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Sniper’s Prodigy Evades Limelight

Chuck Mawhinney doesn’t sleep. He waits. Chuck Mawhinney shot and killed 103 enemy combatants during the Vietnam War. That’s 10 more confirmed kills than Carlos Hathcock. Mawhinney was also credited with having 216 probable kills.

Many are familiar with the scout sniper legend Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, who achieved notoriety for 93 confirmed kills during his tenure in the Vietnam War. But few know of Charles B. “Chuck” Mawhinney, who topped Hathcock’s feat with ten more confirmed kills during the same conflict. As impressive as his accomplishment is, it remained under wraps for more than two decades.

The story of Chuck Mawhinney is akin to something one would imagine as a plot in the action movies of today, but he is as real as it gets. The son of a World War II Marine, he followed a proud tradition of extraordinary men who did things not for themselves, but for their fellow Marines. Mawhinney saved the lives of his own by undermining the enemy’s morale and keeping North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong from sending rounds downrange.

The Oregon native was an enthused hunter throughout his youth. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967.

During his 16-month tour in Vietnam, Mawhinney broke the confirmed kill record as a scout sniper with 103 confirmed kills and attained an additional 216 possible kills. The “probables” were not confirmed due to the lack of an official third party presence or the ability to physically confirm the enemy casualty.

Mawhinney was diagnosed with combat fatigue and sent back to the U.S. to be a marksmanship instructor at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 1970 and returned to rural Oregon. He got married and went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, slipping into obscurity, by preference, and never mentioning his experi-ences to anyone.

Mawhinney never sought recognition for his time as a sniper, however, his record was revealed in the early 1990s through a book, written by fellow Marine sniper, Joseph T. Ward entitled “Dear Mom: A Snipers Vietnam.”

When Mawhinney retired from the forest service he began to speak publicly at shooting expos, promoting a positive image of the sniper and his role as a lifesaver on the battlefield, as well as speaking to classes of professional snipers in training. He discretely continues to serve the Corps by offering his expertise to the Precision Weapons Shop, Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., where Marines reenacted one of his most astounding shots for the History Channel special, “Sniper: The Anatomy of the Kill.”

Although Mawhinney set the precedence for the Corps’ elite snipers, he may remain another unsung legend of the Corps.

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  • SargeUSMC-NamVet

    From SargeNamVet

    Mr. Littlefield
    Sounds like you have an attitude towards the author for some reason. If you have not been in combat then do not comment on it or make assumptions about it or those who have been there.

    A Marine Viet Nam vet – 1964 and 1965

  • Anonymous

    sniper always do more harm to the enemies.

  • RS Anderson

    It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, don’t try to become a Marine to see an actual kill, join to serve your country with honor.
    Dulce Bellum Inexpertis

  • Ed

    Wow, amazing service protecting his brother Marines!

  • ken

    u are right,for someone that was there,kesaxton,E-6 1st marines 1911568

  • Enkrypt3r

    Thank God For The Marines.

  • matias

    i want to be a marine

  • Davidsteinbach

    Read: “The Last Stand of Fox Company” and “The Lions of Iwo Jima” If you can find the
    Commandant’s Reading List, it will go a long way to giving you a decent understanding of the Corps. If you go into the Corps, you should read every recommended book, and think about them. It’s a huge help to someone in a pre-recruit mode. Good luck!

  • david

    my dream is to be a sniper in the marines :)

  • BUD

    He was no doubt, Every bit a Hunter. And one thing a Hunter learns is, if he’s good, that he can take more than he should. I don’t think that he did it for recognition, more because he KNEW that he had a skill that not only he excelled with, but he could apply in a way no one else could. That is all he wanted was the self satisfacion of making a difference. And he still does.

  • Miles Littlefield

    @Nathan Siefert:

    You are confused, sir!

    Chuck left the service due to combat fatigue. They call that PTSD today. The thrill of the kill and watching the pink mist rise from the exploding head of a fellow human being going down after you pulled the trigger is only cool in the virtual world of video games and movies. It is NOT cool in reality; it is the nature of war.

    The reason Chuck is a hero is that the demoralizing effect to the enemy of having a few of their compatriots fall from an unseen attacker slows their efforts. A sniper taking out a few can stop a full blown battle and actually save lives on both sides. The unsung nature of snipers who take out targets without being seen and then never make the front page of newspapers and history books is their glory.

    If you want to see another human being die just to see an actual kill, you should see a psychatrist – you may have sociopathic tendencies.

    Chuck, thank you for the marines you saved and the battles you precluded with your actions – I cannot begin to comprehend how much intestinal fortitude it required for you to do what you did, but I appreciate you!

  • Cpl James Demecs

    He was one of my instructors at Edson Range in Camp Pendleton in 1969 of August. I still know all the technics of shooting and it has come in handy for wild game hunts. One shot One kill.

  • James

    There all legends and we will never forget that

  • will barnett

    one of the many so little respected soldiers who fought for this country god bless you and your family SEMPER-FI!!!!

  • Pat

    Mawhinney is a legend, i personally will never forget that.
    I think it’s more important to note that he most likely saved thousands of lives by taking those well aimed shots.
    Thank you Chuck for saving our brothers,
    Semper Fi

  • Juano Bello

    I had read the books written about Hathcock and recently heard of the exploits of Sergeant Mawhinney. As I do with all who are serving or have served to protect this nation Thank you Marine!!

  • Jérôme

    Tireur d’ élite de Légende

  • Nathan Siefert

    I would like to join the marines sometime to c a actuall kill..

  • Kris

    I like seeing those who deserve it get the recognition they are due. Many don’t.

    Semper Fi

  • Nate Emery

    God bless our Marines, especially our Snipers.