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Requiem for a Sniper
The Arizona Republic; Arts & Ideas Section, Page: E16 | March 14, 1999 | Stephen Hunter, Washington Post

Posted on 05/27/2002 7:44:48 AM PDT by Slam

AMERICANS SLOW TO RECOGNIZE VALOR OF 'MURDER INC.'

The academics write their mighty histories. The politicians dictate their memoirs. The retired generals give their speeches. The intellectuals record their ironic epiphanies. And in all this hubbub attending wars either lost or won, the key man is forgotten - the lonely figure crouched in the bushes, wishing he were somewhere else: the man with the rifle.

Such a man has just died, and his passing will be marked elsewhere only in small, specialized journals with names such as Leatherneck and Tactical Shooter and in the Jesuitical culture of the Marine Corps, where he is still fiercely admired.

And in some quarters, even that small amount of respect will be observed with skepticism. After all, he was merely a grunt. He fought in a bad war. But, worst of all, he was a sniper.

Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Carlos N. Hathcock II, USMC, died Feb. 22 (1999) at 57 in Virginia Beach, Va., after a long decline in the grip of the only enemy he wasn't able to kill: multiple sclerosis. In the end, he didn't recognize his friends. But he had quite a life. In two tours in the 1960s, he wandered through the Republic of South Vietnam, and with a rifle made by Winchester, a heart made by God and a discipline made by the Marine Corps, he stalked and killed 93 of his country's enemies. And that was only the official count.

It's not merely that Vietnam was a war largely without heroes. It's also that the very nature of Hathcock's heroism was a problem for so many. He killed, nakedly and without warning. The line troops called him ''Murder Inc.'' behind his back. When they kill, it's in hot blood, in a haze of smoke and adrenaline.

But the sniper is different. He reduces warfare to its purest element, the destruction of another human being. He learns things no man can learn - how it looks through a scope when you center-punch an enemy at 200 yards, and how it feels - but he learns them at the risk of his own possible exile from the community.

Maybe Hathcock never cared much for the larger community, but only the Marine Corps and its mission. ''Vietnam,'' he told a reporter in 1987, ''was just right for me.''

And one must give Hathcock credit for consistency: In all the endless revising done in the wake of our second-place finish in the Southeast Asia war games, he never reinvented himself or pretended to be something he wasn't. He remained a true believer to the end, not in his nation's glory or its policies, but in his narrower commitment to the Marine code of the rifle. He was salty, leathery and a tough Marine Corps professional NCO, even in a wheelchair. His license plate said it: SNIPER.

''Hell,'' he once said, ''anybody would be crazy to like to go out and kill folks. . . . I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're going to kill a lot of these kids. That's the way I look at it.''

Though he was known for many years as the Marine Corps' leading sniper - later, a researcher uncovered another sniper with a few more official kills - he took no particular pleasure in the raw numbers.

''I'll never look at it like this was some sort of shooting match, where the man with the most kills wins the gold medal,'' he once said.

The only decoration for valor that he won was for saving, not taking, lives. On his second tour in Vietnam, on Sept. 16, 1969, he was riding atop an armored personnel carrier when it struck a 500-pound mine and erupted into flames. Hathcock was knocked briefly unconscious, sprayed with flaming gasoline and thrown clear. Waking, he climbed back aboard the burning vehicle to drag seven other Marines out. Then, ''with complete disregard for his own safety and while suffering excruciating pain from his burns, he bravely ran back through the flames and exploding ammunition to ensure that no Marines had been left behind,'' according to the citation for the Silver Star he received in November 1996 after an extensive letter-writing campaign by fellow Marines had failed to win him the Medal of Honor for his exploits with a rifle.

He was equally proud that as a sniper-platoon sergeant on two tours, no man under his command was killed. ''I never lost a person over there,'' he told a visiting journalist in 1995. ''Never lost nobody but me, and that wasn't my fault.''

