New

Allied troops hunt for snipers, Alatri

Allied troops hunt for snipers, Alatri

Allied troops hunt for snipers, Alatri

Here we see two Allied soldiers hunting for snipers in the almost abandoned town of Alatri, in the Liri Valley between Cassino and Rome. The town fell to the Allies after the succesful breakout during the Fourth Battle of Cassino.


Operation Foxley &ndash British hunt for Adolf Hitler

One of the most interesting attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler was a British operation code-named Foxley, declassified only about 50 years after the end of the war. The British SOE (Special Operations Executive) in 1944 prepared a plan to kill the leader of the Third Reich in his residence in Berghof, located in the Salzburg Alps near Berchtesgaden in Germany. The Allies knew from testimony of POWs, spies, and also from radio listening, that it was there that Hitler stayed often, felt safe and at times ignored the rules of his safety. The Führer said that Berghof reminded him of his childhood in Austria, where he could relax and think freely. It was there that he made the most important strategic decisions during the war, including the attack on the USSR.

The British intelligence got to know the details of his life in the residence, his preferences and the details of his protection. They knew what the schedule of the day was and they knew the time of meals. Hitler went to sleep late, at 4 a.m., and ate his dinner at 10 p.m. He got up even at 10 a.m., and for breakfast he walked to the Mooslahnerkopf tea house, which took him 15 &ndash 20 minutes. The most important thing was that Hitler was walking there alone, as the presence of the guard made him extremely annoyed. If the Führer saw the guard patrolling the road while walking around Berghof, he shouted to him &ldquoif you are afraid, go and watch out for yourself&rdquo.

Despite Hitler&rsquos disregard for his safety, it had to be admitted, that the Berghof residence itself was perfectly protected.
Within the building there were located barracks of SS Leibstandarte, Hitler&rsquos personal guard, which consisted only of carefully selected and well-trained volunteers. The living space in Berghof was guarded by his eight-person elite guard unit, the SS Escort Command of the Führer (SS Begleit-Kommando), who slept in the same building on the same floor as their commander.

However, the British intelligence found weaknesses in this strong German protection system. Among other things, it was noted that every time Hitler came to Berghof, his people were placing a large flag on the staff, which symbolized the presence of the German Chancellor. However, attention was mainly drawn to Hitler&rsquos lonely walks, as mentioned above, and one area between his apartment and the tea house which was chosen, where for a long time there was no guard in his vicinity, and the leader himself was in an open area and was visible from as far away as 200 meters.

That very moment when Hitler was walking to the tea shop, the British command decided to use when when planning an assassination attempt on his life. The SOE intended to send a sniper to reach a maximum of 200 metres from Hitler&rsquos walking route and to shoot a deadly shot from there. The plan was difficult, but the British additionally set themselves the goal of preventing the news that the German leader was killed by the Allies from reaching the public opinion. To put it bluntly &ndash it was not desired to make Adolf Hitler a martyr, and also preventing the guilt for his death going to be thrown on an Austrian or German, suggesting in this way betrayal from a citizen of the Third Reich. This sniper was supposed to know sabotage and sniping techniques perfectly, speak German fluently and have a carefully prepared German uniform. His equipment was to consist of a Mauser sniper rifle equipped with a telescopic sight, wire shears and hand grenades. The sniper was to carry false German documents and know the carefully planned road to Berghof, the place of hiding and, of course, the later evacuation.

Seeing the complexity of the above plan and the high risk of failure of the operation, people from SOE also considered other variants of the attack on Hitler in his alpine villa. These were among them:

  • ambush on Hitler&rsquos car near Berghof, in case of failure to kill him by a sniper. To this end, it was planned to send there a group of people equipped with a bazooka or PIAT grenade launcher, which would be able to break through the Führer&rsquos armoured limousine .
  • derailment of Hitler armoured train Amerika, or a sniper shot when he would get off the train at the railway station. However, it would be very difficult to get close to the train station because of the numerous protections during the stops. Soldiers of the Begleit battalion, SS men from Leibstandarte and Gestapo patrolled not only the train itself, but also the station and surrounding areas. Additionally, the railway tracks were checked in detail before the armoured train would pass.
  • British commandos landing at Berghof. This plan was rejected because of the high risk of such an operation and the possible difficulty in keeping it secret &ndash many people would have to be involved in its execution.
  • To poison Hitler with a odourless substance thrown into tea, or by anthrax bacteria. The death was to take place after a week, making it impossible to use an antidote.

Eventually, the British command did not decide on any of the above variants of the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler. Events on the eastern front caused that in July 1944 he left for the front quarters in Wolf&rsquos Lair and never came back to Berghof. After that, among the high-ranking Allied military, the dominant view was that for Germany the war was already lost and it made no sense to take Hitler off the stage, who, as it was believed, together with his generals, only worsened the hopeless situation of the Third Reich.

There is also an indication that an assassination attempt was made. In the German archives there is a reference to the fact that a German patrol near Berghof shot a sniper in a German uniform. Perhaps it was a sniper sent by the Allies, who failed to make a deadly shot in the direction of Adolf Hitler. This has not been able to be authenticated, because a large part of British special operations documents was allegedly burnt in a fire at SOE headquarters in 1946, and those that survived can be kept secret forever.


9 61st Cavalry Unit

There was a time when cavalry units were an absolutely indispensable part of any army. However, in the meantime, we invented various devices with wheels and engines in them, so horses took a secondary role. But they&rsquove not been phased out altogether. India, for example, still retains its 61st Cavalry Unit, the largest non-ceremonial horse-mounted unit in the world.

This is an operational unit. That means that it is still deployed whenever the need arises, typically as a backup police force nowadays. However, it did see combat as late as 1971 during the Indo-Pakistani War. Riders join the 61st on a volunteer basis, but about one-third of volunteers are sent back because of their insufficient riding skills.

These days, the unit doesn&rsquot see a lot of action and is typically reserved for parades. One area where members of the unit excel is polo. Their equestrian skills have translated well to the sport, and the unit has included several proficient Indian polo players.


A Sniper Killer

Sergeant Hulme was quick to jump into action as he led his own patrols out to disrupt the enemy activity. This brought heavy rifle, machine-gun, and mortar fire down on them, yet they persisted.

But Sergeant Hulme’s claim to fame wouldn’t be how he dispatched the common enemy, but how he went after enemy snipers and reigned victorious. Over the next few days, Sergeant Hulme would set out on his own to stalk and eliminate the sniper threat with exceptional efficiency.

By the 25 th he had returned to his unit with a healthy number of kills to his name and just in time for another counter-attack on the Germans in Galatas Village. When a determined enemy held up in a school was raining down destruction upon the Allied forces, Hulme leaped into action once again.

Alone, he charged the school, throwing grenades into the building. The German force was so disorganized by his assault that the counter-attack was a success pushing the Germans back.

Despite the gallant efforts by Hulme and his comrades, the German force began to overwhelm the garrison of Crete. By the 26 th , Hulme’s brother was dead, and this determined sniper killer was filled with more resolve than ever.

As the withdrawal began, Hulme would continually stay behind to dispatch the snipers threatening his comrades. On May 27 th near Suda Bay, five German snipers had set up positions in the surrounding hills. Hulme voluntarily set out in pursuit, eliminating every single one.


Military History Bunker

From Ewell and Hunt, Sharpening the Combat Edge, 1995, pg. 124

“Many GIs in Vietnam thought the night belonged to the enemy, but in the Mekong Delta, darkness belonged to Bert Waldron.” Major John Plaster

Staff Sergeant Adelbert Francis Waldron III scored the most confirmed kills by an American sniper during his eight-month tour of duty in Vietnam. He went on to become the most highly decorated sniper of the war. Then he disappeared. As is often the case when a high-profile figure falls into obscurity, the silent void would give rise to hearsay and speculation. Lots of it.

