The bad sniper - funny true story

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The bad sniper - funny true story

By no stretch of the imagination did the 26th Marines have a monopoly on good snipers. The NVA marksmen, armed with rifles and scopes which were comparable to those of their American counterparts, lurked around the edges of the perimeters -- especially the hill outposts -- and waited for a target.


Although none of this deadly business could be categorized as humorous, there was one sniper incident on Hill 881 South which could not help but evoke a chuckle.

The men of Company I had been cursed with the presence of a articularly accurate sniper who was located in the bush to the south of their perimeter. The NVA rifleman scored frequently and had wounded 10 Marines in the period of about a week, all of whom were evacuated. In addition to being a hazard, the sniper was also a general nuisance. A man moving from one place to another within the perimeter was always hurried on his way by slugs which kicked up dirt at his heels or buzzed past his head like hornets.

Thus, the Marines were constantly waiting for the culprit to expose himself and one day a glint off the telescopic sight proved to be his undoing.

The Marines marked his position and, on Captain Dabney's [CO, I/26] order, lugged a 106 mm recoilless rifle from the northern side of the hill, sighted in, and blew the sniper away -- tree and all.

The victory was short lived because his successor proved equally as effective. More Marines were hit. The second rifleman lasted about as long as the first before he suffered the same fate at the hands of the 106mm gunners.

His replacement, however, was a complete wash-out. Expending between 20 and 30 rounds a day, the misfit flailed away for a week without hitting anyone. In the process he, too, gave himself away. After the Marines had manhandled the 106 into position for the third time, and were sighting in, one private, after deep thought, approached the company commander with a proposition: "Skipper, if we get him, they'll just replace him with someone who might be able to shoot. He hasn't hit anyone so why not leave him there until hedoes?" It was so ordered.


Colonel William H. "Bill" Dabney, USMC(Ret), who initially wrote the above article, indicates there is more to the story than portrayed by the History and Museums Division, as follows: "Sniper fired from that area for the remainder of the siege, never hit anything.

Initially, troops would signal his misses by waving "maggie's drawers" red flag at him (as was custom for misses on rifle range). It soon dawned on us, though, that maybe his glasses weren't broken and his sights not bent, but rather that he was missing deliberately. He was certainly from same NVA unit as the previous snipers, so would have known what had happened to them. He had to shoot to keep his sergeant happy, but the sergeant couldn't see the top of hill to tell whether he was hitting or not.

Maybe, we thought, he's trying to avoid the same fate as his predecessors, and figures that as long as he never hits anything, we'll find it in our interest as well as his to leave him alone.

We did, and he was still there, and still missing, when we left."

"Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that the sniper was one smart cookie who gambled that we'd be willing to accept a 'Mexican stand-off,' and won the bet."

Extracted from:The Battle Of Khe Sanh... History and Museum Division... Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps... Washington, D.C... Reprinted 1977.

By netchicken: posted on 7-4-2009

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