History’s Greatest Marksmen: Carlos “White Feather” Hathcock

  • George Demopoulos

Up next in our series on history’s greatest marksmen, we’re going to look at one of America’s most prolific snipers. Read on to learn more about Vietnam War veteran and Marine Corps sniper Carlos “White Feather” Hathcock, one of the best marksmen you may have never heard of.

Who Was Carlos Hathcock?

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 20, 1942, Carlos Norman Hathcock dreamed of becoming a marine from a young age. As a boy, he’d take his father’s Mauser rifle and pretend to be a soldier in the wilderness near his house with his faithful dog. 

Photo Courtesy of USMC Archives

Military Career

Hathcock’s military career officially began at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the Marines in 1959. By the time he deployed in Vietnam in 1966, he’d already won the NRA’s Wimbledon Cup. He originally served as a military policeman, but quickly transferred to the 1st Marine Sniper Platoon.

It didn’t take long for Hathcock to make a name for himself. He earned the nickname “Long Trang,” or “White Feather,” from North Vietnamese soldiers, thanks to a distinctive feather he always wore in his cap. He was pretty unpopular among the North Vietnamese, who eventually placed a $30,000 bounty on his head.

Exploits and Achievements

Many of Hathcock’s Exploits in the war seem like something out of an action movie. On one occasion, he slinked on his belly for three days to close within 750 meters of his target, a North Vietnamese general, before picking him off. In another, he took out a notorious female North Vietnamese platoon leader who had a reputation for torturing her prisoners.

And in perhaps his greatest adventure, Hathcock and his spotter John Burke spent days playing cat-and-mouse with a Vietnamese sniper known as “The Cobra.” Sent specifically to hunt Hathcock, the Cobra eventually found himself on the wrong side of White Feather’s barrel.

During his career in the Marines, Hathcock even set the record for longest sniper kill. Using an M2 machine gun with an attached optic, Hathcock recorded a kill at 2,460 yards. The shot, clocking in at nearly a mile and a half, stood until Canadian marksman Arron Perry broke it in Afghanistan in 2002. All in all, Hathcock recorded 93 confirmed kills, although he estimates he scored an unverified 300 more.

Injury and Discharge

On September 16, 1969, Hathcock’s career in Vietnam came to an abrupt end. The armored vehicle he was riding in hit a landmine, and Hathcock received severe burns as he pulled seven fellow servicemen from the resulting inferno. He was medically evacuated and recovered in Tokyo and San Antonio. Hathcock received a Purple Heart for his actions.

After Vietnam, Hathcock helped establish Marines’ Scout Sniper School in Quantico, Virginia. Some of his students included elite police and military units, like SEAL Team Six.

Ultimately, none of his close calls ever spelled the end for White Feather. Instead, he died from complications related to Multiple Sclerosis in 1999.

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