A selection of Hathcock’s best stories
Hathcock had several confrontations with North Vietnamese snipers. The most famous of these involved a showdown with a sniper known only as “The Cobra”. Hathcock and his spotter, John Burke, stalked the Cobra in a jungle southwest of Da Nang. The US Army believed the Vietnamese sent the Cobra specifically to kill particular enemy soldiers. Naturally, the Cobra wanted to receive the largest bounty of them all and execute Hathcock himself. Fortunately, while in the jungle Hathcock saw a flash of light reflect off the enemy sniper’s scope in the bushes. Of course, he fired immediately. Both could have killed one another simultaneously, but Hathcock’s speed and skill gave him an advantage. His aim was so precise that he shot through the sniper’s own rifle scope and hit him in the eye, killing him. Given how close the sniper’s eye must have been to the rifle, it is likely there was merely a few seconds to act.
Hathcock also killed a female Viet Cong sniper known as “Apache”. This woman was a platoon commander and fierce interrogator. She gained the name “Apache” because of the methods she utilized while torturing members of the South Vietnamese Army and U.S. Marines, particularly letting them bleed to death. In interviews later conducted with Hathcock, he told Richard Marcinko that one of her trademark maneuvers involved cutting her victim’s eyelids off and keeping them as souvenirs. In another interview, he said that she often castrated her captives. Her death thus helped boost American morale at a time when it was desperately needed.
One particularly arduous mission saw him targeting a specific high-ranking North Vietnamese Army officer in 1967. This is also rumored to be the only time he removed the white feather from his hat. Without any details of the mission, he volunteered and accepted it without hesitation. Over four days and three nights, Hathcock crawled inch-by-inch over 1,500 yards of fields. Hathcock himself said he was nearly stepped on as he remained camouflaged within the vegetation. Further, at one point he narrowly avoided a bamboo viper bitten him. Finally, as the officer exited his camp, he fired. A single shot struck the officer in the chest and he died. After this mission, Hathcock’s first deployment was up. He returned to the US. However, missing life as a Marine Corp, he returned to Vietnam in 1969 and took command of a whole platoon of snipers.
Most impressively, up until 2002, Hathcock held the record for the longest kill. He took down a Vietcong soldier from over 2,000 meters away using an M2 HMG .50 caliber with a scope. A Canadian Master Corporal named Arron Perry beat this shot with a record of 2,310 meters. He used a McMillan TAC-50 rifle. Since then, several people have beaten the record. Interestingly, an unnamed Canadian sniper holds the current record. Occurring in May 2017, this sniper shot a distance of 3,540 meters during the Iraqi Civil War. Like Arron Perry, he used a McMillan TAC-50 rifle. Hathcock’s record, however, remains very impressive for its time.