Legendary Marine Scout Sniper Chuck Mawhinney dies at age 75

His legend will endure.
Joshua Skovlund Avatar
Chuck Mawhinney is the Marine Corps' deadliest sniper from the Vietnam War.
Chuck Mawhinney racked up 103 confirmed kills and 216 unconfirmed kills in just 16 months of active duty. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lindsay. U.S. Army photo. Task & Purpose composite image.)

Legendary U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Charles Benjamin “Chuck” Mawhinney died at the age of 75 after an incredible life, both in the military and after. Mawhinney is famous for over 100 confirmed kills as a sniper in Vietnam.  

“I’m just a simple person, and in Vietnam, I was just doing my job.” Mawhinney once said. His famous quote represents just how humble he was. Mawhinney worked for the U.S. Forest Service after his time in the Marines, retiring after 27 years, and for most of his life, no one knew just how legendary he was.

The general public never would have known about Mawhinney if it weren’t for one of his former spotters writing a memoir. Joseph Ward detailed his military exploits in the book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam.” He ended up using the same rifle Mawhinney had, and in his book, he mentioned that Mawhinney had a whopping 101 confirmed kills. 

Though Ward’s book didn’t initially sell very well, other authors and historians eventually stumbled across the book where they found out about Mawhinney’s record-smashing confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Though it was later confirmed that the claim of 101 kills was low, that number was questioned because it exceeded the legendary Marine Scout Sniper Carlos Hathcock, who had 93 confirmed kills.

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, with his M40 sniper rifle and Redfield 3x9x40 scope, while serving in the Vietnam War. (Photo courtesy of Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney)

Jim Lindsay, author of  “The Sniper: The Untold Story of the Marine Corps’ Greatest Marksman of All Time,” met Mawhinney in 1979 at the Idle Hour tavern in Baker City, Oregon. Lindsay said that people seemed to not believe Mawhinney, but he confirmed that he did, in fact, have 103 confirmed kills and 216 unconfirmed kills during his 16 months of duty in Vietnam.

“Chuck’s platoon leader had kept track of the kills. He had the kill sheets and verified Chuck’s numbers,” Lindsay said. “So, there was no argument then. His life changed overnight. All of a sudden, everybody knew him.”

When Mawhinney returned home from the Vietnam War, he saw how veterans were being treated and quietly left his military life behind him. He loved to hunt and trap, and that’s what he did when he wasn’t working. Lindsay said he never knew about Mawhinney’s military service until the media spread his story. 

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney’s M40 sniper rifle with the Redfield 3x9x40 scope is displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney.)

“He was an old-fashioned hero,” Lindsay said. “Chuck had a lot of charisma and not on purpose. Nobody can do that on purpose and get away with it.”

Mawhinney’s father was a World War II Marine who had experienced his fair share of war and later became a police officer in his hometown. Still, Mawhinney was a bit of a wild child, getting into trouble for underage drinking, and quickly realizing he needed to do something different. Once he was of age, he joined the military. 

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When Mawhinney returned home from his first deployment to Vietnam, he couldn’t wait to get back overseas to be with his friends. He ended up volunteering to deploy three times. Lindsay said he loved being in the bush, keeping the bad guys on edge while saving his fellow Marines with precision fires on the Viet Cong

Mawhinney mastered the starlight scope, making him a valuable asset at night when he got most of his confirmed kills. He famously killed 16 Viet Cong who were trying to cross a river during the night in bad weather conditions, with 16 headshots in 30 seconds

But in the end, Lindsay said Mawhinney was a loving father who enjoyed spending time in the outdoors. He wanted his story to be known after so many years to get fair recognition for all of the Vietnam Veterans who didn’t get it after coming home from war. 

Mawhinney leaves behind a wife and three children. No funeral arrangements have been announced as of the publishing of this story. 

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