Most Hard Core American Sniper – The White Feather

In a field of bamboo and tall grass, the wind
picks up and sways the long grasses for a few moments. In those precious few moments, an American
sniper dressed head to toe in a camouflage ghillie suit inches forward a few centimeters. When the wind dies, he stops dead in his tracks,
and will not move forward again until there is a fresh breeze. If no wind comes though he resolves himself
to continue towards his target, a mile and a half away, by crawling at the incredible
rate of twelve inches an hour. His moves are so slow and methodical that
even the local wildlife fails to spot him, and deer feed directly in front of and around
him. A deadly viper slithers past and over the
American soldier, completely oblivious to the sniper’s presence. Four days later his agonizingly slow crawl
will be complete, and his high value target- a North Vietnamese general- will be dead,
a single round through his chest, compliments of the “White Feather” Carlos Hathcock,
the legendary Vietnam War sniper. Carlos Hathcock grew up learning how to shoot
and dreamed of being a US Marine his entire life, hearing of the heroic tales of valor
performed by American marines in places such as Okinawa, Midway, and Guadalcanal. At just seventeen years old, he joined the
US Marines, and in 1965, six years later, he won the Wimbledon Cup shooting championship,
designating as one of the top marksmen in the United States. In 1965 President Johnson ordered ground troops
to Vietnam and signaled the start of the American ground war against the North Vietnamese and
their Vietcong allies. A year later, Hathcock was deployed to Vietnam
where he would serve as a military policeman, but upon arriving he immediately volunteered
for combat duty. Given his incredible marksmanship he was transferred
to the 1st Marine Division Sniper Platoon, at the time stationed at Hill 55 south of
Da Nang. So near the front lines, Hathcock would very
quickly put his elite shooting skills to use, and he even went so far as to wear a white
feather on his bush hat so as to dare the North Vietnamese to spot him, a move that
would earn him his lifelong nickname. Hathcock was soon dispatching enemy snipers,
and his preferred time to hunt was sunrise and sun down. As he’d go on to explain later, “First light
and last light are the best times. In the morning, they’re going out after a
good night’s rest, smoking, laughing. When they come back in the evenings, they’re
tired, lollygagging, not paying attention to detail.” Hathcock would take advantage of the drop
in the enemy’s guard during these crucial hours to great effect, scoring 93 confirmed
kills and over 300 unconfirmed kills. His skills soon made him a unit trainer, and
he started training other snipers how to move silently through the thick jungle, marksmanship
skills, and the all-important art of camouflage. His skills would soon be put to the ultimate
test when a top secret mission came down the pipe and Hathcock volunteered for it, remarking
that he knew nothing about the details except that it was extremely dangerous and extremely
important. That mission turned out to be the elimination
of a North Vietnamese army general, an all-important link in the command and control chain of the
North Vietnamese army which had so far eluded capture or destruction. All the Americans had to go on was some rough
intel that said the general was safely tucked away in a large North Vietnamese encampment,
though they didn’t know where exactly. Hathcock’s job would be to do what platoons
of infantry and squadrons of strike aircraft couldn’t do- sneak up to the encampment, locate
the general, and eliminate him. For days he hiked through thick bush in the
direction of the encampment, avoiding North Vietnamese patrols the entire way. This would be a solo mission, he turned down
a spotter fearing that any additional soldiers accompanying him would only increase the odds
of discovery. Deep down inside, the mission felt like a
suicide mission, and Hathcock did not want to endanger fellow Marines if he could help
it. At last, Hathcock arrived to the target area,
and here he had to make a choice. Thick woods surrounded the camp on three sides,
and would be the most obvious approach for a sniper as it gave the best cover and concealment. However, that was exactly why Hathcock opted
not to make his approach from the thick woods, it would be the most expected avenue of attack
and if he made his shot, it would be directly where enemy forces would head trying to flush
him out. Instead Hathcock opted to approach the camp
from a different direction, an area of grassland that offered some cover in the form of bamboo
shoots and tall grasses, but in many places offered little to no cover as the grass thinned. To a casual observer the fourth approach was
completely suicidal, but Hathcock was confident in his abilities to remain undetected. He would need to move in to at least seven
hundred yards to make his shot, and that would mean that he needed to cross over fifteen
hundred yards of open ground to get into a good shooting position. To do this, Hathcock stashed most of his equipment
and loaded himself only with several canteens of water, his rifle, and a few rounds of ammunition. Then he began to low-crawl to his objective
using a technique he called “worming” which saw him move forward at the painfully
slow rate of just inches every hour. This would make his movements so impossibly
slow that they would be all but imperceptible to the enemy. Hathcock, covered in his full-body ghillie
suit, would seem to be nothing more than another mound of grass, and it would take someone
with a photographic memory to notice the incredibly gradual change in the landscape as he crawled
forward. For four days and three nights Carlos went
without food or sleep, inching ever closer. Even animals were unaware of his presence,