Hathcock was an Arkansan, from a dirt-poor broken home, who joined the Marine Corps at 17. He qualified as an expert rifleman in boot camp and began quickly to win competitive shooting events, specializing in service-rifle competition.

He went to Vietnam in 1965, but it was six months before the Marines learned the value of dedicated sniper operations and a former commanding officer built a new unit around his talents. Hathcock took no liberty, no days off, and toward the end of his first tour finally was restricted to quarters to prevent him from going on further missions.

After the war, he suffered from the inevitable melancholy. Forced medical retirement from the Corps in 1979 - he had served 19 years, 10 months, 5 days - led to drinking problems and extended bitterness. The multiple sclerosis, discovered in 1975, certainly didn't help, and burns that covered 43 percent of his body made things even more painful. But what may have saved his life was the incremental recognition that came his way. His biography, Marine Sniper, written by Charles Henderson, was published in 1985. It sold more than half a million copies.

He authorized a poster that showed him in full combat regalia, crouched over his Model 70 Winchester, his face blackened, his boonie cap scrunched close to his head, the only identifier being a small sprig of feather in its band. In fact, a long-range .308-caliber ammunition was sold as ''White Feather,'' from the Vietnamese Long Tra'ng, his nickname. He appeared in several videos, where he revealed himself to be a practically oriented man of few but decisive words, with a sense of humor dry as a stick. He inspired several novels and at least two non-fiction books, and his exploits made it onto TV, where a JAG episode featured a tough old Marine sniper.

Finally, and perhaps best of all, he ascended to a special kind of Marine celebrity. The Corps honors its best marksman with the annual Carlos Hathcock Award. A Marine library in Washington, D.C., has been named after him, and a Virginia Civil Air Patrol unit named itself after him. In 1990, a Marine unit raised $5,000 in donations to fight multiple sclerosis and presented it to him at his home. They brought it to him the Marine way: They ran 216 miles from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Virginia Beach.

According to the account in the Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, the old sniper told the men, ''I am so touched, I can hardly talk.''

In the end, he could not escape the terrible disease that had been discovered in 1975. But death, with whom he had an intimate relationship, at least came to him quietly - as if out of respect.


TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: banglist; heroes; memorialday; military; patriotism; snipers
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We especially remember Carlos Hatchcock to God, every Memorial Day for many reasons. His legacy, the way he lived his life, the contributions he made to his country and comrades truly epitomizes the over-used word, "warrior."

We will never forget you Carlos.

1 posted on 05/27/2002 7:44:48 AM PDT by Slam
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To: Slam
Memorial BUMP
2 posted on 05/27/2002 7:47:36 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Slam;Snow Bunny;Cob1;g'nad;mudpuppy;teacup;LadyX
B U M P - P I N G ! ! !

To a few good FRiends.

3 posted on 05/27/2002 7:50:38 AM PDT by HiJinx
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Slam
It's not merely that Vietnam was a war largely without heroes.

Wanna bet?

5 posted on 05/27/2002 7:53:27 AM PDT by Valin
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To: Slam
Carlos Hathcock was a SUPERB practicioner of his trade!I highly recommend"Marine Sniper"by Chas.Henderson!!It is truly a PAGE-TURNER!!!An author(fiction)named Stephen Hunter has written a series of novels featuring a character named"Bob Lee Swagger".He admits that this character is based on true to life Carlos Hathcock.I recommend these as well.God Bless You Carlos,And God Bless The United States Marine Corps!!!!!!!!!!Oh Yeah,THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6 posted on 05/27/2002 8:00:45 AM PDT by bandleader
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To: Slam

7 posted on 05/27/2002 8:12:13 AM PDT by isthisnickcool
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To: Slam
bump
8 posted on 05/27/2002 8:29:19 AM PDT by VOA
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To: Slam
and his exploits made it onto TV, where a JAG episode featured a tough old Marine sniper.

A cheesy tribute totally unbefitting of such a great man (I saw that episode: it was bad). But that's not the point. He was a hero.