From the Beginning

Adelbert “Bert” Francis Waldron III was born in Syracuse, New York, on March 14, 1933, to Virginia (née Forderkonz) of Baldwinsville, New York, and Adelbert F. Waldron, Jr. of Phoenix Village, Oswego, New York. 1 Waldron’s parents had married in their teens and divorced when Adelbert was seven years old. His father then married Adeline Baxter, with whom he lived until his death at age fifty-six. 2 His mother returned to her parents’ home with her son and worked as a waitress and cook at a local diner. 3 Bert was nine years old when Virginia married Ernest J. Searle, a WW II Army infantryman. According to author, Paul Kirchner, who interviewed Bert’s wife, Betty, Bert “despised” his stepfather. Betty revealed to Kirchner that young Bert was an unhappy and lonely child who first honed his marksmanship skills during his hunting forays into the nearby woods. 4

Waldron’s troubled past marred by family turmoil and loneliness may have been a significant contributor to his erratic and complex personal life. By the time he was twenty-three, Bert had married three times. His third marriage to seventeen-year-old Maude Marie Vincent of Virginia lasted eleven years and produced three children. Marie filed for divorce on grounds of desertion on August 6, 1969, two years after their actual separation. 5 In December, 1969, after a whirlwind courtship, Bert married Betty Wyatt Varner, a divorcee with two children whom he met in Powder Springs, Georgia. Sadly, whatever unresolved emotional issues or post-war trauma he experienced created an irreparable wedge in their marriage. Betty filed for divorce in October, 1980. 6

Rise to Glory

Waldron enlisted in the United States Navy on January 3, 1952, and served during the Korean War. He was discharged from the Navy on July 27, 1965, after more than twelve years of service. Despite the fact that America was becoming embroiled in a controversial and increasingly bloody war in Vietnam, thirty-five-year-old Waldron enlisted in the United States Army on May 7, 1968, and was accorded the rank of Staff Sergeant in line with his Navy rank on discharge. 7 He attended basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and arrived in South Vietnam on November 4, 1968.

Not long after his arrival, Sergeant Waldron was accepted into an eighteen-day sniper training program taught by a team from the Army Marksmanship Unit and led by Major Willis L. Powell, an expert marksman and former instructor at Fort Benning. 8 He graduated on January 4, 1969, and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division commanded by Lieutenant General Julian J. Ewell. 9

Waldron’s primary weapon was the XM21, a modified version of the M14 Rifle. The semi-automatic, gas-powered XM21 Sniper Weapon System (SWS) incorporated the strengths of the M14 with modifications to improve its efficiency. The newly designed Leatherwood 3X to 9X Adjustable Ranging Telescope (ART) enhanced its range and accuracy. The XM21 could also be fitted with an AN/PVS-2 starlight night-vision scope. Early in 1969, a Sionics suppressor was added to the XM21 which reduced the muzzle blast to such an extent that one could not tell where the shot came from beyond 100 meters. A detachable magazine held 5 or 20 rounds of ammunition. The rifle was 44 inches long, weighed roughly 12 pounds, and had an effective range of 900 yards. It was renamed the M21 in 1972 when the Army approved it as the official standard for sniper weapons. 10

Lethal Sniper in the Mekong Delta

After graduating from the sniper program, Staff Sergeant Waldron found himself in one of the most dangerous areas in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta was a highly populated agrarian plain in south Vietnam with a virtual maze of streams, canals and rice paddies which made foot travel slow and arduous. The area was heavily infested by the Viet Cong, who used the network of waterways to transport weapons, supplies, and insurgents throughout the region. Not only did these soldiers face an inhospitable environment, with malaria-bearing mosquitoes, snakes, leeches, wasps and microbes and fungi which caused debilitating foot diseases, but also deadly mines and booby traps.

A joint Army-Navy task force consisting of elements of the 9th Infantry Division, which included Waldron’s 3/60th Infantry, and the Mobile Riverine Force (also known as Riverines or the Brown Water Navy), were specifically designated to operate from a base deep within the Communist-controlled Delta with the mission of securing the area. As an Army sniper, Waldron often traveled on Armored Troop Carriers (ATC or Tango Boats), searching for an elusive enemy hidden along the canals, in the jungles, and among the civilians. 11

The Viet Cong were homegrown communist insurgents who knew the terrain and blended into the civilian population. They were able to gain support from the South Vietnamese people through a combination of political propaganda, intimidation, and violence. Allied troops would launch countless search and destroy operations throughout South Vietnam in an effort to break the insurgency, but the VC would simply melt away into the jungles and villages, seeking to avoid a pitched battle with superior forces. The VC utilized classic guerrilla tactics of ambushes, hit and run attacks, booby traps, bombings, and snipers to gradually inflict losses on Allied troops. While the Americans and their allies roamed openly in the daylight, the VC and NVA owned the night, launching some of their deadliest attacks. But American snipers were determined to even those odds.

On the night of January 19, 1969, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron was conducting a reconnaissance mission with a squad from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment in Kien Hoa Province, South Vietnam. The group suddenly came under attack by an estimated force of forty heavily armed Viet Cong. As the fighting raged, Waldron made an incredibly bold move by leaving the safety of their defenses to set up a sniper position. Using the starlight night-vision scope on his rifle, he was able to spot the enemy maneuvering in the dark. In the ensuing gunfight, Waldron killed and wounded several VC, inflicting so many casualties that the insurgents broke contact and withdrew. For this action he was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor. 12

Three days later, while concealed in the sniper position and looking through his night-vision scope, he spotted a large group of Viet Cong moving through the countryside. He carefully maneuvered his way through the rice paddies from one position to another, engaging the VC and making them believe that they were fighting multiple shooters. Waldron single-handedly held off the enemy for over three hours and killed eleven VC before he was forced to withdraw. He earned the Silver Star for “extraordinary heroism in close combat with an armed hostile force.”

On the night of January 30, Sergeant Waldron and a fellow soldier set up a sniper ambush position at a strategic intersection surrounded by a large rice paddy just northeast of Ben Tre. At 8 p.m., Waldron took out a Viet Cong scout maneuvering in the tree line. Forty minutes later, a squad of sixteen VC began moving towards their position. Calls for artillery were denied because of the risk to civilians in a village near their position. Despite the lack of support, Waldron decided to engage the enemy. With eight shots, he took out eight VC during the ensuing firefight at a range of over 500 meters. With half of their men dead, the remaining VC withdrew into the darkness.

Four days later, Sergeant Waldron and his teammate set up a sniper ambush position in a rice paddy just south of Ben Tre. It was just after 9 p.m. when a group of five Viet Cong suddenly appeared from a wooded area at the edge the rice paddy. A nearby ARVN unit was coming under attack and the VC were attempting to outflank their positions. Sergeant Waldron took careful aim and proceeded to pick off the enemy one by one. He killed a sixth VC attempting to gather weapons and equipment from his dead comrades. His actions helped protect the ARVN flank, saving them from further losses. From January 16 to February 4, Waldron had conducted fourteen sniper missions. For his actions in these daring night missions, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron III was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

Waldron was as meticulous and precise as he was unstoppable. On the night of February 14, Waldron was conducting a reconnaissance mission with a squad near Ap Phu Thuan, in Kien Hoa Province. While patrolling the countryside, the team engaged a large force of Viet Cong moving to attack a nearby Allied unit. During the firefight, Sergeant Waldron maneuvered through the brush, firing his rifle from one position to another, killing several VC in the process. Suffering heavy losses, the insurgents were confused over the size and strength of the American unit they had encountered and withdrew. Due to the efforts of Waldron and his squad, the VC were routed, and a major attack was thwarted. 13

On February 26, Sergeant Waldron was riding in an ATC with the Mobile Riverine Force through the Mekong Delta. The boat was sailing near Phu Tuc when Waldron noticed something suspicious in the trees along the shoreline. Using his rifle, he spotted a Viet Cong team preparing to fire a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) at their boat. With great skill and accuracy, Waldron eliminated both VC while the Tango Boat was still moving. This was an incredible feat of marksmanship, but it may not have been the only time he accomplished such a shot. According to the commander of the 9th Infantry Division, Major General Julian Ewell:

“One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot.” Ewell noted that Tango boats moved at speeds of two to four knots and about 100-150 meters parallel to the shore. 14

For numerous acts of heroism in Kien Hoa Province from February 5 to March 29, 1969, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron III was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross. In just a short time, he had developed a reputation as the deadliest sniper in the Mekong Delta, earning him the nickname, Daniel Boone. But Waldron had also gained notoriety among the enemy. To the Viet Cong, he was a major thorn in their side, making him and other snipers priority targets. After serving eight months in the jungles of Vietnam, Sergeant Waldron’s unit returned to the United States in July 1969. 15

During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Sergeant Waldron had 109 confirmed kills. To put this into perspective, between December 1968 and May 1969, the 9th Infantry Division snipers were credited with 934 confirmed kills 12 percent were made by Waldron alone, making him the deadliest American sniper of all time. 16 It was a distinction he held for over forty years until his record was surpassed in 2006 by U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The most decorated sniper of the Vietnam War, Waldron earned three Bronze Stars, a Silver Star, two Distinguished Service Crosses and a Presidential Unit Citation for actions in the Mekong Delta. 17

Waldron with wife, Betty, and her two children look over Bert’s second Distinguished Service Cross presented at Fort McPherson, September 1970. Columbus Daily Enquirer Oct 01, 1970 Columbus, GA 52.

