practical use for hunting in order to feed his impoverished family. His skill with a rifle was demonstrated for all to behold as he began entering shooting competitions and championships. Hathcock however was not content to simply partake in sport and hunting for since the days of his boyhood he had dreamed of serving his nation in the United States Marine Corps. At the age of 17 in 1959 he enlisted in the army and quickly left his comrades in awe as he won the shooting competitions at Camp Perry and the Wimbledon Cup.
In 1966 the young sharpshooter was deployed to South Vietnam. He served initially as a military policeman there but was quickly sought out for his talents in marksmanship when the demand arose for snipers in the Marine Corps. Once chosen for this work, his true abilities quickly began to tell as he became a terror to the Viet Cong and a legend to the Marines. Accustomed to the grip of a rifle from the days of his boyhood, this warrior from Arkansas swiftly picked off opponent after opponent. In order for snipers to confirm a kill they had to be accompanied by a third party whom was usually a superior officer. Given the missions which snipers were assigned however such confirmation could prove difficult to carry out. Hence while Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills, he himself estimated that he had notched up a score of three to four hundred.
Hathcock distinguished himself by planting a white feather he kept in the band of his bush hat. This earned him the nickname amongst the Vietnamese as the “Lông Trắng” - the White Feather Sniper. One of his more famous kills was his slaying of the ‘Apache Woman’ - a female torturer who would ambush and brutalise Marines to death. Hathcock himself recalled that he “wanted Apache bad” for the savagery she had wreaked on his brothers-in-arms. The moment she was identified by an officer of his, he gunned her down without hesitation. In response to this, the Viet Cong placed a bounty of $30,000 on his head and sent out counter snipers to hunt him down. Such was Hathcock’s prestige and reputation though that, fearing his demise, the Marines all began donning white feathers in their headgear to confuse the enemy. Hathcock in any case proved himself more than a match for his opponents just as Finland’s “White Death” Simo Hayha had almost thirty years before him. On one infamous occasion, a Vietnamese sniper by the name of ‘Cobra’ sent to hunt Hathcock down - and whom had killed several Marines in his relentless hunt - met his swift end when the very ‘White Feather’ he was stalking caught a glimpse of a glinting rifle scope in the foliage. Hathcock spun his rifle around and fired at the enemy sniper, his bullet smashing through the ‘Cobra’s’ rifle scope and passing through his skull. Hathcock took the rifle and tagged it as a trophy.
Amongst his other daring exploits was his record breaking shot in 1967 when he killed a Viet Cong guerilla at a distance of over 2,500 yards. This was the longest sniper kill ever made until then and remained so until it was bested in 2002 by Canadian snipers fighting in Afghanistan. On another renowned occasion, he removed his white feather, the first and only time he ever did so, as he undertook a mission to assassinate a PAVN general. This mission required him to crawl on his stomach for 1,500 yards of ground for hours on end, inching his way forward over four days and three nights at a snail’s pace. At one point as he lay beneath his camouflage he was very nearly stepped upon by enemy soldiers. At another point he was nearly bitten by a bamboo viper. No matter what though he remained as still and silent as the grave until finally he got into position, spotted the general, and shot him straight through the chest, killing him in one go.
Hathcock assigned his skill with a rifle to his ability to place himself in a bubble where he was consumed by a state of “utter, complete, and absolute concentration”, with his equipment, his surrounding environment, and lastly his prey. Hathcock admitted after the war that “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 dressed up as Marines.” In later life he would point to a passage written by Ernest Hemingway as the epitome of his art, which read “Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of a man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” This was to be a potent summary of Hathcock’s own character as he kept on going back into the field to find fresh quarry.
His shooting days came to an end in 1969 when a vehicle he was riding in struck an anti-tank mine. Hathcock wound up burning himself severely in the desperate attempt to save his comrades from the flames and he eventually had to be flown out to receive treatment. Thereafter he remained in near constant pain from his injuries yet he refused to leave the Marine Corps and became an instructor at Quantico for sharpshooters. In 1975 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis yet he still refused to leave until finally, just 55 days before the 20th anniversary of his enlistment, he was medically discharged with a disability separation. Rather than a kindness however, Hathcock saw this as a betrayal and he fell into a state of deep depression thereafter which nearly cost him his marriage. He eventually managed to pick himself back up by taking on the hobby of shark fishing and later on returned to instructing sharpshooters, though this time for police departments and elite military units until his illness finally got the better of him. He is revered as a hero amongst the Marines to this day.