9 posted on 05/27/2002 8:30:22 AM PDT by xm177e2
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To: Slam
Thanks for this article.

The Marine Corp snipers were the most deadly and cost effective weapon used in Nam. This is why the brass ignored them and tried bury their accomplishments.

A friend of mine did 3 tours as a LARP sniper with the Corp in Nam. He had bounties on his head from the Viet Cong, the ChiComs and the Russians. He never talks about his actions and accomplishments. The three bounties say all that is needed be said. The enemies knew how effective he was.

10 posted on 05/27/2002 8:30:25 AM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Slam
Rest in Peace, White Feather. Semper Fi.
11 posted on 05/27/2002 8:36:50 AM PDT by Ol' Sox
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To: Slam
Marine Corps Sniper gun control. One shot, one kill. Semper Fi
12 posted on 05/27/2002 8:42:23 AM PDT by kellynla
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To: Slam
People often talk about "The Man, The Myth, The Legend," but Gunney Hathcock was a rare breed. He was The Man and The Legend; there was no myth about him. He was the real deal.
13 posted on 05/27/2002 8:50:13 AM PDT by KirkandBurke
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To: isthisnickcool
I don't believe in "celebrities" and I would never be caught dead with celebrity photos.
This photo, however is cool. More like an old friend. The book of his exploits is one of my all-time favorites.
14 posted on 05/27/2002 9:08:08 AM PDT by Publius6961
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To: HiJinx
Thanks, HiJinx.
I didn't know Carlos had died.
I've read everything that I could find about this guy, including two books about his life.
He was special in a group of special people.
I salute you, Carlos Hathcock.
Rest in peace.
15 posted on 05/27/2002 9:12:20 AM PDT by COB1
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To: Slam
The only decoration for valor that he won was for saving, not taking, lives. On his second tour in Vietnam, on Sept. 16, 1969, he was riding atop an armored personnel carrier when it struck a 500-pound mine and erupted into flames. Hathcock was knocked briefly unconscious, sprayed with flaming gasoline and thrown clear. Waking, he climbed back aboard the burning vehicle to drag seven other Marines out. Then, ''with complete disregard for his own safety and while suffering excruciating pain from his burns, he bravely ran back through the flames and exploding ammunition to ensure that no Marines had been left behind,'' according to the citation for the Silver Star he received in November 1996 after an extensive letter-writing campaign by fellow Marines had failed to win him the Medal of Honor for his exploits with a rifle.

He has my vote for The Congessional Medal of Honor.

16 posted on 05/27/2002 9:32:30 AM PDT by RJL
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To: kellynla
I Picked Up A Bumper Sticker At My Local(W.Springfield)Gun Show That reads:"Gun Control Means Using Both Hands"!
17 posted on 05/27/2002 9:44:39 AM PDT by bandleader
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To: KirkandBurke;68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Here, here!
18 posted on 05/27/2002 9:44:53 AM PDT by Slam
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To: Slam

19 posted on 05/27/2002 11:05:40 AM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Slam
Semper Fi, Gunny.
20 posted on 05/27/2002 11:12:17 AM PDT by tet68
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To: RJL
Lets see...1996...hmmmm.

Maybe the present administration would have another look?

21 posted on 05/27/2002 12:27:44 PM PDT by Slam
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To: Slam
A farewell "Semper Fi" to a fine Marine.
22 posted on 05/27/2002 3:24:31 PM PDT by SuperLuminal
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To: harpseal,Travis McGee,Squantos,sneakypete,Chapita;COB1

23 posted on 05/27/2002 3:29:51 PM PDT by razorback-bert
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To: Slam
In many ways I'm glad that many of the old vets are passing away. Standing for their principles, those men of old from many generations past made sacrifices to ensure our way of life. It seems better to me that they should pass before they see the slow, withering demise of our nation.
Pardon my melancholy and cynacism. I just don't see Memorial Day as I used to any more. Their sacrifices may have been in vain after all.
RIP Gunny, and all the other men of renown.
24 posted on 05/27/2002 3:43:25 PM PDT by philman_36
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To: RJL
He has my vote for The Congessional Medal of Honor.

