The Unbelievable Story Of The Vietnam War's Most Notorious Sniper

When people think of "American Sniper," they tend to envision Chris Kyle and either his book (via Time) or the movie about him, starring Bradley Cooper (via IMDb). Kyle had a predecessor who was equally worthy of the moniker, though. His name was Carlos Hathcock. Per Business Insider, this Marine, who fought in Vietnam from 1966-69, was dubbed "White Feather" by the North Vietnamese, due to the one he wore in his bush hat. Hathcock was so focused on his job that he was able to go days without sleeping and staying out of visibility from enemy soldiers, even with the feather in his cap. On really dangerous missions, he would forgo the feather to ensure maximum camouflage. 

Per, his exploits sound like something from the comics. He's credited with assassinating a North Vietnamese Army General. Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock had another situation that would have fit right in with any war movie. Not only did he have a bounty on his head that was way higher than on his colleagues, but his success so angered the North Vietnamese Army that they sent their best sniper, nicknamed Cobra, after him. Cobra did his best to draw Hathcock out, even killing several of his platoon mates. The two snipers wound up stalking each other and even trading off their nesting spots. Then fortune struck for Hathcock. Cobra's new position was in the sun, which made his scope glint in the light. The American sniper saw it and shot the glint, mere milliseconds before Cobra fired.

Carlos Hathcock was feared by the North Vietnamese Army

According to, Hathcock's sniping career, where he had 93 confirmed kills and an estimated 300 others, came to an unceremonious end in 1969 when he was riding in a vehicle that hit a landmine and left him with burns covering 40% of his body. He was so tough, however, that he was able to rescue seven other Marines from the vehicle, which was on fire.

Like many other soldiers, Hathcock did not enjoy any of the killing that he did. He was just doing his job to protect, and sometimes avenge, his fellow members of the military while they were in Vietnam. It was his duty, in his eyes, to use his shooting skills to help save American lives; if he failed, then "they're gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines," he once said (via Insider). After he left Vietnam, he established the Marine Sniping School at Quantico. He was a man with an intense focus, and he used that to teach students, even as he struggled with Multiple Sclerosis. This was a person who gave his all for his country, even until his death in 1999. There would never be a bounty collected on him.