For modern Germans it may seem unusual that sharpshooters, soldiers dedicated to excellent marksmanship, are a topic for a hunting weblog. Don’t panic. My text is not about the most "One Shot Kills". My text is about marksmen who were characterized by their comrades as outstanding gallant, fair and professional – and who left something behind for us that is reflected in up-to-date literature.
Let’s remember, among the first sharpshooters and snipers was a considerable number of hunters. Hunters were those people who knew about stalking, scouting, observation and camouflage already at that time. They were carefully selected for precision shots and reconnaissance operations.
Major Robert Rogers: Rogers fought in the French and Indian War as British officer. He started with organizing the first Ranger Company, a unit made up of approximately 60 men. He ended up with seven companies which were well-known as experts for long-range shots. Rogers developed the famous “Standing Orders of Rogers’ Rangers” in 1755 and organized and trained his men from experienced hunters to experienced snipers and sharpshooters. Let’s carefully read some of his orders “Have your musket as clean as a whistle, hatched scoured, six pounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning. … When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.” When John Plaster, a USMC- and SOG-Sniper went to Vietnam, he took Rogers’ text with him – and this would even be today a fine checklist for asymmetric warfare. See Roberts’ orders in John Plaster’s excellent book.
John L. Plaster: The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting. Boulder 2008.
Robert RogersMajor H. Hesketh-Pritchard: Hesketh-Pritchard was a hunter with experience from Africa and thus expert knowledge in telescopic-sighted rifles. His career in the British Army in World War I started as a kind of press officer, accompanying war correspondents. However, as a hunter he saw shortcomings of the British against an already experienced German sniper organization. It needed some time, but at the end, Hesketh-Pritchard had convinced senior officers to let him fight as a sniper and train other men as snipers. They started with borrowed hunting rifles and training on the job and ended up with a well-established British sniper school in France. Succeeding with his sniper school and proofing the value of trained men with adequate equipment as snipers, he was one of the founders of modern sniper training and tactics. In his book “Sniping in France”, which was one of the most significant contributions to marksmanship at that time, he published his thoughts but also detailed sniper training programs. In his book he stated “What was wanted apart from organization was neither more, nor less than hunter spirit. The hunter spends his life in trying to outwit some difficult quarry, and the step between war and hunting is but a very small one.“
H. Hesketh-Pritchard: Sniping in France 1914-18. London 1920. (Reprint by Helion & Company 2004)
Bruno Sutkus: World War II already saw fully established sniper organizations and engagements, but it also saw a fully developed propaganda. Yes there are Russian men and women with outstanding sniper results of several hundreds dead enemies and there were Finish snipers fighting the Read Army with similar results, but today we can not check every single shot. For many German snipers we can, as their way of measuring success was much more reliable. Among some of the Wehrmacht’s greatest snipers were Matthias Hetzenauer and Josef “Sepp” Allerberger who were both awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with their K-98 Mauser with 6x scope and G-43 semi auto rifle with 4x scope (ca. 60 to 70 of their shots were closer than 400 m). When Hetzenauer and Allerberger were already at home after 1945, their comrade Bruno Sutkus continued to live under very unpleasant conditions behind the Iron Curtain and went from prison to the Gulag until the Soviet Empire broke down. Before he came back to modern Germany he participated in an instruction of the Latvian Armed Forces about sniping. Surprisingly nearly all his records (particularly the “Scharfschützenheft”) were saved and promise an excellent insight into German Sniping of WW II (reprints in his books). I would like to quote some information about precision. He wrote before he entered the Sniper Course “In unserer Ausbildungskompanie hatte ich mich schon beim ersten Scharfschießen hervorgetan, es waren Oberleutnant Braun und der Bataillonskommandeur dabei. Auf 100 Meter Entfernung erzielte ich auf der Zwölfer-Ringscheibe mit fünf Schüssen 59 Ringe“. And after he had passed the fife months course: “Auf 100 Meter Entfernung habe ich einen kleinen Zettel als Zielscheibe befestigt und mit einem roten Punkt versehen, den ich mit dem Daumen zudecken konnte. Alle meine fünf Schüsse trafen den roten Punkt, so daß ich dann alle Treffer mit meinem Daumen bedecken konnte“.
- Josef Allerberger: Im Auge des Jägers. Herne 2007.
- Bruno Sutkus: Im Fadenkreuz. Pluwig 2003. Now also available in English: Bruno Sutkus. Sniper Ace. Boulder 2009.
- Richard D. Law: Backbone of the Wehrmacht. The German K-98 k rifle. Cobourg 1996 (Revised Edition).
Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. Vietnam was called “Sniping War” by some historians. Despite the lessons of World War II and the Korean War, US Army and Marine Corps arrived in Vietnam without trained snipers and even without sniper equipment. The Vietcong was wiser and did not rely just on jungle fighting: The US forces woked up when VC killed two Marines in mid 1965 by sniper fire. In this situation Carlos Hathcock went to arms, who had spent his childhood in rural Arkansas and has supported his family with hunting since he was a boy. He attended the first Marine sniper course since World War II and became a dedicated shooter. In 1965 he won the Wimbledon Cup for the 1,000 yard match and became America’s long-range champion. Starting active duty in Vietnam as military policemen, he quickly changed to sniping instructor and sniper (first unofficially with an M14). He involved himself soon in sniper duties with his Winchester 70 in 30.06 with 8x scope and became a legendary marksman up to successful .50-caliber shots at 2,500 yards. After two tours in Vietnam and a severe wounding he worked together with a few selected officers to establish the United States Marine Corps Snipers School at Quantico.
- Norman A. Chandler and Roy F. Chandler: Death from Afar. Inside the Deadly World of the Marine Snipers. Volume I-V. 1992-1998.
- Peter R. Senich: The One Round War. USMC Scout Snipers in Vietnam.
- Roy F. Chandler: Carlos Hathcock "Whitefeather". 1997.
Hinweis: Eine gute Auswahl an Scharfschützen-Literatur kann man in Deutschland über US Books beziehen www.usbooks.de, darunter die hier genannten Bücher. Die Bücher sind u.a. erschienen in den Verlagen Collector Grade http://www.collectorgrade.com/ und Paladin Press http://www.paladin-press.com/