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Amazing Sniper Tales in ONE Shot, ONE Kill

An overview of modern sniper work with personal accounts of snipers in action from World War II to beirut in 1983.

Lieutenant General P. K. Van Riper, Commanding General Marine Corps Combat Development Command, congratulates Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock (Ret.) after presenting him the Silver Star during a ceremony at the Weapons Training Battalion. Standing next to Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock is his son, Staff Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, Jr. ID: DM-SD-98-02324 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ONE SHOT, ONE KILL, Charles W. Sasser, Craig Roberst, Pocket Star Books, 1990, 260pp, paperback

The American way of war is reluctant to embrace bushwacking as a tactic. But the fact is, snipers have always been with us from General Dan Morgan’s sharpshooters in the Revolution to the Civil War when both sides used snipers with great effect, through the present day, when snipers have been formally adopted by the Army and Marine Corps.

One expert says snipers can save a country. Conversely, it can stop one. During the Revolution, Captain Patrick Ferguson, inventor of a specialized sniper rifle, had a bead on one high-ranking Colonial officer but declined to take the shot. General George Washington rode off unmolested. (Was it a class thing? Would Ferguson have fired if the target had been a grubby Colonial dogface? Interesting to speculate.) Ferguson, ironically, later died at  Cowpens, fighting against another adherent of sniping, General Dan Morgan.

This book gathers brief accounts, often firsthand, of snipers who operated in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. It was in Vietnam that sniping proved itself with a battlefield that presaged the post-Cold War battle conditions of the future.

Three of the accounts are about missions executed by sniper ace Carlos Hathcock, the US Marine, for whom the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had a bounty equal to three years pay. One of those includes being dropped in an unspecified location where he spent three days crawling, literally an inch at a time, carefully parting the grass ahead and nudging it erect behind him to avoid marking his passge from observers. It took three days to cross from the treeline in the clearcut no man’s land to reach a firing point in front of the NVA camp centered around an ex-French plantation house. From a slight depression in the grassy field, he dropped an NVA general with one shot. In the resulting confusion, it took him only ten minutes to get out of the spot.

Excellent, very readable account that neatly summarizes the function of moden snipers while demonstrating the increasing need for use of sniping as a tactic in a world where combat continues unabated, but with greater complications to rules of engagement.

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