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Deadliest Marine Corps sniper dies at 75

U.S. Marines. (Giancarlo Mollicone/Marine Corps Air Station Miramar)
June 26, 2024

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, a Marine alumni from Camp Pendleton’s Scout Sniper School, passed away earlier this year at his home in Baker City, Oregon, at the age of 75. Mawhinney earned the distinction of the deadliest sniper in the Corps for 103 kills, with an additional 216 “probable” kills.

Mawhinney made all of his kills before he was 20 years old, while attached to Camp Pendleton’s 5th Marine Regiment in 1968 to 1969 in Vietnam. He reportedly carried a Remington M40 rifle and fired from a distance of 300 to 700 yards, although some records mark the shots as taken from 1,000 yards. Despite his remarkable skill, Mawhinney’s feats were nearly unrecognized until Joseph T. Ward’s book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam,” was published.

According to Sun Sentinel, Ward, a fellow Marine, and Mawhinney were friends. The distinction somewhat embarrassed Mawhinney, who worked for the forestry service for 30 years following his service.

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“I just did what I was trained to do,” Mawhinney said. “I was in-country for a long time in a very hot area. I didn’t do anything special.”

Following the publication of Ward’s book, Mawhinney decided that he would tell his story in his own words. Later, “The Sniper: The Untold Story of the Marine Corps’ Greatest Marksman of All Time” was published by Jim Lindsey, a personal friend of Mawhinney. Mawhinney wrote the foreword to the book.

Mawhinney was invited as a guest of honor at sniper-shooting competitions around the country, as well as training and advisory programs for military members and SWAT squads. Inevitably, he repeated his “three rules” at each event: practice, practice, practice.

Mawhinney credited his skill to his love of hunting, a lifelong sport that he had enjoyed before enlisting. His father was a combat Marine who had served in World War I; however, Mawhinney had originally planned to enlist in the Navy until the Marine Corps recruiter told him he could delay boot camp until after hunting season. His skill in marksmanship in boot camp ensured his training at Camp Pendleton Sniper School.

After his tours in Vietnam, Mawhinney worked as an instructor in the camp for a short time; however, nightmares of his tour plagued him. He left the Marines and returned to his hometown in Oregon. Mawhinney is survived by his wife and three sons.