Descent into Oblivion

Much of Waldron’s postwar activities read like a Forsyth cloak and dagger saga, some still sealed in classified FBI records. 18 Bert returned to Fort Benning where he briefly served as a senior instructor in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Training Unit (USAMTU) from July 1969 until his discharge in March 1970. While there, he was introduced to Mitchell Livingston WerBell III by Col. Robert F. Bayard, a retired commanding officer of the USAMTU, who had gone into business with WerBell. 19 Described by Office of Security documents as “an unscrupulous con man,” 20 WerBell, an OSS operative during World War II, co-founded the Military Armament Corporation (MAC), producers of MAC-10 and MAC-11 submachine guns and manufacturers of high-quality suppressors designed by WerBell. 21 Waldron worked for WerBell as a counter-sniper advisor. 22 When MAC went bankrupt in 1975, WerBell formed a successor company, Cobray International, a paramilitary training camp nicknamed “the farm,” on his sixty-acre estate. Waldron was signed on as chief marksmanship instructor and later as director of the training center. 23

Waldron (left) instructs a trainee at the Cobray Training Center Powder Springs, Ga., 1980. Soldier of Fortune

WerBell would become a highly controversial figure for his involvement in covert mercenary activities in the 1970s. He had been investigated for alleged arms smuggling, Castro assassination plots, and the thwarted takeover of Abaco, an island in the Bahamas, for use as a gambling haven. 24 On July 3, 1975, Colonel Bayard, Werbell’s business partner and the man who introduced Waldron to him, was found shot to death near an Atlanta mall. 25 His murder remains unsolved. It was in this mysterious miasma of corruption that Waldron became enmeshed. There is evidence that in 1971, he testified before the Department of Defense on an investigation of Werbell with “details on U.S. sniper program in Vietnam and dealings with the Thai government.” 26

Bert Waldron struggled to adapt as a civilian and his personal life deteriorated as a result. His paramilitary work with Mitchell WerBell gradually took its toll on his marriage. In October 1980, Betty Waldron filed for divorce. 27 According to author, Paul Kirchner, in 1983, Waldron became a marksmanship instructor at a counter-terrorism school, the Starlight Training Center, in Idyllwild, California. Allegedly cofounded by Medal of Honor recipient, Lewis L. Millet, Waldron’s employment there only lasted several months. 28 To date, I have been unable to confirm this organization’s existence nor does Colonel Millett refer to it in his many interviews where he discusses his postretirement experience. 29 It is at this point that Waldron’s tracks vanish it has been purported that he flitted from job to job in several states, eventually landing in California. On October 18, 1995, Adelbert F. Waldron III died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-two. His remains are interred at the Riverside National Cemetery in California. 30

Adelbert F. Waldron is a relative unknown among those men considered to be the deadliest snipers in American history. He is officially the top-scoring sniper of the Vietnam War and still holds the record for the most confirmed kills by a U.S. Army sniper. There are no monuments to Bert Waldron and few references about his exploits as a soldier in Vietnam. Like many Vietnam War veterans, he was haunted by his own demons and his personal shortcomings may have led him down a path of self-destruction. According to his ex-wife, Betty, “Bert was a wonderful soldier. He loved his country, he would have died for this country, but he had a lot of problems as a human being.” 31

[1] Birth record source: New York State, Birth Index, 1881-1942 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018. Marriage record source: New York, County Marriage Records, 1847-1849, 1907-1936 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

[2] Adelbert F. Waldron Jr. obituary: Syracuse Post Standard, Dec 27, 1966, p. 9.

[3] Year: 1940 Census Place: Baldwinsville, Onondaga, New York Roll: m-t0627-02704 Page: 7B Enumeration District: 34-43

[4] Paul Kirchner, More of the Deadliest Men Who Ever Lived (Boulder: Paladin Press, 2009), 398. Virginia and Ernest marriage record: Virginia Department of Health Richmond, Virginia Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014 Roll: 101169203

[5] Marriage certificates sources: Virginia Department of Health Richmond, Virginia Virginia Marriages, 1936-2014 Rolls: 101168589, 101169629, 101168777. Maude Marie Vincent divorce record: Roll 101254585.

[6] Newspaper legal notice of divorce: Marietta Daily Journal, Friday, Oct 24, 1980 Marietta, GA, page 32.

[7] Korea and Vietnam service dates: Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Also confirmed via correspondence with the National Personnel Records Center, National Archives St. Louis, MO.

[8] Lt. Gen. Julian J. Ewell and Maj. Gen. Ira A. Hunt, Sharpening the Combat Edge: The Use of Analysis to Reinforce Military Judgment (Washington D.C.: Gov’t Printing Office, 1974), 120-123. Peter R. Senich, Long-Range War: Sniping in Vietnam (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1994), 34-36.

[9] Ira A. Hunt Jr., The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam: Unparalleled and Unequaled (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 67-68.

[10] Senich, Long-Range War, 83. J. David Truby, Silencers, Snipers & Assassins: An Overview of Whispering Death (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1972), 98-101. Melvin Ewing, “Hands-on Review: U.S. Army M21 and XM21,” Sniper Central, April 28, 2016. Bob Stoner, GMCM (SW) Ret., “XM21 7.62mm NATO Rifle (Sniper’s) with Sionics Suppressor,” Warboats, 2005.

[11] Hunt, 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, 4-11. Maj. Gen. William B. Fulton, Vietnam Studies: Riverine Operations 1966-1969 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 1985), 17-41.

[12] Kirchner, More of the Deadliest Men, quoted Waldron’s Bronze Star citation, 399. However, his Distinguished Service Cross citation, which covered his actions on three dates, including January 19, 1969, stated that “while his company was being resupplied near Ap Hoa, Kien Hoa Province, approximately forty Viet Cong unleashed a heavy barrage of small arms and automatic weapons fire.” Military Times Hall of Valor.

[13] Kirchner, More of the Deadliest Men, after-action reports: 400-403. Military Times Hall of Valor.

[14] Ewell and Hunt, Sharpening the Combat Edge, 122-123.

[15] “9th Infantry Division Unit Histories (Vietnam),” Mobile Riverine Force Association. Author Kirchner (More of the Deadliest Men, 406) claimed Waldron was returned to the U.S. “out of concern for his safety” on July 21, 1969, but this could not be corroborated nor is there a source listed for this information.

[16] Hunt, 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, 68.

[17] Maj. John Plaster, The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting (Boulder: Paladin Press, 2008), 570. “3d Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment Lineage and Honors Information,” U.S. Army Center of Military History, Military Times Hall of Valor.

[18] Dept. of Defense, Security Clearance Division, “Security File on Mitchell Livingston Werbell,” Mary Ferrell Foundation, 22 September 1971. I requested Waldron’s testimony on the sniper program in Vietnam and dealings with the Thai government on June 1, 2019. This article will be updated with pertinent findings when received.

[19] Kirchner, More of the Deadliest Men, 406.

[20] FBI dossier on Mitchell Livingston Werbell 27 May, 1970 74-76. “Incident Report [on Mitchell Werbell],” 14 October 1973, The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, National Archives.

