Carlos Hathcock was a U.S. Marine Corps Sniper who garnered a total of 93 confirmed kills during the years of the Vietnam War. This record, along with the copious amount of details he kept of his missions have turned him into a legendary figure among the Marine Corps.
Carlos Hathcock was born on May 20, 1942 in the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. The beginnings of his talent as a sniper started at a young age when he would go out hunting and shooting when visiting relatives in Mississippi. Carlos would use his fathers old WW1 Mauser to pretend to be a soldier in the woods nearby his home, hunting imaginary Japanese soldiers with the weapon. On his 17th birthday in 1959, Carlos joined the Marines, a dream he had for much of his early life. Thus began his military career, which would eventually span a total of 20 years. Hathcock would go on to marry Jo Winstead on November 20, 1962.
His career began before he even deployed to Vietnam. During this time, Hathcock displayed exemplary skills in a variety of shooting championships, which included matches at the prestigious Wimbledon Cup and Camp Perry. His deployment began in 1966. His first break into becoming a sniper came when Captain Edward James Land heavily pushed the Marine Corps into bringing up and training a selection of snipers in all platoons. While Land was searching for potential snipers, he spotted Hathcock and found that he had won several prizes for long-range shooting. This set into motion the lengthy career Hathcock would have as a sniper.
When Hathcock was transferred to the 1st Marine Division Sniper Platoon in Da Nang, he soon earned the unique nickname of “White Feather”, which carried great significance throughout his illustrious career. The primary reason for this nickname was due to his penchant to wear a white feather on his bush hat. In his surroundings, this made him an extremely easy target for the North Vietnamese soldiers. However, this was exactly what he wanted, as it allowed him to spot his targets and snipe them before they shot him. This is, in part, what led to him becoming known as the Vietnam War's deadliest sniper. Though Hathcock had a total of 93 confirmed kills during his service in the Vietnam War, confirmed kills only occurred when a third party was present that could confirm the kill.
The problem with this is that snipers didn't typically have other officers nearby that could confirm the kill. Hathcock states that he most likely killed anywhere between 300-400 North Vietnamese Army and Viet-Cong personnel. Some of the most compelling aspects of Carlos Hathcock's career came when defending himself from enemy snipers. Carlos Hathcock, or “White Feather”, became so well known during the Vietnam War that a $30,000 bounty was put on his head. The hefty bounty mattered little, as Hathcock killed every sniper set after him. One of the most famous portions of Hathcock's storied career came against the sniper known simply as “Cobra”. Cobra had presumably been sent to kill Carlos and had killed several Marines along the way.
While Hathcock was in the bushes, he spotted a brief flash of light from a large distance away and shot at that spot immediately, as he understood that the flash was caused from light bouncing off the enemy's sniper. The bullet fired through the enemy's scope and killed him. Hathcock concluded that the enemy sniper must have been mere seconds from shooting Hathcock, as the only way he could've killed him through the scope was if both scopes had zeroed in on each other. Hathcock would only remove his white feather a single time, when he crawled a distance of 1,500 yards through a field in order to kill a high-ranking officer in the NVA. This mission took him four days and three nights, an arduous journey by any account.
After this, he returned to the U.S. in 1967 for a couple of years, before taking command of a platoon of snipers in 1969 in Vietnam. However, in September of that year, an Amtrak he was riding on was hit by an anti-tank mine. Though he pulled seven additional Marines to safety, he himself was very badly burned. Because of his injuries, he received the Purple Heart. For the rescue of seven Marines, he was provided with the Silver Star, around 30 years later. He retired from the Marines in 1979, but was forced to do so because of his health deterioration. Though he was in constant pain, he was able to establish a sniper school in Quantico, Virgina and later provided sniper instruction to certain military units and police departments before passing away on Feb. 22, 1999 due to issues caused by Multiple Sclerosis.