He doesn't have mine. While there is no doubt he was a great Marine,he didn't do anything to deserve the MOH. It ain't a "good old boy" award. Read some of the citations for yourself and you will see what I mean.

25 posted on 05/27/2002 4:16:57 PM PDT by sneakypete
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To: Slam
His Spotter, Burke died in Viet Nam and the publisher only gave Carlos something like $5,000 for the first book. If he was in the Army, he might have received the CMH for the Elephant Valley incident or for killing the General but the Marines don't hand out awards too lightly.

There were other things that Carlos was given. He has a range named after him, and the respect of every person in uniform.

26 posted on 05/27/2002 4:32:23 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5
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To: Grampa Dave
What's your friend's name? After three tours, he should be mentioned somewhere.
27 posted on 05/27/2002 4:44:11 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5
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To: isthisnickcool

28 posted on 05/27/2002 4:56:57 PM PDT by ASA Vet
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To: Slam
BUMP
29 posted on 05/27/2002 5:00:35 PM PDT by RippleFire
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To: Slam
A Long Tra'ng BUMP on Memorial Day. Here was a man who could really reach out an touch someone.

Semper Fi Carlos!

Garde la Foi, mes amis! Jamais reculez á tyrannie un pouce!
(Keep the Faith, my friends! Never give an inch to tyranny!)

LonePalm, le Républicain du verre cassé (The Broken Glass Republican)

30 posted on 05/27/2002 5:04:33 PM PDT by LonePalm
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To: Slam
RIP Gunny. We all owe you a great debt - happy hunting.
31 posted on 05/27/2002 5:52:48 PM PDT by 11B3
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Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: sneakypete
He doesn't have mine. While there is no doubt he was a great Marine,he didn't do anything to deserve the MOH. It ain't a "good old boy" award. Read some of the citations for yourself and you will see what I mean.

Oh, PLEASE.

The assassination of the NVA General *alone* is enough for Gunny Hathcock to have received the Medal of Honor.

I respect very few humans, and I am in absolute awe of this man.

34 posted on 05/28/2002 1:05:40 AM PDT by fire_eye
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To: sneakypete
Read some of the citations for yourself and you will see what I mean.

Oh, I've read them.

I suppose holding down an entire company of enemy singlehandledly for 5 days while living on chocolate bars in the 100 degree heat isn't good enough for you either?

(Of course, then again, Hathcock's commanding general turned down suggestions that Hathcock be extracted, since he knew Hathcock was capable of keeping any number of enemy pinned down singlehandledly, so maybe you have a point).

Hathcock was the best rifleman in the world. Hathcock won the Wimbledon Cup. Hathcock... Oh, never mind. You must just not understand.

The CMH is barely, *barely* enough for this man...

35 posted on 05/28/2002 1:19:15 AM PDT by fire_eye
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To: fire_eye
The assassination of the NVA General *alone* is enough for Gunny Hathcock to have received the Medal of Honor.

No,it's not.

I respect very few humans, and I am in absolute awe of this man.

While there is no doubt his deeds make him worthy of respect,it doesn't mean he earned a MOH.

36 posted on 05/28/2002 1:26:21 AM PDT by sneakypete
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To: fire_eye
I suppose holding down an entire company of enemy singlehandledly for 5 days while living on chocolate bars in the 100 degree heat isn't good enough for you either?

And what did Santa bring you for Christmas?

(Of course, then again, Hathcock's commanding general turned down suggestions that Hathcock be extracted, since he knew Hathcock was capable of keeping any number of enemy pinned down singlehandledly, so maybe you have a point).

HorseHillary! Notice how the ONLY valor award he received was for the incident where the APC ran over a mine? IF Hathcock had done what is claimed and this USMC General were aware of it,don't you think he would have received at LEAST a Silver Star then? He would have most likely gotten a Navy Cross. But then again,we ALL know how much USMC Generals hate all the publicity the USMC gets when they hand out medals,right?

hcock was the best rifleman in the world. Hathcock won the Wimbledon Cup. Hathcock...

