The word sniper was coined from snipe, which is a bird found in India and known for the difficultly of hunting it. This is on account of its ability to camouflage itself by dint of its plumage, and to escape hunters’ shooting due to its elusive flight pattern, and on account of its excellent hunting skills, which are due to long, cylindrical, sensitive bill that can attack its target with extreme precision. A sniper is a precise, long-range shooter, equipped with excellent observation skills and the courage to operate alone. All snipers are marksmen, but not all marksmen are snipers. A sniper is distinguished from a marksman in that the sniper operates alone while the marksman operates in the company of a unit and helps them advance. A sniper is the unit’s eyes and ears. Major Willis Powell started training snipers in a tailor-made sniper’s school in July 1968 and prepared seventy-two snipers, ready for action by December 1968.
1. Carlos Hathcock
Carlos Hathcock was born on May 20, 1942 at Little Rock, Arkansas and died on February 23, 1999 at the age of 56 years. He was Gunnery Sergeant Sniper, belonging to the United States Marine Corps. He was enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of seventeen years, on May 20, 1959. His record precision shooting made him a legend in the Marine Corps. He had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong personnel during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong called him Long Trang, meaning white feather, because he used to wear a white feather in his hat. A bounty of $30,000 was placed on his head. Many marines in the area started wearing white feathers in their hats to confuse the enemy. A rifle, M25 White Feather, was named in his honor. His notable kills include Cobra, an enemy sniper, Apache, a female sniper, and a commanding general of Viet Cong.
2. Charles ‘Chuck’ Mawhinney
Charles ‘Chuck’ Mawhinney was born in 1949, in Lakeview, Oregon, U.S. Having graduated from high school in 1967, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the United States Marine Corps and is known for his record 103 confirmed kills in his 16 months of action. In 1969, on Valentine’s Day, he killed 16 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. He came into prominence after his fellow Marine sniper, Joseph Ward, authored the book, Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam, wherein he credited Mawhinney with 101 confirmed kills. Prior to the publication of this book, the legendary Carlos Hathcock was considered the record holder with 93 confirmed kills.
3. Adelbert F. Waldron
Adelbert F. Waldron was born on March 14, 1933 in Virginia and died on October 18, 1995 in California. In the Vietnam War, he served the 9th Infantry Division as Staff Sergeant. He was an accomplished sniper, known for the most kills at 109. Waldron held the record till it was broken by the Navy SEAL Chris Kyle with 160 kills. Waldron was one of the few who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, twice for two separate actions. According to some accounts, Waldron’s record was 113 killings in five months. His best shots included one from a moving boat on the Mekong River, killing an enemy sniper in a tree from a distance of 900 yards.
4. Eric England
Eric England was born in 1933, in Union County, Georgia. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1950 and became National rifle shooting champion in 1952, at the age of 19 years. He served in the United States Marine Corps, third Marine Division, as a sniper. In 1962, he became the all-time long range champion. With 98 confirmed kills within six months of action, he is one of the five American snipers with most kills in the Vietnam War. Dr. J. B. Turner wrote a book, Phantom of Phu Bai, about him. Carlos Hathcock remarked about him, ‘Eric is a great man, a great shooter, and a great Marine’.
Apache was a female Viet Cong sniper, known for her sadistic nature and for torturing her victims. It is said that she emasculated her victims and a detailed account of such an event was given by Henderson in his biography of Hathcock. She tortured U.S. Marines and soldiers of ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam). In an interview by John Plaster, Hathcock remarked that Apache led a platoon near Hill 55, and being a precision sniper, she was a high profile target for the U.S. Marines. She was killed at Hill 55 by Hathcock, who fired two rounds on her. Captain Edward James Land was Hathcock’s partner and manned the spotting scope at the time of the killing.
6. Sergeant Ed Eaton
Sergeant Ed Eaton was a sniper who served in the Vietnam War and is best known for his courageous and brave rescue of his injured companions in the wake of imminent threat to his own life. In 1969 Ed Eaton and Mike were on a helicopter night mission when the Viet Cong shot down the helicopter leaving all the soldiers critically wounded. Eaton was pinned down, but, courageously, he managed to get on top of the debris and bravely defended the men against two separate Viet Cong groups. He opened fire with a machine gun and then started killing them one by one. When the rescue helicopter approached him, he refused to leave behind his wounded partner Mike. Ed narrated the ordeal in the commentary of the book Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam, by Michael Lee Lanning.
7. John J. Culbertson
John J. Culbertson was a Fifth Marine Sniper. Like the other sniper team members, he was fully equipped with the art of jungle warfare, the patience required to accomplish a mission, combat marksmanship, and, last but not least, the most valuable quality of courage. Fifth Marine Sniper was the most decorated platoon in the Vietnam War. Although there are quite a few achievements to his credit, but he is best known for preserving the achievements of his fellow snipers. He is a famous Vietnam War author, particularly for preserving the history of Vietnam snipers from 1967 to 1968, including the unforgettable Tet battle.
8. Ronnie Shinya Marshall
Ronnie Shinya Marshall was born on October 30, 1949 and died in the line of duty on June 9, 1971. He hailed from Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio. He served as a U.S. Army sergeant and sniper in South Vietnam. He was shot by the Viet Cong in the South Vietnam province of Long Khanh. Ronnie Shinya Marshall is honored on Panel 2W, Row 11 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. His number of kills is not exactly known, though he was by the account of his record and remarks of his fellows a gifted and exemplary U.S. Army sniper.
9. Wayne Hester
Wayne Hester, nicknamed Hurricane, was a sniper in the Vietnam War. According to Hester, he got the name Hurricane because he was a bit crazy and a bad-tempered fellow. These are perhaps requirements for a sniper, as he can ill-afford to be moderate and sweet-tempered. Hester did not speak of kills and would even get irritated if asked repeatedly. He was passionate during the first two years of war, but when it became prolonged beyond his expectation, he lost the passion for the war. The only reason for being in the prolonged war was that he never died and would never quit. This is what he says is typical of Americans. They were hurt in the Vietnam War but they did not quit.
10. Edward James Land, Jr.
Edward James Land, Jr. was born in 1935 in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1953 at the age of seventeen years. He became a Staff Sergeant and then a Drill Master. After that he attended the Officer Candidate School in 1959, and having graduated from it, was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. He showed an aptitude and competitiveness at shooting during his stay at Officer Candidate School. He was therefore selected for the Marine Corps Rifle team. In Vietnam, he was Commanding Officer of Carlos Hathcock, who in the early days of his career had received training from him. Land is best known for founding the first modern sniper course for the Marine Corps.
Both a serial killer and a sniper are obsessed with killing, but the former and his actions are condemned by the community, while the latter and his or her actions are supported by the community and lauded at national scale on account of the intrinsic element of patriotism. Wars involving jungles, deserts, and hilly terrains, are fought almost always with the active participation of snipers. Killing the enemy commanders, counter sniping, and demoralizing the enemy are the primary functions of a sniper.