[21] Andrew St. George, “The Amazing New Country Caper,” Esquire, Feb. 1, 1975, pg. 62. Of interest is that author St. George was under surveillance by the CIA and was compelled to testify on the activities of Mitchell Werbell along with Waldron (see note 18). Ron Ecker, “Our Man in Powder Springs: Mitch Werbell,” revised November 30, 2009, Ronald Ecker Webpage. Mr. Ecker’s well-researched article posits a connection between Werbell and the assassination of JFK.

[22] Truby, Silencers, Snipers and Assassins, 102.

[23] Tom Dunkin, “Cobray: Turning the Tables on Terrorists,” Soldier of Fortune Magazine, January 1980, 49-50.

[24] FBI dossier on Mitchell Livingston Werbell 21 May, 1976 69-70.

[25] UPI, “Mystery of Ex-Colonel’s Death,” San Francisco Chronicle July 7, 1975 37.


Overview

For a detailed list of changes from the original game, click here.

Equipped with a long-range sniper rifle, the Sniper specializes in taking out enemy infantry from distances exceeding the retaliation or detection range. However, they are completely useless against vehicles and buildings.

The Sniper can deploy a ring of sandbags around itself to improve its range and rate of fire. It is recommended to deploy the Sniper on high ground for further range increase. When loaded into an AMC, it enhances its mobility, survivability and rate of fire. The Sniper does not reveal its position when attacking in the shroud, which can be advantageous, especially when the enemy has poor scouting capabilities. Together with Gap Generators, Snipers can be well hidden from the enemy's sight while sniping infantry.

Snipers are most effective against basic infantry with little armor such as Conscripts, Flak Troopers and Archers. They are also excellent counters against lone Epsilon Adepts or Attack Dogs, killing them off instantly from a distance. On the other hand, better armored infantry such as Tesla Troopers, Brutes and Knightframes require several shots. Although most infantry cannot survive being in a sniper's sights for long, it lacks the power to quickly kill those with exceptional durability. Examples such as Volkov, Zorbfloaters and Giantsbanes are very difficult to take down by a lone Sniper. However, unlike Viruses, multiple Snipers can work together and attack the same target in attempt to remove such threats.

Regrettably the Sniper has other drawbacks as well. Its slow rate of fire makes the Sniper disadvantaged in close quarters, where it can be swarmed. A couple of Attack Dogs can easily overwhelm the lone Sniper. It is also very fragile, and completely defenseless against vehicles or air units. In addition, the Sniper is only available at Tier 3 and has limited effectiveness in the late game, unless massed in numbers.


309 Kills: This Women Might Have Been the Deadliest Sniper of World War II

Here's What You Need To Remember: Her final official tally stood at 309 kills.

More From The National Interest:

The last train west chugged across the River Bug to the German-occupied side of the Russo-German border at 0200 on June 22, 1941. An hour later, as the short summer night lifted from central Ukraine, Hitler violated his nonaggression pact with Stalin and launched Operation Barbarossa. Three million Axis soldiers, 6,000 big guns, 2,000 Luftwaffe warplanes, and thousands of tanks flooded into the Ukraine.

Kiev, capital of Ukraine, was one of Hitler’s final objectives, along with Moscow and Leningrad. Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko, 24, a history student at Kiev University, was walking to classes when a swarm of Nazi fighters buzzed in low and fast to chew up the block. She dashed for cover. That night, she made up her mind. “I am going to fight.”

She arrived at the recruiting office the next morning wearing high heels and a crepe de chine dress with her nails manicured and her dark, wavy hair groomed short. She looked more like a fashion model than a German killer. The recruiter laughed at her.

“Why don’t you work in the factories like other women?” he demanded.

The rapid industrial development of the Soviet Union and the worldwide depression of the late 1920s and 1930s combined to move large numbers of Russians from their farms to the cities. In the spirit of egalitarianism, young women were encouraged to work, go to college, and participate in military training. Like many girls and boys of the times, Lyudmila was fond of military sports and activities. She was an excellent natural rifle shooter and won a number of badges in regional rifle matches. As Hitler’s spreading war threatened to engulf the Soviet Union, she prepared by enrolling in a volunteer sniper school arranged by her local Komsomol.

At the recruiting office, she took out her sniper’s diploma, Voroshilov Marksman’s Badge, and other shooting and paramilitary honors and dropped them on the table in front of the recruiter who had laughed at her. The expression on his face changed.

“You’re going to get your fingernails dirty,” he said as he stamped her application. Accepted.

Pavlichenko was on her way to becoming one of 2,000 female snipers to serve in the Red Army, only 500 of whom would survive the war. Within a year, this petite, dark-haired beauty would become the most dangerous woman of the 20th century, the deadliest female sniper in any army, in any war.

Through bitter experience against Finnish sharpshooters like Sino Itayha, who picked off more than 500 Russian soldiers during the Winter War of 1939-1940, the Soviet Union learned the value of snipers and began to place more emphasis on its sniper training program. Special sniper units were embedded in nearly all major unit commands.

After undergoing truncated training in basic military and sniper tactics, young Lyudmila Pavlichenko, no longer the fashion plate in her baggy olive-drab man’s uniform with camouflage overalls, was issued a five-shot, bolt-action 7.62mm Mosin-Nagant rifle that had been adopted as the standard sniper’s rifle in 1932. With a 4-power telescopic sight, it could be fired with authority at ranges of 1,250 meters.

By July 8, the enemy was almost at the gates of Kiev, fighting in the forests less than 150 kilometers away. Russian women and children were conscripted to fight. Pretty teenage girls were found dead on the battlefield still clutching automatic weapons. Soviet soldiers who panicked and fled the fighting were shot by their own officers. Unfortunates taken prisoner were declared traitors and their families’ rations taken away, which often meant starvation.

Pavlichenko found herself assigned to the Red Army’s V.I. Chapayev 25th Rifle Division. Armed with her new rifle and a combat load of 120 cartridges, the young history student massed with thousands of other recruits and replacements at the Kiev railyards for transport to the front. Her unit was already engaged in desperate combat with Romanian and German forces in Moldavia, attempting to block the enemy’s southern approach to the Black Sea city of Odessa, the most important port of trade for the Soviet Union and the site of a Soviet naval base.

The railyards were in turmoil as soldiers with their packs and weapons piled into boxcars, open wagons, and anything else that could be moved by rail. Trains arrived and departed day and night, their steel wheels and shrill whistles signaling an urgency that Russia had not experienced since Napoleon’s invasion.

Clouds of dust obscured the horizon as troop trains reached their destination near the Dniester River that formed the boundary between Moldavia and the Ukraine, where the 25th was making its stand. Pavlichenko and her comrades heard the distant thunder of dueling artillery.

“I knew my task was to shoot human beings,” Pavlichenko later reflected. “In theory, that was fine, but I knew that the real thing would be completely different.”

The Soviet 25th, 95th, and 421st Rifle Divisions and their support formed three separate defensive lines of trenches, pillboxes, and antitank ditches some 50 kilometers outside the city of Odessa. Pavlichenko’s No. 2 Company was in the center of the first defensive line when the German offensive against Odessa began on August 8, 1941, preceded by thunderous barrages of enemy artillery.

Pavlichenko and other soldiers from her company hugged the ground overlooking a narrow, open field. A number of enemy soldiers, easy targets, moved about on the near side of a hill. However, to her dismay, she found her finger frozen on the trigger. Perhaps she did not have the courage to be a sniper after all.

The sudden crackle of rifle and machine-gun fire from the opposing tree line signaled a probe. Pavlichenko heard a sound like a hammer striking a melon, followed by a cry of pain and surprise. To her horror, she saw that a young soldier she had befriended on the troop train had taken a round through the head, exploding it in a pink mist of blood and brains.

“After that,” she recalled, “nothing could stop me.”

She killed her first German a day or so later. She and a spotter crawled through thick undergrowth outside the defensive perimeter and set up a hide overlooking the enemy’s most likely avenue of approach. Russia was the first military to employ snipers in teams consisting of a shooter and an observer.

Through her scope she picked out three Germans stealthily moving in and out of shadow, unaware that they were being watched. This time she did not hesitate. As soon as her target paused to look around, she took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. Even before the impact of the bullet slapped him to the ground, she had already acquired and killed the second German. The third panicked and fled before she could finish him.

“There was no change of expression on her pretty face,” her spotter reported, predicting, “Russia is going to be talking about Lyudmila Pavlichenko.”

