One Shot One Kill

Here’s a book that actually has a good blurb.  It sounds like a trailer for an action movie:

Lone Wolves of the Battlefield!  They track the enemy over land and lie in wait for a target to appear. Then they shoot to kill.  Armed with an unerring eye, infinite patience and a mastery of concealment, combat snipers stalk the enemy like a hunter after big game, with one deadly goal…ONE SHOT — ONE KILL.


Damn, that’s heavy.  But this isn’t a movie.  It’s not a Tom Clancy novel. It’s for reals, y’all.  It’s not glamorous, fun, or hip.  It’s damned dirty work. Soul-sucking, back-breaking, lonely work.  After reading this book, it’s my considered opinion that, while all the armed forces have their "special" teams, sharpshooters/snipers are the most special.  For the simple reason that they have to do their job alone or with 1 spotter. Lonely.  They get dropped in dangerously close to the enemy. Suicidal.  They have to keep still for hours and hours and hours.  Torturous. 

You have to be the sort of man (as far as I know, there are no women snipers) who is okay being alone with only your thoughts for company.  You also have to be really good at math and physics.  I really liked how the men’s stories included details about how they measure wind speed, barometric pressure, angles of the sun, and most impressive of all, their intimacy with their rifle and scope.  An experienced sharpshooter could tell you how much a bullet from his rifle will veer off-course depending on the slightest breeze and terrain.  All this from the book.  This was the pleasant part!


These stories of real-life missions are unapologetically un-PC. Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese are referred to in derogatory terms. Blunt, earthy, even salty, language – exactly what you’d expect from career military. The authors Charles W. Sasser and Craig Roberts collected stories from

  • Roberts himself – A Marine Lance Corporal, Vietnam 1965
  • The legendary Marine Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, Vietnam 1967, including the story of his famous signature – a white feather
  • Army Sergeant William E. Jones, Normandy 1944
  • Army Sergeant John Fulcher, Italy 1943-44
  • Army Corporal Chet Hamilton, Korea 1952
  • Marine Captain Jim Land, Vietnam 1966
  • Marine Corporal Tom Rutter, Beirut 1983
  • Marine Corporal Ernest R. Fish, Korea 1951
  • Marine Corporal Ron Szpond, Vietnam 1966
  • Marine Lance Corporal Jim Miller, Vietnam 1968
  • Marine Private Daniel Webster Cass, Jr.; Okinawa 1945


If you’re into military history or history of weaponry, you will love Ch. 23. It doesn’t have a title, but reading this little chunk is a blast! Throughout the whole book, the men talk about their weapons. And they name names: M-1 Garand, Winchester Model 70, .45, .38, M-14, 106-millimeter recoilless anti-tank, Remington 700, M-79 grenade launcher, German Jaeger.  Pages 246-7 are peppered with letters and numbers designating different types of rifles and scopes — it’s enough to make you high if you’re an afficianado of military weaponry.  There’s a paragraph in the middle of p. 158 that details how intimate the relationship is between a sniper and his rifle. 


P. 171 pretty much sums up what it takes to be a successful sniper.  That comes straight from the mouth of Major R. O. "Dick" Culver, one of the men, along with Jim Land who started the first sniper school at Quantico.  Training is brutal.  Again — you have only yourself.  At least in BUDs Training, you have a team to help you.  In sniper school, you learn to be a one-man lawn-mower.  You learn the mechanics AND psychology of being a sniper.  Ch. 23 gives a potted history of European sharpshooting since about the 1600s.  Now THAT’S cool!

Amazingly, as snipers are extremely, almost robotically disciplined, they are writers.  They journal every kill they make. They include details such as the rifle, scope, and bullet they used, terrain, weather, target data, success or failure. Painstakingly handwritten.  I found that particularly fascinating.

Again, this book does not glamorize the job of military sharpshooter.  It’s honest, often sad, a little funny, dead serious when they discuss their weapons, and gruesomely detailed about missions.  This is a great little book about a painful, uncomfortable job.


View my collection at SHELFARI 


One response to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on The Festering Blurb:Bursting Open w/Pungent Prose and commented:

    This is a popular post. I don’t know that people are looking for this specifically, but they are usually looking for Carlos Hathcock or Ron Szpond.


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