The White Feather Sniper: Carlos Hathcock



Marine Corps Veteran Carlos Hathcock was a sniper during the Vietnam War.

During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Veteran Carlos Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong personnel.

At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.

In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.

During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.

In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.

Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.

Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.

On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.

After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.

Hathcock passed away Feb. 22, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

We honor his service.


Contributors

Writer: Madhav Misra

Editor: Barbie Carranza

Fact checker: Enya Lowe

Graphic artistMichelle Zischke

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. Jim Peters    

    I met with Carlos at his home and he signed my paper back Marine Snipper. A very quiet sort of person, unopposing and unlike what you might have pictured. I asked him if his actions bothered him, and he remarked “I was just doing my job”! Semper Fi old friend.

  2. James Arnold    

    Our son a Marine, attended that USMC sniper school.

  3. Moisés Francisco Barboza    

    Really an excellent professional, fulfilling the missions with determination. A patriot.

  4. Ralph R    

    The sniper he shot though the scope was a female NVA decorated sniper. Today’s scopes would not be penetrated as easily. I arrived in January, 1967. Army 11B Rifleman. The missions he was sent on were stories told even in the central highlands. He was a legend then and I’m glad to see still today. He talked about being spit on and called a baby killer when entering an airport in his dress uniform going home on leave upon his first return in his later years. It brought tears to his eyes as it did for many of us. Given the conditions and technology he had available during his service, he is the greatest. There is a piece done on him that can be seen on YouTube. RIP white feather, your story lives on.

  5. Ryan Trahan    

    I was at the Silver Star ceremony at Quantico weapons training bn the some thirty years later. I was a young Marine at that time. Gysgt Hathcock was in a wheelchair at that time. One of the most memorable times I have as a Marine.
    SEMPER FI
    CPL TRAHAN

  6. Lloyd Santee    

    “Lest We Never Forget…”

  7. Rick Burns    

    The worst thing that can happen to veterans is to be forgotten. I and my brothers in arms have been just that. Vietnam was a war that Americans just want to forget, but for us it is impossible to forget, when we came home people blamed is for losing the war. People spit on us, called us baby killers and rapists and all kinds of other vile crap. Seems like now days they have a developed a sense guilt and are quick to say “thank you for your service”. BULLSHT we didn’t want your sympathy then and we most certainly don’t want it now. Right now I’m living on $1,200.00 per month on SSD after rent and bills that leaves me about $250.00 for food for the month. Vietnam vets have no organizations to help us like Wounded Warriors who told me their program is only for post 9/11 heroes.I sat alone in a cheap apartment with no where to go, nothing to do but watch TV, hungry and alone. Can’t afford cable so I watch antenna TV. Now all of you pathetic losers who protested us and caused us to abandon the war YOU ARE THE REASON THE WAR WAS LOST not the soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen who fought against overwhelming odds and always came out victorious. So take your thank yous and shove them up your disgusting a–es.

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