The pretty sharpshooter from Kiev University hardened and quickly adapted to the harsh and dangerous climate of battle as the enemy reached the main line of Russian resistance and began shelling Odessa with a reinforcement of 10 heavy artillery batteries. She and other Soviet snipers were granted virtual free rein in carrying out their mission of scouting and slowing down, harassing, and demoralizing the German advance by long-distance suppressive fire against targets of opportunity.

Pavlichenko proved to be as relentless as she was strikingly attractive. Day after day, she and an observer crept into no-man’s land to ply their bloody trade. Fortified by her sense of mission, she often crawled into a hide and remained for up to 18 hours at a time, living on dry bread and water, conducting bodily functions in place, all just to get the one shot-one kill of the sniper’s trade. Her body count grew almost daily in a cat-and-mouse game played out in the wreckage and rubble of war.

Crafty and deceptive, with a strong sense of survival, she employed various ploys and tricks to keep going when the lifespan of the average sniper was about three weeks. Captured snipers from either side were summarily executed on the spot.

Thunderstorms or artillery barrages that masked the report of her rifle were her favorite times to hunt since her targets were less alert to her presence and her location more difficult to pinpoint. She rarely fired more than once from the same position and never returned twice to the same hide. She tied strips of cloth to bushes in danger areas to flutter in errant breezes and distract enemy observers. Sometimes a clothing store mannequin disguised as a tempting target lured enemy snipers into exposing themselves.

The single crack of Pavlichenko’s Mosin-Nagant in no-man’s land was enough to strike terror into the hearts of German and Russian soldiers. Whenever she went to the rear, infantrymen gawked in disbelief that this slip of a girl could be the ruthless killer whose reputation spread throughout the Ukraine. By August 29, just 28 days into the Odessa offensive, her body count stood at 100, an average kill rate of nearly four per day. Few snipers in any war had been so successful in such a short period of time. She was rapidly becoming the world’s most accomplished harbinger of death.

Working alone for a day outside the defensive perimeter along the Voznesensk-Odessa Highway, she climbed a tree inside a graveyard to obtain a better view of the terrain, depending on foliage to conceal her.

Barely had she settled before two shots from an enemy sniper’s rifle zapped into the trees only inches from her head. Realizing she was in dire straits, she let go and fell 12 feet to the ground, landing between two graves. Pain shot up her spine. She gritted her teeth and lay perfectly still, pretending to be dead until the sun went down and she could make her way back to her own lines under cover of darkness.

The cold rains of late September turned trails and roads into impassable bogs. Horses sank up to their collars, men to their knees, and vehicles to their axles. Scarcely a building in Odessa remained intact. Fires burned almost constantly as fighting raged. It was a target-rich environment for snipers like Pavlichenko, now promoted to senior sergeant, who chalked up another 87 kills.

On October 9, 1941, a shell splinter gashed her scalp. Her company commander fell dead, and Sergeant Major Leonid Kitsenko, a sniper and senior NCO of Pavlichenko’s sniper element, was wounded. Pavlichenko assumed command, a valiant figure wearing a dirty bandage around her head, cap pulled low to hold the dressing in place, face masked by blood, struggling to maintain consciousness.

“Cowards!” a political officer railed against her frightened comrades. “Look at the woman. Pavlichenko has the balls of a man.”

She was eventually moved to a medical battalion to recuperate and was released only days before Odessa fell to the Germans on October 15. German and Romanian casualties numbered 17,729 dead and 63,345 wounded, among whom were 187 killed one shot at a time by Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

More savage fighting lay ahead for her at Sevastopol, which subsequently came under siege. By this time, she was becoming celebrated throughout the Crimean region. The entire world would soon hear about “the most dangerous woman of the century.”

The battle for Sevastopol and the tip of the Crimean Peninsula jutting into the Black Sea raged fiercely for nine months. Russian snipers were cast forward of the main defensive line in a thin screen of modified “rifle pits.” Pavlichenko continued the practices that had made her so successful at Odessa. She generally crept into a hide at around 0300 and sometimes waited for as long as two days for a single shot.

Winter arrived with its miserable conditions, exacerbating her previous injuries. She lost weight, growing thin and gaunt. Streaks of white appeared in her raven-black hair. No one from the old days would have recognized her. She knocked off one or two enemy soldiers every few days. She was constantly on the move, transferred from sector to sector so her true eye and steady hand could be used to their best advantage.

As word of her exploits spread, the Communist Party used her to inspire ordinary people who were suffering horribly from cruel wartime conditions.

“If this beautiful young woman can endure,” went the spiel, “then how can we who are not at the front complain about food rationing and other hardships?”

Even the Germans became aware of her unerring eye. One afternoon she picked off an enemy radioman on a long shot in cold rain that impaired visibility. Such a shot could only have been made by “the Russian bitch from hell.”

A German officer stood up long enough to shout, “Lyudmila, leave your Bolshevik friends and come and join us.”

Through autumn and early winter snowfalls, Russians clung stubbornly to this spit of land on the Black Sea. The Russian sniper contingent—estimated to number less than 300 shooters—wiped out about 10,000 German soldiers, almost an entire division. Pavlichenko, who won a battlefield promotion to junior lieutenant, was the siege’s top scorer, followed by Sergeant Major Leonid Kitsenko, the senior NCO now recovered from his wound at Odessa.

Pavlichenko and Kitsenko became a team so effective that commanders described them as worth an entire division of infantry. They frequently returned from a hunt claiming three or four kills between them for the day. German snipers were encouraged in their trade by rewards for kills and by bounties on the heads of successful Russian snipers like Pavlichenko, whose fame had spread as far as Berlin. Not only was she deadly, but, even more humiliating to the Germans, she was a woman. As the Wehrmacht closed its steel bands around Sevastopol, German snipers made a point of trying to put an end to the Russian woman with the long-reaching rifle.

On November 11, she confronted her greatest challenge when 60,000 Axis soldiers launched a four-day attack against a mountainous sector of Sevastopol’s defenses. As was her custom, she crawled into her hide well before dawn on a clear, frosty morning and settled down to wait for a target. Her usual partner Kitsenko was assigned elsewhere.

In the early morning light she glimpsed a helmet in a copse of trees and detected a flutter of branches. She herself had sometimes used the old trick of tying a line to a bush and shaking it to draw fire and pinpoint an enemy sniper’s location. She held off and waited, tensed and edged for action.

Several times during the next few hours as the sun climbed higher she detected movement but never a clean target. She knew this movement was simply a distraction to entice her to reveal her position. The soldier out there knew what he was doing. She held her ground.

The enemy sniper got off the first shot. Her peripheral vision caught the suspicious shifting of a shadow, just in time to see the blink of a muzzle flash. A rock within touching distance of her head disintegrated.

A second shot snapped at her head. She wriggled backward out of her hide and, crouching low and using the reverse slope for cover, scrambled to a nearby rocky outcropping and burrowed into a thicket of briars interwoven with old-growth timber. The site provided a view of the lowland between her and the ridgeline occupied by her deadly foe.

She dared not move. Clouds rolled in, and snow began to fall. Cold, stress, hunger, and thirst plagued her as the strange standoff continued all through the afternoon in a high stakes poker game in which each shooter challenged the other to blink.

Ultimately, the German proved the less patient. Succumbing to curiosity, he made the mistake of lifting his head to take a better look across the clearing. Pavlichenko’s crosshairs locked onto his forehead. He seemed to be looking directly at her when she massaged her trigger. It was her first shot of the duel. No other was required.

A Russian patrol later confirmed that the dead man was an expert sniper whose “kill log” had recorded the deaths of more than 400 Allied soldiers since Dunkirk.

Pavlichenko and partner Kitsenko continued to create mayhem all through what the Germans referred to as the “Winter Crisis.” At some point in the spring of 1942, Lyudmila and Leonid Kitsenko apparently married. It was recorded shortly thereafter that Pavlichenko’s “husband, also serving with the Red Army, was killed in the [Sevastopol] siege.”’

Fellow snipers noted Lyudmila’s increased bitterness following Kitsenko’s death. In late May, the Southern Army Council cited her for killing 257 Germans. During a meeting of her sniper unit, she vowed to raise her score to 300 within the next few days—and kept her word.