with wild boar and deer grazing just inches away. At one point a deadly viper slithered next
to and over him, a single bite enough to kill him in seconds. Hathcock simply froze and let the viper pass
on, then continued on his own way. As he neared the camp, hathcock began penetrating
the outer defenses. Patrols of enemy soldiers walked by just a
few feet away from him completely unaware of the sniper’s presence, and at one point
a soldier nearly tripped over him. Finally he crawled between two heavy machine
gun positions and changed his crawling technique so that he was now crawling on his side so
as to leave an even smaller trail behind him. Then finally on the fourth day, the general
stepped out onto his front porch and yawned- a second later Hathcock’s bullet had pierced
his heart. The camp erupted in alarms and all the soldiers
rushed to the thickly wooded treelines ringing the camp, searching for Hathcock for three
days. Meanwhile, hathcock simply crawled back home
the way he had come, completely clear of any enemy activity. Hathcock’s second most famous kill would be
his showdown against a Vietcong commander known as Apache. A sniper herself, Apache had earned her nickname
for scalping American POWs and for her brutality as an interrogator. An extremely sadistic woman, she took great
pleasure in torturing American soldiers, and in November of 1966 Hathcock found himself
in her backyard. Earlier that month the Apache had captured
a young Marine Private and then tortured him for a day and a half within earshot of his
own unit. Hathcock was also there, and he could hear
the screams from the soldier as the Apache skinned the private alive, cut off his eyelids,
tore out his fingernails, and then finally castrated him with a knife. The soldier was then released to crawl back
to his unit, but though Hathcock attempted to save him the young private ended up dying
in the bush. Hathcock swore right then and there that he
would kill Apache. He and his spotter hit the thick bush and
began moving to locate Apache and her unit of elite snipers. The game was a deadly one, not only was Apache
a very skilled sharpshooter, but so were all the men under her command. Yet it would be Apache who would make the
fatal mistake when one day her unit popped out of the thick jungle and onto a trail for
just a moment. Apache squatted so she could pee though her
soldiers urged her to get back up and keep moving. At that very moment Hathcock’s bullet dropped
her from seven hundred yards away, and as she lay dying, he put a second round through
her just for good measure. By this time Hathcock’s reputation had grown
to legendary status, and the North Vietnamese had taken note. American snipers were very hated by the Vietnamese
due to their deadly efficiency, and bounties ranging from $8 to $2,000 were placed on the
heads of American snipers. Yet hathcock broke all records with an incredible
bounty of $30,000 to whoever could kill him. Many Vietnamese snipers tried to collect,
and Hathcock killed them all. One Vietnamese sniper with a legendary reputation
of his own was eventually sent to dispatch Hathcock, a soldier by the name of The Cobra. The Cobra had kills as impressive as Hathcock,
often striking targets deep inside American camps and then disappearing into the jungle. Perhaps as a warning to Hathcock of his arrival,
The Cobra struck at the camp he was staying at and killed a gunnery sergeant. Hathcock watched the man die and swore right
then and there that he would eliminate The Cobra. Baiting Hathcock into a fight, The Cobra began
to kill many marines around the encampment over the following few days. Hathcock and his partner took off into the
jungle after the Cobra and for days the three men played a deadly game of cat and mouse. At one point Hathcock made a nearly-fatal
mistake and leaned against a rotted tree for support, but the rot had eaten through the
tree and hathcock fell over giving himself away. The Cobra immediately fired and struck Hathcock’s
partner’s canteen, making the man believe that he’d been hit due to the warm liquid
spreading down his leg. Continuing their deadly pursuit, Hathcock
managed to work around to The Cobra’s position, forcing the Vietnamese soldier to move to
Hathcock’s old position. With the sun dropping in the sky, this put
The Cobra in a very perilous position, and sure enough as Hathcock scanned the jungle
in front of him he saw the telltale glint of sunlight off a rifle scope. Without hesitating, Hathcock squeezed the
trigger. The Cobra was dead. As Hathcock and his partner made their way
to the corpse, they were shocked to discover that Hathcock’s bullet had actually traveled
cleanly through the rifle scope and into the Cobra’s eye, so accurate a shot that the bullet
didn’t even graze the sides of the scope. This was only possible though if the Cobra
had been aiming directly at hathcock at the same time that Hathcock was aiming at him,
meaning that Hathcock had cheated death by fractions of a second, being just a hair faster
on the trigger than the Cobra. In 1969 Hathcock’s time in Vietnam would come
to an end when a vehicle he was riding struck a land mine. Hathcock was struck unconscious briefly and
when he came to he started helping to pull wounded Marines out of the burning vehicle,
receiving third degree burns over large parts of his body. With his sniping career over, Hathcock established
the Marine Sniper School at Quantico, where he dedicated the rest of his career to teaching
Marines how to become deadly snipers. He would go on to die in 1999 at the age of
56 from multiple sclerosis, the disease managing to do what the Vietnamese never could. Think you have what it takes to have been
a Vietnam war sniper? Let us know in the comments, and as always
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