Valor Friday

| February 16, 2024

Chuck Mawhinney

I already had this week’s post locked and loaded when the death of Chuck Mawhinney was publicized last night. Instead, let’s take a brief look at him. He died just a few months after the Marine Corps shuttered the Scout Sniper School. I can’t help but feel that’s symbolic.


It wasn’t until 1991 that the world learned of Marine Corps veteran Charles Benjamin “Chuck” Mawhinney’s 103 confirmed kills during his time deployed to Vietnam in the late 1960s. That count made him not only the deadliest sniper of the Vietnam War, but also the deadliest sniper ever to serve in the Marine Corps. But Mawhinney never mentioned his exploits or record to friends or family; it only came out because a fellow sniper wrote a book giving him the title.

Like so many such claims do, Mahwinney’s purported record caused a bit of an uproar in the Vietnam veteran and sniper communities. But it turned out that not only was the book accurate, it might have underreported his accomplishments. It was an even more incredible feat, given his young life and that he almost never joined the Marine Corps in the first place.

It wasn’t until March 2023 that the legendary veteran told his full life story, and not a moment too soon. Mawhinney died on Feb. 12, 2024, at his home in Baker City, Oregon. He was 75 years old.

Born in 1949, Mawhinney grew up as what some might call a troubled youth in Lakeview, Oregon. His teen years were filled with cars, motorcycles, shooting guns and chasing ladies. A skilled shot with a rifle from a young age, he also enjoyed picking off rabbits and deer from behind the stick of small aircraft. When his behavior got him into hot water at home, the Marines offered him a way out. He joined the Corps and was sent to Vietnam while still a teenager, on a 16-month tour that spanned from 1967 to 1969.

Joseph T. Ward served in Vietnam as a spotter alongside Mawhinney at the tail end of the latter’s tour. It was his 1991 book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” that listed Mawhinney’s sniper record. Mawhinney didn’t even know his old spotter had written a book. Author Peter Senich read Ward’s book, and then went back into the Marine Corps archives to check on the claim. Sure enough, Ward was right.

For the longest time, the world believed the record belonged to another Marine Corps legend, Carlos Hathcock, and his 93 kills. During Chuck Mawhinney’s tour in Vietnam, he racked up a confirmed kill count of 103, with 216 more probables. Senich wrote an article about Mawhinney’s tour and his kill record for the December 1996 issue of Precision Shooting Magazine, an interview that changed Mawhinney’s life.

Mawhinney had left the Marine Corps in 1970; by the time the interview came out he’d retired from the U.S. Forest Service after 27 years and was living in his hometown of Lakeview. Friends and family were aware that he’d fought in Vietnam, but no one in his life knew he was a living legend with a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Valor, Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Valor and two Purple Hearts.

The Precision Shooting interview, he told local newspaper the Bay City Herald, was the reason he finally opened up more about his service.

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

Senich was going to write a book about Mawhinney’s life, but the author died in 2004 without finishing a manuscript. Mawhinney’s old friend, Jim Lindsay, eventually did it himself. Lindsay met Mawhinney in 1980 and, despite many hours spent together, only discovered his good friend’s record while watching a documentary about snipers. Lindsay’s book, “The Sniper: The Untold Story of the Marine Corps’ Greatest Marksman of All Time,” was published in March 2023 to Mawhinney’s great satisfaction.

Aside from a legacy of service to the United States, the Marine Corps and the Forest Service, Chuck Mawhinney leaves behind a wife and three children.

The Baker City Herald, his local paper, has a more personal take;

For more than a quarter century, Chuck Mawhinney’s unprecedented record as a Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam was unknown.

Hidden, just as the longtime Baker City resident was so many times hidden as he hunkered in the fetid jungle, his finger resting outside the trigger guard of an M700 Remington bolt-action rifle, his eye peering through its scope.

Had the matter been left to Mawhinney, his exploits likely would have remained concealed.

But then someone wrote a book.

And it was followed by articles in magazines and newspapers.

And eventually the truth was revealed.

Mawhinney, who grew up in Lakeview and moved to Baker City with his wife, Robin, in 1981, has the record for Marine snipers with 103 confirmed kills in Vietnam.

Mawhinney, who told his tales always grudgingly and always by deflecting attention away from himself and toward his fellow Vietnam veterans, died Feb. 12 at his Baker City home.

He was 75.

“Chuck was one in a million,” said Jim Lindsay, a former Baker Valley farmer who had a unique relationship with Mawhinney.

