Chuck Mawhinney

History Uncovered Episode 72:
Chuck Mawhinney, The Marine Corps’ Deadliest Sniper

Published September 29, 2023

He killed more than 100 enemy combatants, may have killed another 200 more, and called the Vietnam War the "ultimate hunting trip." This is the story of Chuck Mawhinney.

It was Valentine’s Day 1969 and the Vietnam War was raging as a North Vietnamese Army platoon was advancing toward a U.S. base in Da Nang. Air support couldn’t offer any help — a monsoon had made sure of that — but Captain John Wiley knew that the platoon needed to be stopped or at the very least delayed.

Luckily for Wiley, one of his men knew exactly where the advancing platoon would soon cross the river under cover of darkness. And this man had the unique skills to stop them.

That soldier’s name was Chuck Mawhinney. A sniper, Mawhinney told Wiley that he would head down to the river and cover the spot where the North Vietnamese troops were going to cross.

He and his spotter set up where the grass was short and the murky water was shallow, and waited. It was getting dark, but Mawhinney had a perfect view of the river and a night-vision scope.

Sure enough, the enemy platoon eventually started to wade into the water, right where Mawhinney said they would. Mawhinney locked his first target in his sights and fired — then instantly, another shot, and another, and another.

In just 30 seconds, 16 North Vietnamese soldiers went down, each one thanks to a bullet right through his skull.

Chuck Mawhinney

United States Marine CorpsChuck Mawhinney in an undated photo taken during the Vietnam War.

But however extraordinary this feat of marksmanship may sound, it was just another day in the field for the legendary Chuck Mawhinney. Indeed, moments like this were astonishingly commonplace throughout Mawhinney’s tour of Vietnam. It wasn’t just that he was a good shot — he was arguably the best shot in the whole U.S. Marine Corps.

Mawhinney could hit his mark more than 1,000 yards out with startling frequency. He had an uncanny ability to accurately determine a target’s distance, gauge how much moisture was in the air, and factor in weather conditions and terrain when it was time to take his shot.

Over the course of his 16-month tour in Vietnam, he racked up 103 confirmed kills and another 216 probable kills, making him the deadliest sniper in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Mawhinney later described his time serving in Vietnam as “the ultimate hunting trip: a man hunting another man who was hunting me. Don’t talk to me about hunting lions or elephants; they don’t fight back with rifles and scopes.”

Learn more about the astounding story of Chuck Mawhinney.

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