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SNIPERS


"[He] went back under fire to retrieve [a soldier's] belt, containing one hundred rounds. Suddenly he cried out and fell. He had been shot through the neck by a sniper's bullet, which broke his neck. . . he was dead by the time he hit the ground."
- - described during 2 Para's attack on Goose Green [1]

COMBAT EXPERIENCE

The primary mission of a sniper is to support combat operations by delivering precision rifle fire from concealed positions on selected targets. The sniper's effectiveness is not only measured in kills, but also in the fear inflicted on the enemy. How effective a sniper can be is demonstrated by the following examples.

LESSON LEARNED

Well-camouflaged snipers can create confusion and fear out of all proportion to their number.

WW II: THE 7TH ID ON KWAJALEIN

During the assault on Kwajalein atoll in Jan-Feb 1944 by the 7th Infantry Division, enemy snipers proved to be extremely deadly. On the last day of the 5 day battle for the atoll, Company F, 32nd Infantry Regiment, found themselves pinned down by sniper fire. The men could not tell where it was coming from. The bullets paralyzed the men. Then they tried to dig deeper into the sand or cover themselves with palm fronds in an attempt to hide. For an hour the company "clung to the earth" just 150 yards short of the end of the atoll. One by one, ten soldiers were hit by the sniper fire and each time the medics risked their lives crawling forward to the wounded and dragging them back. The "will to go forward" had vanished. Only the arrival of tank support as a shield from the sniper fire energized the men of Company F to get up and move out towards their objective. They raked the ground in front of them with constant BAR fire, flushed out the sniper, knocked out enemy bunkers and cleared out the last enemy opposition on the atoll. [2]

LESSON LEARNED

Snipers are extremely effective at killing and demoralizing enemy soldiers.

VIETNAM: THE 1ST CAV IN THE IA DRANG

During the battles in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965, the 1st Bn of the 7th Cavalry was attacked in force by North Vietnamese regulars. Despite the arrival of elements of the 2nd Bn 5th Cavalry, the 1st Bn was forced to fall back to its LZ and establish a defensive perimeter. An element of the 2nd Bn had been on the LZ all day, so the unit leaders did not make a thorough search of the area. However, a sniper had infiltrated onto the LZ and with one shot at close range severely wounded the A Co. Cmdr. Even after the enemy sniper had fired, he remained undiscovered. The damage to the morale of the unit was severe. They no longer felt secure even within their own defensive perimeter. One sniper firing one round instilled a sense of fear and insecurity into elements of two battalions.

LESSON LEARNED

A high volume of well-placed fire can suppress or kill enemy snipers.

In a related incident during the same campaign (1965), several companies of the 2nd Bn of the 7th Cavalry were surrounded by NVA regulars and had set up a defensive perimeter. A major night attack on B Co. sector threatened to break through but by dawn on 18 November the attacks had subsided. The Battalion Commander doubted that the enemy had retired, however, and ordered the companies on the perimeter to shoot into the trees, ant hills and bushes in front of their positions in case they concealed snipers. The commander realized the demoralizing effect of a single aimed shot directed against the key officers or positions of his unit. The resulting "mad minute" of firing (a venerable WW I tradition) showed immediate results. One NVA sniper fell from a tree, dead, immediately in front of a Co. Cmdr's foxhole and another riddled body fell and hung upside down from a tree only a few meters from a platoon's position. [3]

THE RANGERS ON GRENADA

On 25 October 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury, Rangers from the 75th Infantry Regiment were in the process of securing the Point Salinas airfield. A sniper team from the 75th stealthily positioned themselves to engage a Cuban mortar crew. Accurate fire from the team killed or wounded eighteen of the crewmen. Interrogation of Cuban prisoners after the action revealed the accurate sniper fire of the Rangers was directly responsible for reducing their will to fight. [4]

LESSON LEARNED

Accurate sniper fire can stop, delay, and disrupt the advance of attacking forces.

FALKLANDS

On 12 June 1982, 3d Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, British Army, attacked Mt. Longdon, Falklands. Difficult terrain coupled with a well entrenched enemy made movement slow and dangerous. The snipers of the Argentine 7th Infantry Regiment kept the British busy with accurate fire during the day and (with the aid of U.S. made night vision devices) at night. At one point during the attack, an entire British company was held up for hours by a single Argentine sniper. "Men found themselves being hit more than once by the same sniper, a terrifying tribute to the accuracy of the Argentinean's fire." [5]

LESSON LEARNED

Snipers can engage targets that are beyond the range and visibility of the average rifleman.

AFGHANISTAN

The Mujahadeen riflemen, with their vintage Lee-Enfield rifles, have killed Soviet soldiers at ranges in excess of 800 meters. Early in the war the Soviets discovered their Kalashnidov rifle was generally ineffective beyond 300 meters. To counter the long range accuracy of the Mujahadeen, the Soviets formed sniper squads for each motorized rifle company and armed them with the 7.62 SVD sniper rifle. [6]

REFERENCES

FM 7-86, The Infantry Sniper (Coordinating Draft), Sep 87, is the most recent reference on the training and employment of snipers.

BOTTOM LINE

Snipers are an effective combat multiplier in any combat environment. Consider how you could employ them or how you could counter the activities of enemy snipers.


Table of Contents
Preface
Night Attacks



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