Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills – Charles Henderson, 2001
Marine Sniper (aff) is a patiently written but vivid portrait of the legend Carlos Hathcock, one of the deadliest snipers ever to operate in a theatre of war. If you’re looking for tales of incredible fieldsmanship, concealment, sharp shooting and courage this is the book for you.
In what feels at once like an exciting but also chilling work, Marine Sniper begins with a quote from Hemingway: “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
So starts a work which in a quiet and descriptive style reveals the work of Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, a figure of folklore among the US Marines for his ruthless efficiency as a sniper in Nam. Hathcock became so feared, even the VC gave him a name, “Long Tra’ng” or “White Feather” after the plume he wore in his camouflaged hat.
Cold-blooded is not the word for this stuff, there’s little moral reflection and the sense of distance between hunter and prey is made more immediate with the style of the telling. Henderson writes as an omniscient narrator, allowing the tobacco chewing, fearless master sniper his own aura of steel and death.
This read is a fascinating insight of one man’s incredible talent for killing, of what it was to be the Marine Corp’s best sniper and all the dedicated weapons skills and fieldcraft that accompanied it. The bulk of this book covers Hathcock’s escapades in Vietnam but there’s also a section detailing formative episodes in the young Carlos’ childhood, where he learned to shoot hunting small game in rural Arkansas for the family table.
An exceptional talent lead to victory in rifle shooting competitions all over the country, and eventually fame in the Marine Scout Snipers. There are passages here where Hathcock is reported to have held back platoons of men with his fire, heading off advances and slaying unit commanders at the feet of their men.
Although a lot is made of this book because of its subject matter and the notoriety of the protagonist, I think it’s important to say Marine Sniper (aff) is actually really well written, and even poetic in places. It’s carefully been put together by Henderson, who compiled the work after spending many days and nights with Hathcock going over the events.
With an unerring eye to detail, Henderson fluidly constructs a novel-like read and the portrait painted of the deadly sniper himself is clear, if forbidding and fearful. Major credit is due for the way the author brings Hathcock’s story and aura together into such a heart-stopping yet matter-of-fact read.