From June 2-6, 1942, the Luftwaffe dropped 570 tons of bombs on the beleaguered ruins of Sevastopol and its harbor. Shrapnel riddled Pavkichenko’s worn, young body. She was moved to a field hospital and evacuated by submarine late at night before the Germans took the city on July 1. She was not to see personal combat again.

Her final official tally stood at 309 kills. Since she often worked alone, however, and every kill had to be verified, her actual number may have been nearer 500. In comparison, Russia’s other famous World War II sniper, Vasili Zaitsev, killed 225 enemy soldiers during the Battle of Leningrad.

Due to her fame, Lyudmila was sent to the United States and Canada at the end of 1942 to drum up war support. She delivered speeches in 43 American cities and was the first Soviet citizen to be received at the White House, where she had dinner with President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor. Celebrities all over the continent lined up to be photographed with her. Folk musician Woody Guthrie recorded a song dedicated to her, “Miss Pavlichenko.” She was featured in a 1943 comic book, War Heroes.She played with Laurence Olivier in the documentary film Chernomortsy.Actor Charlie Chaplin gallantly kissed her fingers one by one, saying, “It’s quite remarkable that this small, delicate hand killed Nazis by the hundreds.”

The most dangerous woman in the world rode out the rest of the war as a sniper instructor near Moscow. Highly decorated, she was discharged with the rank of major in 1945 and returned to Kiev University to complete her postgraduate degree. She served out her life as a historian and was active in veterans’ affairs until she died of natural causes on October 17, 1974, at the age of 58. Sevastopol named a street after her, not far from where Sergeant Major Leonid Kitsenko died.

Charles Sasser is the author of the classic book of sniper warfare titled One Shot-One Kill. He has written dozens of other books and articles and appeared on numerous television networks including ABC, Fox, the History Channel, and CNN. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Special Forces. He resides in Chouteau, Oklahoma.

This article by Charles W. Sasser originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

This article originally appeared in 2018 and is being republished due to reader interest.


The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 22nd

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:48:35

It was recently reported that, back in October, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit drank Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, dry when they pulled into port. That’s not an expression or an over exaggeration. They literally drank every last bit of alcohol in the city over the course of their liberty to the point where the town reportedly had troubles restocking for their own citizens.

The most astounding thing about this entire story is that only one young, dumb lance corporal got in trouble for disorderly conduct — and we can only assume they’ve since been Ninja Punched into oblivion. But seriously, I have strong reservations about there only being one drunken problem. You mean to tell me that we can’t throw a barracks party without the MPs getting involved and an entire MEU got sh*tfaced drunk and only a single idiot did anything wrong?

I’m not saying it’s completely impossible — maybe things happened and were simply kept in-house — but if it’s really true and everyone was that well-behaved… BZ. Color me impressed.

To all you troops out there that aren’t that one Marine in Reykjavík, you’ve earned yourselves some memes.

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

More on We are the Mighty

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russia’s Most Famous Sniper of the Second World War, Vasili Zaitsev, Claimed Over 100 Kills in Just 2 Months During the War

Vasili Zaitsev.

During the first two years of the war, the Soviets were largely on the defensive except for localized counterattacks. Snipers would be deployed forward of main defensive positions to engage reconnaissance patrols, artillery observation officers, and generally to delay enemy movement. Soviet snipers really came into their own during the battle for Stalingrad, where the ruins of the city provided excellent conditions for their operation. Snipers operated in front of their own lines, often for days at a time and completely isolated from their comrades despite being only a few hundred yards away from them. During daylight, they were often compelled to remain perfectly motionless. They suffered all the discomforts of the infantry soldier, often multiplied by the situations their specialized role required. Not only hungry and thirsty, they might be forced to urinate and defecate where they lay in order not to give away their positions.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, top Soviet snipers came to prominence. The most famous was WWII sniper Vasili Zaitsev, formerly a hunter in the Urals and a noted sniper before the battle, having claimed over 100 kills between August and October 1942. He founded a sniper school whose students received a two-day course before being sent into the ruined city to hunt Germans. Zaitsev became something of a celebrity, and his appearance in Soviet newspapers led the Germans to send for the chief instructor of the sniper school at Zossen near Berlin. A more personal contest could not occur in war. When some of the best Soviet snipers were killed by a rifle obviously fitted with a telescopic sight, Zaitsev knew he was up against a “Nazi super-sniper,” and set out to finish it one way or the other. He set off with his spotter, Nikolai Kulikov, and roamed the city for several days until he discovered a ruse that had obviously been set up to trap a Soviet sniper.

Zaitsev remembered, “Between the tank and the pillbox, on a stretch of level ground, lay a sheet of metal and a small pile of broken bricks. It had been lying there a long time and we had grown accustomed to it being there. I put myself in the enemy’s position and thought— where better for a sniper? One had only to make a firing slit in the sheet of metal and creep up to it during the night.”

Zaitsev was convinced, and when he carefully raised a false target, the German put a bullet clean through the middle. “Now came the question of luring even a part of his head into my sights … We worked by night and were in position by dawn. The sun rose. Kulikov took a blind shot we had to rouse the sniper’s curiosity. We had decided to spend the morning waiting, as we might have been given away by the sun on our telescopic sights. After lunch, our rifles were in the shade and the sun was shining on the German’s position … Kulikov carefully—as only the most experienced can do— began to raise his helmet. The German fired. For a fraction of a second Kulikov rose and screamed. The German believed that he had finally gotten the Soviet sniper he had been hunting for four days and half raised his head from beneath the sheet of metal. That was what I had been banking on. I took careful aim. The German’s head fell back, and the telescopic sight of his rifle lay motionless, glittering in the sun….”

Soviet snipers were trained to operate in all phases of war. Deployed down to the lowest tactical level, they worked on the flanks of an advance to attack any targets that might slow it down. Such targets would include command elements and the crews of heavy weapons. Soviet snipers were expected to use their initiative in a way that was unusual for their rank- and-file comrades. As in most armies, the intelligence-gathering ability of snipers was utilized as a matter of course.

The prowess of Soviet snipers was something of an unpleasant surprise to the Germans, and despite being somewhat overblown by Soviet propaganda it undoubtedly made the Germans take notice and institute measures of their own. As the war went from bad to worse for the Germans, particularly on the Eastern Front, the cost-effectiveness of the sniper became increasingly apparent to German commanders at all levels. German sniping also benefited from a surprising patronage in the form of Heinrich Himmler, chief of the dreaded SS.

The Waffen-SS, the military element of Himmler’s organization, had taken a keen interest in sniping from the beginning of the war but was hampered by a shortage of suitable equipment. German sniper training was conducted at the highest level by 1943. Experienced snipers were withdrawn from the front to instruct sniper recruits, themselves selected from the best infantry marksmen. Particular emphasis was placed on camouflage and fieldcraft. Matthias Hetzenauer was Germany’s top wartime sniper with 345 confirmed kills. He was an exponent of the “one shot, one kill” philosophy. He recommended that snipers be chosen from “people born for individual fighting such as hunters, even forest rangers,” a practice followed by both the British and Americans. In contrast with the Soviets, German snipers usually worked in pairs but were organized at battalion level. As the prolonged war reduced the numbers of trained marksmen available, their orders might even come from division.

During the defensive battles later in the war, German snipers rather than machine guns were often used in delaying actions. Their ability to cause casualties to high-value targets, and their flexibility and mobility while remaining difficult targets themselves, made them ideal for these tasks. Captain C. Shore, author of the book With British Snipers to the Reich, cites an example of a few German paratroop snipers holding up an entire battalion of the 51st (Highland) Division in Sicily. Despite being subjected to artillery bombardment, these Germans maintained accurate fire at a range of 600 yards before withdrawing in good order. The toughness of the German infantrymen, combined with excellent training and initiative, led Allied soldiers to fear the German sniper.

After the disasters of 1940, British sniping was reinstituted in a haphazard fashion, with the quality of training varying in standard enormously. The warfare in the open desert of North Africa did not lend itself to sniper operations, but as soon as the closer country of Tunisia and Sicily was encountered, this changed. Here, accurate long-range shooting was at a premium, but it went against the grain of British practice that stressed closing with the enemy. One sniper officer came up with a solution: “We found an unsuspecting Boche about 600 yards away from us and could not get any closer to him. So we lined up three snipers together and got them to fire simultaneously, hoping that one of the bullets would hit. Our hopes were fulfilled!”