Both are true statements. Neither has anything to do with earning a Medal of Honor.

... Oh, never mind. You must just not understand.

I understand perfectly. I have stood in formation and been friends with 3 different MOH winners. My first company commander on Okinawa won a MOH in Korea as a Master Sgt who was I THINK 19 at the time. His name was Ola Mize,and he single-handlt killed at least 10 Chinese with a entrenching tool,and ran the entire platoon off the hill with it when they started executing the wounded GI's he had just spent all night trying to save. This was after he had been wounded several times himself,but was the only mobile man left in his company. He had spent all night moving from machine gun position to machine gun position to keep them off the hill. He finally decided to surrender at dawn when he ran out of ammo,figuring he could stay with his fellow GI's and attend to their wounds,rather than E&E to another US held position. It was after he had already surrendered and the Chinese starting sticking bayonets into his wounded comrades that he went nuts,grabbed the entrenching tool,and went after them.

The CMH is barely, *barely* enough for this man...

This right here is proof YOU don't understand. The MOH is ONLY given to those who commit acts of supreme bravery with no consideration given to their own safety. These acts almost always involved great personal risk while repeatedly exposing yourself to enemy fire in order to save the lives of your fellow soldiers,Marines,or sailors. Most never survive their action,and those who do are usually so shot-up that they spend months in a hospital recovering. To say that a "MOH is barely enough for this man" is to insult the memory of all those who HAVE earned it.

37 posted on 05/28/2002 1:51:07 AM PDT by sneakypete
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To: Shooter 2.5
He prefers to be kinda unnamed now. He would probably respond to sargent Jack.
38 posted on 05/28/2002 4:47:18 AM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Slam; bang_list
indexing to bang

He learns things no man can learn - how it looks through a scope when you center-punch an enemy at 1200 yards, and how it feels...

39 posted on 05/28/2002 6:16:33 AM PDT by packrat01
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To: all; slam
his son is an active duty Marine and a shooter...his name is GySgt Carlos Hathcock

the Legend lives on and the Marines will never forget!

Semper Fi

40 posted on 05/28/2002 6:20:52 AM PDT by MudPuppy
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To: RJL
He has my vote for The Congessional Medal of Honor.

Mine too. With a few more like him, and more emphasis on SF rather than sending over planeloads of cannon fodder, the casualties on our side would have been much lower

41 posted on 05/28/2002 6:29:38 AM PDT by SauronOfMordor
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To: Grampa Dave
A friend of mine did 3 tours as a LARP sniper with the Corp in Nam. He had bounties on his head from the Viet Cong, the ChiComs and the Russians. He never talks about his actions and accomplishments. The three bounties say all that is needed be said. The enemies knew how effective he was.

Another great warrior who deserves more recognition than will ever happen. What a strange sort of prejudice the military has toward these men. Somehow it's legit to designate the targets they are given, but not acknowledge the great significance of their achievements.

I believe only those who have fought the enemy on the ground - and seen them - appreciate these men.

42 posted on 05/28/2002 6:49:14 AM PDT by toddst
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To: toddst
"Somehow it's legit to designate the targets they are given, but not acknowledge the great significance of their achievements.

It doesn't help when the headlines call them "Murder Inc.".

Hathcock will never get the CMH because he made it look too easy. Hold off an entire company of the enemy with just a another soldier to spot for him?!? Child's play. Crawl to an enemy compound and kill a enemy General surrounded by his army?!? Child's play. Hunt down a sniper who was sent out specifically to kill you?!? Child's play. Yeah, there's nothing to this trigger pulling stuff. < sarcasm to the highest extreme. >

43 posted on 05/28/2002 7:14:38 AM PDT by Shooter 2.5
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To: toddst
You posted, "What a strange sort of prejudice the military has toward these men. Somehow it's legit to designate the targets they are given, but not acknowledge the great significance of their achievements.

