Chuck Mawhinney, a native of Lakeview, Oregon, achieved a remarkable record of 103 confirmed kills during his 16-month service in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Additionally, he was credited with 216 “probable kills,” a classification necessary to ensure safety in an active war zone where confirming kills could be perilous.

Mawhinney’s exceptional skills with a Remington M40 sniper rifle remained a well-kept secret until 1991 when they were casually mentioned in an obscure book. He passed away on February 12 at the age of 75 in Baker City, Oregon, leaving behind a legacy as one of the great Marines.

Originally intending to join the Navy, Mawhinney changed his plans after a Marine recruiter promised him a delay in enlistment until after the deer hunting season. Raised in a family with a military background, his father, a Marine Corps veteran from World War II, taught him rifle skills from an early age.

Mawhinney’s natural aptitude for marksmanship became evident during his Marine training, and he deployed to Vietnam, adapting swiftly to the chaos following the Tet Offensive. His approach to combat was described as the “ultimate hunting trip,” where he hunted those who were hunting him. His fellow Marines praised his expertise in stalking the enemy, highlighting his ability to remain concealed for hours, tracking movements in the dense Vietnam jungle.

Living like an animal in the war zone, Mawhinney explained that all he thought about was killing. His rules of engagement were clear: if they had a weapon, they were a target. His confirmed kill count escalated rapidly, with one day near the An Hoa base resulting in 16 headshots.

Despite his lethal reputation among Marines, Mawhinney’s exploits remained largely unknown until 1991 when a friend, Joseph Ward, briefly mentioned them in a book. The revelation thrust Mawhinney into the public eye, but it was not without controversy. Ward’s book listed his confirmed kills as 101, creating a discrepancy with Marine Corps records.

An investigation confirmed that Ward’s count was incorrect, and Mawhinney’s real tally was two kills higher. After more than two decades in obscurity, Mawhinney gradually shared his story with friends and family, leading to the publication of a book, “The Sniper: The Untold Story of the Marine Corps’ Greatest Marksman of All Time,” in March 2023.

Following his military service, Mawhinney spent 27 years working with the U.S. Forest Service. He is survived by his wife, Robin, and three sons, Dennis, Cody, and Don. Reflecting on his status as one of the deadliest Marines, Mawhinney emphasized that his actions were driven by the mission to save fellow Marines, and his exceptional skills were simply a result of being exceptionally good at his job.


By Michael Kurcina

Mike credits his early military training as the one thing that kept him disciplined through the many years. He currently provides his expertise as an adviser for an agency within the DoD. Michael Kurcina subscribes to the Spotter Up way of life. “I will either find a way or I will make one”.

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