How World War II Ensured the Sniper Was Born (To Kill)

The elimination of snipers was difficult business, but the Americans were nothing if not thorough. Two-man countersniper teams manned the forward defenses while other teams set off to climb the jungle trees Tarzan fashion and guide others along the ground. Through careful coordination of these elements, the snipers were eradicated one at a time.

The art of sniping developed from the sharpshooting practiced during earlier conflicts. During the 19th century, the steadily improving technology of the rifle led to the use of sharpshooters during the American Civil War and the Boer War. However, it was during World War I that sniping progressed from simply a good marksman picking choice targets to the systematic use of selected men, trained and equipped with highly accurate rifles, telescopic sights, and high-grade ammunition, who engage high-value targets with single shots, usually at long range.

As is so often the case, immediately after World War I ended most of the protagonists discarded the skills and wisdom they had so painstakingly acquired, considering them no more than adjuncts of a type of warfare in the trenches that they dearly wished to forget. The British in particular, having taken a long time to recognize the potential for organized sniping, had been among its best practitioners by 1918 but were nevertheless swift to forget all they had learned. During the interwar period, little development took place. Although there was ad hoc sniping on both sides during the Spanish Civil War, it was Soviet advisers to the Republican side who chose to consider it further when they returned to the Soviet Union and introduced programs to the Red Army to augment existing civilian rifle shooting schemes. When World War II began, a new style of warfare was introduced it was capable of swift and extensive movement and created very different battlefield conditions in a variety of theaters worldwide. In these conditions, the art of the sniper could be adapted to produce an effective weapon.

The German Army retained sniping as a specialization between the wars but showed little enthusiasm for its pursuit. In the opening campaigns in Poland and the West, the Germans moved so rapidly that there was no real opportunity for snipers to demonstrate their value. It was not until later in the campaign against the Soviet Union, after Soviet snipers had demonstrated their worth, that the German Army caught up. The British Army had been totally remiss in its attention to the skills it had done so much to develop previously. In 1942, sniping instructor Lt. Col. N.A.D. Armstrong commented on the attitude prevailing between the wars: “There appeared to be a tendency amongst Army musketry men to scorn the sniper—they held that sniping was only a ‘phenomenon’ of trench warfare and would be unlikely to occur again.”

Although training manuals still covered sniping, little was done at battalion level to maintain and encourage it until the retraining programs that followed the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. However, British snipers were engaged in Norway and France during 1940.

Edgar Rabbets was a soldier in the 5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, a Territorial Army unit. A country man from Boston in Lincolnshire, he was capable of catching a rabbit in his hands. When his unit was deployed to France he was appointed as a company sniper and given complete freedom of action to engage enemy snipers and high-value targets. By choice, he worked alone, although the common practice is for snipers to work in pairs.

During the retreat to Dunkirk, Rabbets was ordered forward to eliminate a German sniper operating in a Belgian village. According to Rabbets, “The sniper had got himself up in a roof and knocked a few slates away. He’d got a good field of fire if anyone walked into the square he was roughly in the center of one side of the square and his mate was in the corner. And they covered the whole square that way, the one effectively protecting the other.”

After the sniper had fired at a British officer entering the square, Rabbets found out “roughly where the flash had come from and went into a house opposite. The sniper was hanging out of the roof I shot him from the bedroom window and he fell forward.” The observer fired blindly at Rabbets, thus revealing his own position. Rabbets was “firing deep from out of the bedroom window, and I wasn’t exposed to view. He assumed wrongly that I was a lot nearer to the bedroom window than I was. And he gave himself away, so that was his lot.”

Rabbets was an excellent marksman, capable of a first-round hit at 400 yards with the standard .303 Lee-Enfield rifle. But his outstanding fieldcraft, which may be generally defined as the use of camouflage and concealment, enabled him to close with the enemy and improve his chances of success. He also combined shooting with intelligence gathering, his freedom to roam giving him access to important information. He later wrote, “One day I went out and found a German military policeman standing at a crossroads the only reason they stand at a crossroads is to direct a unit into a new position. I wanted to know what he was doing, so I crawled to within 150 yards range. He gave himself away by continually looking up the road to where he expected the unit to come from, and because there was only one direction to our lines, I knew roughly where they were going to. I shot him and then bundled him out of the way so that when the enemy got to the crossroads they wouldn’t know where they were going. Then I went back to my unit to give them this intelligence.”

Sniping began to take on greater significance after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Red Army had been practically the only army in the world to actively encourage sniping during the 1930s, and this had received added impetus from experience during the Spanish Civil War and the Russo-Finnish conflict. The Finns had seriously embarrassed the numerically superior Soviets, particularly showing great prowess with sniping. Many of them were hunters and naturally adept at the military application of their sport. Simo Häyhä was a farmer and hunter who went out to “hunt Russians.” He claimed more than 500 before being seriously wounded, and the hard lessons were not lost on the Soviets. They actively encouraged sniping and incorporated it into their infantry tactics. Their definition was broader than that of the West, tending to include general sharpshooting. They operated in pairs, and at low tactical levels, often being assigned to companies or even platoons, with junior officers experienced in handling them.

Russia’s Most Famous Sniper, Vasili Zaitsev, Claimed Over 100 Kills in Just 2 Months During the War

During the first two years of the war, the Soviets were largely on the defensive except for localized counterattacks. Snipers would be deployed forward of main defensive positions to engage reconnaissance patrols, artillery observation officers, and generally to delay enemy movement. Soviet snipers really came into their own during the battle for Stalingrad, where the ruins of the city provided excellent conditions for their operation. Snipers operated in front of their own lines, often for days at a time and completely isolated from their comrades despite being only a few hundred yards away from them. During daylight, they were often compelled to remain perfectly motionless. They suffered all the discomforts of the infantry soldier, often multiplied by the situations their specialized role required. Not only hungry and thirsty, they might be forced to urinate and defecate where they lay in order not to give away their positions.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, top Soviet snipers came to prominence. The most famous was Vasili Zaitsev, formerly a hunter in the Urals and a noted sniper before the battle, having claimed over 100 kills between August and October 1942. He founded a sniper school whose students received a two-day course before being sent into the ruined city to hunt Germans. Zaitsev became something of a celebrity, and his appearance in Soviet newspapers led the Germans to send for the chief instructor of the sniper school at Zossen near Berlin. A more personal contest could not occur in war. When some of the best Soviet snipers were killed by a rifle obviously fitted with a telescopic sight, Zaitsev knew he was up against a “Nazi super-sniper,” and set out to finish it one way or the other. He set off with his spotter, Nikolai Kulikov, and roamed the city for several days until he discovered a ruse that had obviously been set up to trap a Soviet sniper.

Zaitsev remembered, “Between the tank and the pillbox, on a stretch of level ground, lay a sheet of metal and a small pile of broken bricks. It had been lying there a long time and we had grown accustomed to it being there. I put myself in the enemy’s position and thought— where better for a sniper? One had only to make a firing slit in the sheet of metal and creep up to it during the night.”

Zaitsev was convinced, and when he carefully raised a false target, the German put a bullet clean through the middle. “Now came the question of luring even a part of his head into my sights … We worked by night and were in position by dawn. The sun rose. Kulikov took a blind shot we had to rouse the sniper’s curiosity. We had decided to spend the morning waiting, as we might have been given away by the sun on our telescopic sights. After lunch, our rifles were in the shade and the sun was shining on the German’s position … Kulikov carefully—as only the most experienced can do— began to raise his helmet. The German fired. For a fraction of a second Kulikov rose and screamed. The German believed that he had finally gotten the Soviet sniper he had been hunting for four days and half raised his head from beneath the sheet of metal. That was what I had been banking on. I took careful aim. The German’s head fell back, and the telescopic sight of his rifle lay motionless, glittering in the sun….”