The history and effectiveness of American Snipers goes back to the French and Indian War to the Rev. War, the War of 1812 to the present.

The cost effectiveness and strategic effectiveness of the sniper is what scares many of the multi starred brass of the Army and Marine Corp and now the Navy with snipers in the Seal ranks.

They kill the enemy in the most cost effective manner. Also, by targeting enemy officers and lead NCO's, they devastate the enemies command structure. Our guys in combat continue to fight when their commanders get taken out in combat. Often our enemies will surrender in mass when their tyranical commanders get taken out or they retreat in mass.

Our new space age snipers will be the remote controlled UMV's with the ability to spot the enemy leaders and take them out with rockets fired hundreds or thousands of miles away. They, too, after this war on terrorism will become despised by the brass and those who depend on strong enemies being alive to make their living.

If the Jag Off lawyer had not prevent the taking out of Omar in the early days of the Afghanistan war, the war in Afghanistan would have been over even faster.

The Islamic thugs who are in command present tremendous targets of opportunity. In Iran if the top 100 Mullahs and top 100 Iran military were taken out by Predator UMV's and snipers. That would be it for the Islamic thugs in control. The war would be over before it started. If that happened, even Saddam might just surrender.

44 posted on 05/28/2002 7:20:58 AM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: MudPuppy
"...the Legend lives on and the Marines will never forget!"

That must be why the Corps mustered Hathcock out just a few days before his 20 years, so they wouldn't have to pay him a dime, not a single lousy dime, of retirement pay.

Semper f*cking Fi! Indeed!

45 posted on 05/28/2002 8:46:15 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: Shooter 2.5
Hathcock will never get the CMH because he made it look too easy.

Perhaps. However, I continue to believe in the minds of the "common man" there is a negative tilt attached to what snipers are assigned to do. The reasoning seems to go - theirs is not a straight-up fight. Thus, they cannot be awarded hero status. It's wrong-headed, but there just the same.

God Bless Sgt. Hathcock. A true American combat hero to those who have been there.

46 posted on 05/28/2002 11:01:03 AM PDT by toddst
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To: Grampa Dave
They, too (the new snipers) after this war on terrorism will become despised by the brass and those who depend on strong enemies being alive to make their living.

Perhaps the brass themselves are threatened at a personal level by effective snipers. I've wondered about that before. In any conflict, aren't Command & Control always targets? Hmmm.

47 posted on 05/28/2002 11:10:58 AM PDT by toddst
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To: sneakypete
The MOH is ONLY given to those who commit acts of supreme bravery with no consideration given to their own safety.

The MOH should ONLY given to those who commit acts of supreme bravery with no consideration given to their own safety.

Remember Dugout Doug, et al.

48 posted on 05/28/2002 12:05:06 PM PDT by jo6pac
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To: Slam
This poem always chokes me up. Even though I was an army officer, I deeply respect my brethren in the Corps.

Sniper's Serenity

A green phantom stalks these lands,
Three Oh Eight in a Master's hands.
Chamber a matched, perfect round,
Slide home the bolt, forward and down.
Stay detached, loose and cool,
Time your breathing, remember the rule.
Get them now, kill them clean,
before they can hurt another Marine.
The first dies quick, the second has looked,
that one dies fast, a third has booked.
Number Three goes down, sight on Number Four,
this one's for my Brothers, Brothers of the Corps.
Even now at home, I remember that scene,
the four of them and a young Marine,
I would do it again, once more with pride,
to protect my Marines, the enemy has died.

Jungle Vet '95 by Robert W. Baird 1/1D, 1st Platoon, Team "West Orange"

49 posted on 05/28/2002 1:03:55 PM PDT by ExSoldier
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To: Slam
Carlos Hathcock was NOT the best! Mawhinney was!! He got over 100 kills in Vietnam!
50 posted on 05/28/2002 6:55:22 PM PDT by RaceBannon
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