It was Lindsay, along with Robin Mawhinney, who convinced Chuck, after the decades, to finally tell his entire story.

Based on dozens of hours of conversations with Mawhinney, Lindsay’s book describes in detail Mawhinney’s Vietnam experiences, but it also explores his entire life, starting with his rambunctious childhood in the remote country near where Oregon meets California.

The 256-page book — “The Sniper: The Untold Story of the Marine Corps’ Greatest Marksman of All Time” — was released almost one year ago, in March 2023.

Mawhinney signed copies of the book in May 2023 at Betty’s Books in Baker City.

In an interview with the Baker City Herald a couple days after the book’s release, Mawhinney, with the gravelly chuckle that was one of his trademarks, explained how the book came to be.

“Well crap, I couldn’t get out of it.”

The book, with a foreward written by Mawhinney, was something he never envisioned, or indeed wanted.

“I never, ever planned on doing a book,” he said during that interview.

But then, in 1991, another Marine scout sniper wrote one instead.

There’s much more at the Herald’s link.

Category: Hidden Valor, Historical, Marines, sniper, Valor, We Remember

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Wow. Condolences to his family.
Thanks Mason.

Prior Service

Great post. Thanks.


Anyone id the firearm in the photo?
Remington M40?


As the article says, a modified M700 which pretty much nails it as an M40. Odd he could hit anything when it wasn’t chambered in a round ending in “Creedmore”. /S


Mawhinney, who told his tales always grudgingly and always by deflecting attention away from himself and toward his fellow Vietnam veterans…” The mark of a True Warrior. Wonder how many phonies will take excerpts from his book for their own tales of derring do?

Rest Easy, Good Sir. Nothing like an On Target Fire for Effect with just one (1) round at a time. SALUTE!

Thanks, Mason.


This quiet badass is the complete opposite of stolen valor. This is hidden valor.


Great point, SFC D!

I suggest “Hidden Valor” becomes the term used to describe these reluctant wonders. I marvel at people like Chuck.

Here’s hoping the family heals as well as possible and understands the importance in which their loved one is held by people on sites like this.


Tango Yankee to SFC D and Mason.

Good work.


The fact he kept his mouth shut for 40+ years tells me everything I need to know about him. A true quiet professional.


Semper Fi and rest easy Devildog. God bless you and all that you did.


“Mawhinney did. It was his first confirmed kill. He had always believed the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” but kneeling over the dead Viet Cong officer he’d shot between the eyes from 300 yards away, he felt no remorse for dispatching an enemy aiming to kill his American comrades-in-arms.”

“Thou shalt not kill my fellow Marines,” Chuck whispered to the corpse.”

“He had to pick shrapnel out of his chest from an exploding booby trap that killed a nearby Marine.”

“He lived through being shot in the side, mostly because the VC bullets hit a can of peaches in his backpack.”

“He never relished killing, stressing that he was only “doing his job” in Vietnam.”

“But if he was raised to believe “Thou shalt not kill,” the mantra “Thou shalt not kill my fellow Marines” was the one he really lived.”

Rest In Peace, Sir.


Never Forget.

Thank You, Mason, for sharing.


Paperback will be out in March. I just added it to my Amazon list.


Actually, the correct translation of that Commandment is not “Thou shalt not kill.” It is “Thou shalt not murder.” If one reads the Old Testament, it contains a great deal of killing that the text does not consider murder. Killing of enemy combatants is not murder, and not a violation of that Commandment.


Marine Chuck Mawhinney at the tender age of 12.


Marine Chuck Mawhinney at the tender age of 12.


I had the same haircut, but that’s about it.


Brylcreem…”A little dab will do you…”


Thank you Mason. Rest in peace Marine. God be with your family now.

Army-Air Force Guy

He was from the good part of Oregon.


Anything outside the Willamette valley is a good part. 🙂

Army-Air Force Guy

Amen to that, that’s where I’m stuck at.

RGR 4-78

Rest in Peace Marine.


Fair winds and following seas, Marine.


Thanks much and I think I’ll download my next Kindle book this weekend


Went to Vietnam when many wouldn’t. Did what was asked of him. Came home, got a job, raised a family, and didn’t talk about what happened during his service. Sounds like a standup guy and, as mentioned earlier, a true quiet professional. That such men lived. Rest easy, Marine.


Rest Well……


Semper fi bud,
Rest peacefully.