Formation of the WhaleTeam Encouraged
Going into the bush with your primary source of defense being stealth, provokes an adrenaline spike unlike anything you can get from coffee. The movie “American Sniper” provides a glimpse into the normality and human mind set of highly trained individuals willing to endure weeks of intense training, emotional hardships and service to our nation.
During the Vietnam War, the .50 caliber rifles used were different than the .50 caliber used now in the Middle East. Fifty caliber arms were heavier and mostly used in place with a tripod. The rounds for the .50 often required one man to carry the weapon and one man to carry the ammunition. The replacement for the M-1, the M-14 became one of the best weapons for distance shots, both light weight and extremely accurate. The Department of Defense exported the M-14’s to other countries and later attempted to get many back with little success. The M-16 became a staple due to their smaller rounds, lighter weight and ability to rapid fire covering larger swaths of territory. Initially, the M-16 was basically worthless in the bush, jamming up, causing many troops deaths and having little accuracy. The problem was corrected by using Crome where the round enters the chamber and the M-16 became a staple for ground troops in Vietnam. The 30 cal. M-14, became a preference for long distance shots. Accuracy with or without a scope was amazing. My first impression of the M-14 was negative due to the plastic feel of new light weight materials and the need to tape and sound proof rattles in certain areas of the weapon. But, once used, the accuracy was superb.
Having used both, the M-1 and M-14 for distances of 1000 yards, the M-14 always provided slightly higher accuracy and held more rounds. The M-16 was best for short, spraying effect.
The .50 caliber was awesome for single shot long distance once set up. Hitting a target as far away as two miles was possible. The round arrives on target before the sound. Carlos Hathcock, Marine Corps sniper had documented hits at 2,000 yards using a modified version of the M-1 called an M-2.
The accusation by movie producer Michael Moore that American snipers are cowards reflects an ignorance beyond that of stupid. Attempts to take back intent “ala Jane Fonda” should be rejected. Moore has no concept of what it takes to arrive at your destination unseen, through perilous enemy territory and remain silent, unobserved and totally focused on your mission for days at a time. Often covered in a gillie suit, darkened face, peering through curtains of brush, moving inches at a time, only yards or feet from the enemy is no laughing matter. A misstep, sneeze, a cough, an itch or having to relieve yourself can cost you your life. Being a sniper does not guarantee you take your shot from a distance as Moore assumes, many times in the bush the enemy walks right past you and communicating how many, location and type of movement back to your command post becomes essential to the survival of the others. In Vietnam, this advance information was key but also put the sniper in our troops target zone. Consequently, snipers would be serving to save the others while exposing themselves to artillery or mortar fire from our own troops. Hearing the enemy crossing the river heading straight towards your position in the dark of night leaves no space for cowardice, only quick thinking, stealth and evasion with all your gear. At this distance, there is no defense. Snipers were sometimes issued only 8 rounds and a specific target. The reason for 8 rounds was to assure the sniper would not engage in any fire fight, remain totally undetected and only accomplish his assigned mission. Snipers were often used as forward observers with clowns in Washington calling the shots, fearful of creating international incidents. You are in a war and idiots in command in Washington are worried about creating international incidents? Things have not changed much since Vietnam. Todays leadership is conclusively worse. Worthy of a serious analysis asking; whose side are we on?
The withdrawal of troops for political posturing at home, intentional downsizing in war zones contrary to field assessments is immensely frustrating to the troops in harms way. Because of instant communications, often, Washington approval is needed before taking any shot. You cannot freeze the image in your scope.
The Marine Corps and the Navy Seal teams operate under the Department of the Navy. The Navy should seriously consider forming the “Navy Whale Team” and use Michael Moore’s body profile.
Editors note: Al Vasquez served in the USMC and wrote the book: “A Sniper’s Trail” in 2012, undergoing a 2nd edition with added material.