Carlos Hathcock Biography

Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, also known as “Gunny” and “White Feather Sniper,” was a renowned US Marine sniper during the Vietnam War. With over 300 claimed enemy kills, of which 93 were officially confirmed, Hathcock’s skills and expertise were unmatched. His journey began at the age of 12 when he started hunting with a .22-caliber JC Higgins rifle. Determined to serve his country, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps at just 17 years old. Hathcock’s talent for long-range shooting earned him the prestigious Wimbledon Cup early in his career. Deployed to Vietnam as part of the military police, he quickly gained recognition as a skilled sharpshooter and was eventually designated as a sniper. His legendary status was solidified when he successfully shot a North Vietnamese sniper through his own scope. Despite sustaining serious burn injuries during his second tour in Vietnam, Hathcock’s dedication to his fellow Marines remained unwavering. He played a crucial role in establishing the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School and continued to provide expert advice to police departments and specialized units even after his discharge.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: White Feather
  • Also Known As: Carlos Norman Hathcock II
  • Died At Age: 56
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Jo Winstead (m. 1962–1999)
  • Soldiers: American Men
  • Died on: February 23, 1999
  • Place of Death: Virginia Beach
  • U.S. State: Arkansas
  • City: Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Awards: Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Gallantry Cross

Childhood & Early Life

Carlos Hathcock was born on May 20, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, to Carlos and Agnes Hathcock. After his parents divorced when he was 12 years old, he was raised by his grandmother in Wynne, Arkansas. From a young age, Carlos was fond of guns and started hunting with a .22-caliber ‘JC Higgins’ single-shot rifle. He would shoot game to supplement his grandparents’ food, as they were not financially well-off. At the age of 15, Carlos had to drop out of high school and work for a Little Rock concrete construction company.

Career

Carlos Hathcock’s shooting skills from his childhood proved to be valuable in his army career. He won several shooting competitions, including the prestigious ‘Wimbledon Cup’ for long-range shooting in 1965. In 1966, he was deployed to Vietnam as part of the military police, where his sharpshooting skills were recognized by Captain Edward James Land. He was selected as a sniper for his platoon. Carlos estimated that he had killed over 300 enemy personnel during his time in Vietnam, with 93 confirmed kills by a third-party officer. Many of his actions remain unrecorded due to the difficult battlefield conditions.

Carlos Hathcock’s notable encounters include shooting a North Vietnamese sniper known as “Cobra” through his own sniper scope, killing the notorious female ‘Việt Cộng’ sniper-platoon commander and interrogator “Apache,” and undertaking an independent mission to kill a specific North Vietnamese officer. In 1969, he suffered serious burn injuries while rescuing fellow ‘Marines’ and had to be evacuated for medical treatment. After recovering, he helped establish the ‘Marine Corps Scout Sniper School’ but was ultimately forced to leave the army due to his multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

After his discharge, Carlos Hathcock continued to provide expert advice to the police department and specialized units.

Awards & Achievements

Carlos Hathcock set a record for the longest sniper kill by dropping a ‘Việt Cộng’ at a range of 2,500 yards in 1967. He received numerous awards, including the ‘Silver Star,’ the ‘Purple Heart,’ the ‘Navy Commendation Medal,’ and the ‘Good Conduct Medal,’ among others.

Personal Life

After leaving the army, Carlos Hathcock slipped into depression but found solace in shark hunting. He married Jo Winstead in 1962, and they had a son named Carlos Norman Hathcock III. Despite facing difficulties in their marriage during Carlos’s depressive phase, Jo remained by his side until his death. Carlos Hathcock passed away in February 1999 due to complications from multiple sclerosis. His son followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the ‘US Marine Corps.’ The ‘Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock Award’ and the ‘Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N Hathcock II Award’ were established in his honor.

Trivia

Carlos Hathcock was known as the “White Feather Sniper” because of a white feather he wore in his cap. The ‘North Vietnamese Army’ had placed a bounty on his life, but he managed to kill every bounty killer who tried to stalk him. Several movies, books, and TV serials have been inspired by his life and depict sniper warfare in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

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