Snipers: History’s often unsung heroes
When diplomacy fails and it seems necessary to engage in violent, armed combat, this former infantry officer has often thought it wasteful to send masses of young men to kill and maim each other. If two or more nations cannot resolve their differences by diplomacy, why not have each side select their best warrior and let the two warriors decide the outcome? Or, maybe let their top leaders duke it out?
Imagine Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis with dueling pistols. Between the former frontiersman, Abraham Lincoln, and West Point-graduate, Jefferson Davis, that would have been an interesting contest. Or, how about General William C. Westmoreland (who always stayed in top physical shape) versus North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap? I’d bet on "Westy." Or, how about former KGB agent, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, versus former community organizer, Barack Hussein Obama. Stop. Let’s not even go there.
There is, however, a middle way: the sniper. People who know their Holy Bible might recognize David as history’s most-storied sniper. When the Philistines (later known as the Palestinians) were led by the giant Goliath, the young boy, David, volunteered to go up against Goliath. Armed with the single-shot sniper weapon of the day -- the slingshot -- David picked up a stone (today, known as ammunition), put the stone inside the "pocket" (today, we would call it the rifle chamber), and let fly with the sling shot. With one smooth stone, David slew Goliath and saved the Israelites from defeat at the hands of the Philistines.
During the American Revolution, General George Washington defeated the British Red Coats -- the world’s most powerful and battle-experienced army. Rag-tag American frontiersmen used their long, squirrel rifles to pick British officers off their horses, leaving the British foot soldiers leaderless, terrified, and in disarray.
In 1815, General Andrew Jackson, with only 4,732 troops, used his snipers to defeat 11,000 British troops and win the Battle of New Orleans. This author’s sainted Mother was a Rennie. So, this passage from Shock Factor by Gunnery Sergeant Jack Coughlin, USMC (Ret.) is of special interest: "...a British colonel named Rennie led an assault on an isolated American redoubt... He struck an impressive figure at the head of his men, coaxing them forward... Rennie pressed forward...with two of his officers by his side...several shooters from the New Orleans Rifles...opened fire. All three officers went down. The leaderless British soldiers froze, then fell back, pell-mell, their ranks savaged by the American fire..."
Over 150 years later, we used snipers to good effect in Vietnam. Not only did our snipers pick off Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army leaders, they sometimes had a terror effect, as well. As a security precaution to keep us from creeping up on them from behind, enemy patrols routinely had one member trail the rest of their column by many yards -- often out of ear shot. If we were fortunate enough to have sniper team with us, they would pick off the trail-behind member. Later, when the remainder of the enemy patrol discovered one of their own was inexplicably missing, their panic turned to terror. Just like at the Battle of New Orleans.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2014. William Hamilton.
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