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February 17, 2024

The most lethal Marine Corps sniper of all time, Chuck Mawhinney, dies at 75

Charles "Chuck" Mawhinney, the most lethal sniper in the history of the United States Marine Corps, has passed away. Prior to his record's revelation in a book, he went nearly two decades without merit for his kill total.

On Feb. 12, Mawhinney passed away at his residence in Oregon at the age of 75, as the New York Post reported.

Mawhinney, who was born in Lakeview, Oregon, commenced his legendary career in 1967, the year following his high school graduation, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps for combat in Vietnam.

History in the Marine Corps

According to the U.S. Marine Corps, he enrolled in Scout Sniper School at Camp Pendleton upon enlistment and was assigned to South Vietnam on a 16-month rotation after graduating in April 1968.

During the years 1968 to 1969, Mawhinney, who was still a teen at the time, amassed 103 confirmed kills. An additional 216 fatalities were classified as "probable" due to the hazardous nature of verifying enemy remains in the active combat zone.

Mawhinney had recorded killings spanning distances exceeding 1,000 yards, whereas the typical kill shot for snipers during the Vietnam War was fired from a distance of 300 to 800 yards. In addition to two Purple Hearts, he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Valor, and Bronze Star with Combat Valor.

Mawhinney, who possessed the highest kill count of any sniper in the annals of the branch, returned home in 1970, seamlessly reintegrated into society, and obtained employment with the United States Forest Service.

It was long believed that fellow Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock, with 93 kills, had the highest sniper kill total. At 2,500 yards, Hathcock still holds the record for one of the longest killings ever recorded.

Changes in the Record

The record was not officially attributed to Mawhinney until 1991, when Joseph T. Ward, one of his spotters in Vietnam, documented his 101 kills in the book Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam and credited him with possessing the title.

Initially there was a lack of awareness of the book that included Mawhinney. In the years that followed, however, word gradually began to circulate that Mawhinney was attributed with the most confirmed sniper kills in Marine Corps history.

The sniper community was divided as a result; some individuals continued to hold the belief that Hathcock maintained the record.

Peter Senich, an authority on small arms and military history who specializes in snipers, investigated the Marine Corps archives to confirm Ward's assertion and discovered he was in error. Mawhinney had 103 kills as opposed to the 101 previously believed.

His Interview

Mawhinney, someone who placed a high value on his privacy and had no intention of gaining notoriety for his experiences in Vietnam, consented to an interview with Senich in 1997. The Baker City Herald published the interview.

“It’s an opportunity for me to get some recognition for a lot of the Vietnam vets that didn’t receive any recognition,” Mawhinney said.

“We were all there together. If I have to take recognition for it, that’s OK, because every time I talk to someone, I can talk about the vets. It gives me an opportunity to talk about what a great job they did," he added.

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