Soviet snipers were trained to operate in all phases of war. Deployed down to the lowest tactical level, they worked on the flanks of an advance to attack any targets that might slow it down. Such targets would include command elements and the crews of heavy weapons. Soviet snipers were expected to use their initiative in a way that was unusual for their rank- and-file comrades. As in most armies, the intelligence-gathering ability of snipers was utilized as a matter of course.

The prowess of Soviet snipers was something of an unpleasant surprise to the Germans, and despite being somewhat overblown by Soviet propaganda it undoubtedly made the Germans take notice and institute measures of their own. As the war went from bad to worse for the Germans, particularly on the Eastern Front, the cost-effectiveness of the sniper became increasingly apparent to German commanders at all levels. German sniping also benefited from a surprising patronage in the form of Heinrich Himmler, chief of the dreaded SS.

The Waffen-SS, the military element of Himmler’s organization, had taken a keen interest in sniping from the beginning of the war but was hampered by a shortage of suitable equipment. German sniper training was conducted at the highest level by 1943. Experienced snipers were withdrawn from the front to instruct sniper recruits, themselves selected from the best infantry marksmen. Particular emphasis was placed on camouflage and fieldcraft. Matthias Hetzenauer was Germany’s top wartime sniper with 345 confirmed kills. He was an exponent of the “one shot, one kill” philosophy. He recommended that snipers be chosen from “people born for individual fighting such as hunters, even forest rangers,” a practice followed by both the British and Americans. In contrast with the Soviets, German snipers usually worked in pairs but were organized at battalion level. As the prolonged war reduced the numbers of trained marksmen available, their orders might even come from division.

During the defensive battles later in the war, German snipers rather than machine guns were often used in delaying actions. Their ability to cause casualties to high-value targets, and their flexibility and mobility while remaining difficult targets themselves, made them ideal for these tasks. Captain C. Shore, author of the book With British Snipers to the Reich, cites an example of a few German paratroop snipers holding up an entire battalion of the 51st (Highland) Division in Sicily. Despite being subjected to artillery bombardment, these Germans maintained accurate fire at a range of 600 yards before withdrawing in good order. The toughness of the German infantrymen, combined with excellent training and initiative, led Allied soldiers to fear the German sniper.

After the disasters of 1940, British sniping was reinstituted in a haphazard fashion, with the quality of training varying in standard enormously. The warfare in the open desert of North Africa did not lend itself to sniper operations, but as soon as the closer country of Tunisia and Sicily was encountered, this changed. Here, accurate long-range shooting was at a premium, but it went against the grain of British practice that stressed closing with the enemy. One sniper officer came up with a solution: “We found an unsuspecting Boche about 600 yards away from us and could not get any closer to him. So we lined up three snipers together and got them to fire simultaneously, hoping that one of the bullets would hit. Our hopes were fulfilled!”

“During the Movement One Man was Shot by a Sniper Firing One Round. The Entire Squad Hit the Ground and They Were Picked Off, One by One, by the Same Sniper.”

Patience and careful observation were found to be the key ingredients for success, particularly where the enemy did not suspect the presence of snipers. Shore recounted one such action: “The forward platoon of the unit was in and around a cluster of smallish houses about 200 yards from the bank of the river. From the roof of one of these houses there was a good view of the top of the bank held by the Huns. Snipers watching the bank observed that the Germans changed their sentries every hour with monotonous regularity. At first the Hun was cautious, and our snipers withstood the temptation to shoot, hoping that the targets would become even more favourable when the Jerries had lost some of their caution. Later in the day, the hoped for happened, and at 1200 hours, six of the enemy could be seen from the waist upwards. There were four of our snipers on duty and, having their set plan of execution ready, they each selected a Hun and fired. Three of the four Huns fell, and shortly afterwards, their bodies were dragged from the top of the bank by their comrades concealed below.”

The bocage country of Normandy provided excellent conditions for sniping, particularly for the defenders. A lone sniper or machine gun could dominate the close country. One American platoon leader described the difficulty with inexperienced troops, who tended to go to ground and stay there when under fire. “Once I ordered one squad to advance from one hedgerow to another. During the movement one man was shot by a sniper firing one round. The entire squad hit the ground and they were picked off, one by one, by the same sniper.”

The question of whether snipers should wear rank insignia was vexing for some. Shore’s commanding officer demanded that his officers cease the practice of wearing roll-neck jerseys that covered their collars and ties. “If we were to die, he said, we must die as officers!” It is important for officers to be instantly recognized by their men, but it is also clear that an identifiable officer was an inviting target for the sniper.

An aide to General Omar Bradley noted, “Brad says he will not take action against anyone that decides to treat a sniper a little more roughly than they are being treated at present.” If caught, a sniper could expect to suffer for his art. But the Germans did not have it all their own way during what became positional warfare for almost two months. Captain William Jalland of the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, found that his snipers regarded Normandy as ideal country, making good scores against careless German units.

At the outbreak of the war, the U.S. Army was even less prepared for sniping than the British, and despite the obvious success of snipers against them in both the European and Pacific Theaters, senior American commanders never adopted a systematic program of sniper training. Although having access to many outstanding marksmen, this lack of commitment meant that results were haphazard indeed. Upon arrival in Tunisia, Colonel Sidney Hinds of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment created a training course that lasted five weeks and graduated a number of snipers. Elsewhere, if commanders took no interest, nothing would be done. The chief weakness in U.S. training methods was the gap between marksmanship, which was of a very high standard, and fieldcraft, which tended to be less thorough. When some ad hoc schools were set up behind the lines, they tended to deal with handling the telescopic-sighted rifle rather than the tactical intricacies of the sniper’s art.

The Japanese were masters of camouflage, and since most of the fighting in Asia and the Pacific was at relatively short range, emphasis was placed on camouflage and fieldcraft. Each sniper was issued camouflage nets for helmet and body, although simpler methods were more common in the field. Tactics employed were broadly similar to those of Western armies, including the targeting of high-value installations, personnel, and equipment. One noticeable difference was the use of trees, even the rigging of small chairs among the branches and fronds.

Throughout the war, the Japanese sniper proved a constant trial to his enemies, from coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean to the forests of New Guinea.

The 1st Battalion, 163rd U.S. Infantry Regiment was badly troubled by snipers during one encounter. The divisional historian wrote, “From a tree almost anywhere around our oval perimeter, a Jap sharpshooter could choose a Yank target who had to leave his water-soaked hole. The range could be all of 200-400 yards. The keen-eyed sniper could steady his precision killing-tool on a branch and tighten the butt to his shoulder. He could take a clear sight picture and squeeze the trigger. All 1/Bn might hear is a Jap .25-caliber (6.5mm) cartridge crack, like a Fourth of July cap cracked on a stone. Then a Yank cowering in a hole might hear the prolonged dying groan of a man in his next squad. Or long after a deadly silence, he might find his buddy a pale corpse with a deceptively small hole in his forehead.”

The elimination of snipers was difficult business, but the Americans were nothing if not thorough. Two-man countersniper teams manned the forward defenses while other teams set off to climb the jungle trees Tarzan fashion and guide others along the ground. Through careful coordination of these elements, the snipers were eradicated one at a time. Rounds from 37mm antitank guns firing canister were found to be effective, blasting whole areas where snipers were suspected. British and Commonwealth troops used similar tactics, and once the Japanese sniper was seen for what he was, certainly not a superman, then the battle against him was largely won. As the war progressed, the quality of the Japanese sniper deteriorated, and the British began to have some notable sniping success of their own. One report describes the combined sniper strength of two brigades (48 snipers) having killed 296 Japanese in a two-week period, for the loss of two men killed and one wounded in the finger.

Australians made excellent snipers, the best being those who had been kangaroo hunters. A ’roo hunter must be a superb shot since a clean kill preserves the pelt and will not disturb the other ’roos. Most of them were already experienced with the heavy .303 Lee-Enfield rifle. One such hunter turned sniper accounted for 47 Japanese on Timor but only claimed 25, on the basis that “you can’t count a ’roo unless you saw him drop and know exactly where to skin him.” The Australians fought a guerrilla campaign against the Japanese on Timor, killing some 1,500 for the loss of 40 and forcing the Japanese to divert large reinforcements.

(This article was originally published in 2018.)

This article by Jon Latimer originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.


Watch the video: HUNT: SHOWDOWN20210602223602 (December 2021).

Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos