Nick Name: White Feather
Birthday: May 20, 1942
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Carlos Norman Hathcock II
Born in: Little Rock, Arkansas
Famous as: Military Personnel
Spouse/Ex-: Jo Winstead (m. 1962–1999)
Died on: February 23, 1999
place of death: Virginia Beach
U.S. State: Arkansas
City: Little Rock, Arkansas
awards: Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock was a famous ‘US Marine’ sniper, who claimed to have killed over 300 enemy personnel during the Vietnam War, of which 93 kills have been officially confirmed. He was known as “Gunny” and “White Feather Sniper.” He started hunting with a .22-caliber ‘JC Higgins’ single-shot rifle, at the age of 12. He wanted to be a ‘Marine’ and enlisted in the ‘US Marine Corps’ at the age of 17. In his early career, he won the prestigious ‘Wimbledon Cup’ for long-range shooting. He was deployed in Vietnam as part of the military police and was soon recognized as a skilled sharpshooter. Subsequently, he was made a sniper. In one of his most spectacular encounters, he shot a North Vietnamese sniper through his own sniper scope. This made him a legend in the war zone. He had to be evacuated from the battlefield during his second tenure in Vietnam, after sustaining serious burn injuries while removing fellow ‘Marines’ from a vehicle that had gone over a mine. He was instrumental in establishing the ‘Marine Corps Scout Sniper School’ and continued to give expert advice to the police department and specialized units after his discharge.
Childhood & Early Life
Carlos was born on May 20, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, to Carlos and Agnes Hathcock. He was raised in Wynne, Arkansas, by his grandmother, after his parents divorced when he was 12 years old. He was fond of guns from a young age and started hunting with a .22-caliber ‘JC Higgins’ single-shot rifle. His grandparents were not financially sound, and what he shot supplemented their food.
His father worked in the railroads and later took up the job of a welder in Memphis. Carlos Jr had to drop out of high school and work for a Little Rock concrete construction company at the age of 15.
He wanted to be a ‘Marine’ since early childhood and played with his father’s old World War II ‘Mauser,’ pretending to be a ‘Marine’ killing Japanese soldiers. He enlisted in the ‘US Marine Corps’ in May 1959, at the age of 17, to fulfil his dream.
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His childhood shooting skills paid rich dividends in his army career. He won a number of shooting competitions, including the prestigious ‘Wimbledon Cup’ for long-range shooting at Camp Perry in 1965.
He was deployed in Vietnam as part of the military police, in 1966. His sharpshooting skills were soon recognized by Captain Edward James Land, and he was selected as a sniper for his platoon.
According to his personal estimates, he had killed over 300 enemy personnel during his tenure in Vietnam, of which 93 kills were confirmed by a third party of officer rank. Many of his actions remain unrecorded due to the difficult battlefield conditions that prevailed at that time.
In one of his most spectacular encounters, he shot a North Vietnamese sniper who was known as “Cobra,” through his sniper scope. It was his presence of mind and reflexes that saved his life and killed his opponent.
In another commendable action, he killed the notorious female ‘Việt Cộng’ sniper-platoon commander and interrogator “Apache,” who was known for brutal methods of torture.
He was a master of camouflage and concealment and proved his worth by undertaking an independent mission to kill a particular North Vietnamese officer, after lying under camouflage in close proximity to his target for three nights, till he got the opportunity to shoot.
He returned to the US in 1967 and went back to Vietnam in 1969 to take over the command of a sniper platoon. On September 16, 1969, he suffered serious burn injuries while rescuing fellow ‘Marines’ from an ‘LVT-5,’ which was hit by an anti-tank mine. He had to be evacuated by a helicopter to a hospital ship and then to a naval hospital in Tokyo. This proved to be the end of his career as a sniper in Vietnam. He received the ‘Purple Heart’ and ‘Silver Star’ awards for his actions in the war zone.
After recovering from his injuries, he was instrumental in the establishment of the ‘Marine Corps Scout Sniper School’ at the ‘Marine’ base in Quantico, Virginia. However, his health deteriorated, and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Thus, he was ultimately forced out of the army because of his disability.
After his discharge from the ‘Marine Corps,’ he continued to give expert advice to the police department and specialized units, such as ‘SEAL Team Six.’
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Awards & Achievements
He created a record of the longest sniper kill by dropping a ‘Việt Cộng’ at a range of 2,500 yards, with an ‘M2’ .50-caliber ‘Browning’ machine gun, mounted with a telescopic sight, in 1967.
He received a number of awards, including the ‘Silver Star,’ the ‘Purple Heart,’ the ‘Navy Commendation Medal,’ the ‘Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal,’ the ‘Good Conduct Medal,’ the ‘National Defense Service Medal,’ the ‘Vietnam Service Medal,’ the ‘Gallantry Cross,’ and the ‘Vietnam Campaign Medal.’
Hathcock slipped into depression when he was forced to quit the army due to his medical condition. He soon developed an interest in shark hunting, and that helped him get out of depression and back to normal life.
He liked shooting and loved hunting, but he did not enjoy killing humans. However, he felt it was his duty to kill the enemy on the battlefield.
He married Jo Winstead in November 1962. They had a son, whom they named Carlos Norman Hathcock III. His marriage went through a rough patch during Carlos’s depressive phase. However, his wife decided not to leave him until his last breath.
He died in February 1999, due to complications from multiple sclerosis, at his home in Virginia Beach. He was buried at ‘Woodlawn Memorial Gardens’ in Norfolk Virginia, US.
His son later joined the ‘US Marine Corps’ to follow in his father’s footsteps. His son also retired as a gunnery sergeant and was a member of the ‘Board of Governors’ of the ‘Marine Corps Distinguished Shooters Association.’
The ‘Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock Award’ is awarded by the ‘National Defense Industrial Association’ to people who make significant contribution to operational employment and tactics in small arms weapons systems. The ‘Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N Hathcock II Award’ is presented to enlisted ‘Marines’ who make outstanding contribution to improve marksmanship training.
The ‘North Vietnamese Army’ had announced the highest-ever bounty of $30,000 on Hathcock’s life. However, he killed each and every bounty killer who tried to stalk him.
He was known as the “Du kích Lông Trắng” or the “White Feather Sniper” because of a white feather that he wore in his cap. It is said that when the Vietnamese sent a platoon after him, the ‘Marines’ confused the enemy by wearing white feathers.
A sniper range at Camp Lejeune, North California, has been named after Carlos Hathcock. The rifle- and pistol-training complex at the ‘Marine Corps Air Station,’ Miramar, has also been named after Hathcock in 2007.
The movies ‘Sniper’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ have scenes that were inspired by the legend of Carlos Hathcock. Several books and TV serials that depict sniper warfare in Vietnam and Afghanistan have also been inspired by his life.