Chuck Mawhinney, 74, Dies; Deadliest Sniper in Marine Corps History

Chuck Mawhinney, whose ability to creep through the dense jungle and looming elephant grass of South Vietnam and then wait for hours with his scoped rifle to pick off an enemy soldier made him the deadliest sniper in the history of the Marine Corps, died on Feb. 12 in Baker City, a town in the northeastern corner of Oregon. He was 74.

His death was announced by Coles Funeral Home in Baker City. No further details were available.

Mr. Mawhinney, who served in Vietnam from May 1968 to March 1970, had 106 confirmed kills and another 216 probable kills, averaging about four a week — more than the average company, which comprised about 150 soldiers.

Among American military snipers, only Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and had 160 confirmed kills, and Adelbert Waldron, an Army sniper during the Vietnam War with 109 kills, had higher numbers than Mr. Mawhinney.

As a sniper, Mr. Mawhinney filled a number of roles. He would stay up all night with his rifle and night scope, watching the perimeter of an encampment for incursions. He would go out on patrol with other Marines, ready to support them if a firefight broke out. But mostly he and his spotter, a novice sniper who helped him identify targets, went out alone, looking for individual targets to kill as a way of sapping enemy morale.

Most of his kills came slowly, a single shot from his bolt-action M40 after hours of waiting. But some came in bursts: On the night of Feb. 14, 1969, Mr. Mawhinney watched as a column of North Vietnamese soldiers crossed a shallow river near Da Nang, making their way toward a Marine encampment. He started firing, quickly but methodically, and in 30 seconds he had killed 16. The rest retreated.

He claimed no special talent as a sniper, just the willingness to put in endless hours of practice. But he also demonstrated an unusual ability to tolerate grueling hours of stillness hiding in the jungle, alert for targets while bugs and snakes crawled over him.

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