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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:43 pm 
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So this is my first post. I'm an avid shooter, I've been in the military myself for 9 years. For 4 of those years I was assigned to a sniper section. Now...I finally made my way into the air conditioning of the Operations shed. I think one of the things that interests me most about his time period in American military history, are the rapid advances in technology...especially firearms technology. SO...I've got a couple questions about the weapons since the oldest things I own are from WWII, but I'll save them for the appropriate part of the forum.

So I really am a sharpshooter looking back on where the formal organization of sharpshooters came from. There seems to be alot of differing theories on this. Rev War/Civ War/WWI they all have their benchmarks.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:07 pm 
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Welcome sir, and thank you for your real-life service!

Calum

Keystone Reg't
www.keystoneregiment.com

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:09 pm 
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Thank you and thank you :D

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:47 pm 
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Jboring and Fellow Sharpshooters.

Welcome to the Forum. It is a great honor to welcome somebody who is serving our country and has the desire to learn more about the men who came before. I look forward to, and welcome your comments, about the science of shooting and sniping. I have been an avid shooter since I was old enough to sight a .22; and even though the eyes are getting a bit fuzzy my passion for shooting hasn't diminished a wit.

There a number of books available about sharpshooting at various times in our history. Major John Plaster (retired, MAC-SOG) has recently published a book on sharpshooting. Gary Yee has recently published his 15 year research into the evolution of sharpshooting (I mentioned his book and link in this forum). I own Plaster's Ultimate Sniper and found it invaluable resource--some of the approaches he suggests in locating enemy snipers are the same as those used during the Civil War.

From my research, sharpshooting and sniping has been discovered, used during times of conflict and then promptly forgotten with the peace throughout all of the US wars. American riflemen have consistently risen to the challenges and distinguished themselves in all of these conflicts. However, it wasn't until the close of the Vietnam War that a concerted effort (driven by USMC and Army snipers themselves) to retain the men/skills, and push for the development of specialized weapons to support the mission, occurred. Men like Major James Land and Carlos Hathcock fought an uphill, and career threatening, battles against the bureaucracy. With the recent Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the role and deployment of snipers has dramatically increased, as well as their leaders appreciation of their unique skills and the ability to employ 'surgical' applications of force.

What I have always found so amusing, is that our adventures as reenacting USSS follows much the same path as visionaries like Hiram Berdan, Jim Land and other sharpshooters trying to convince their superiors of the value of these highly trained men. Most reenacting officers who see us show up dressed in green uniforms have no idea who we are or what to do with us--especially for tacticals. They are more than happy send us off 'on our own hook' only to be pleasantly surprised to find we accomplish our mission(s) independently. The Sharpshooter impression has attracted and benefitted from active or retired members of the armed forces. I have never felt so honored, when sitting around a campfire late at night, to hear a veteran say that they feel the same bond of brotherhood with us as they did with their friends 'in the Nam' or other battlefields.

Hope this helps.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:26 pm 
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I am intimately familiar with Maj. Plasters book, but am now without mine since I gifted it to the Team Leader who came behind me after I left. If there was a single book I would reccomend on the SCIENCE of sharpshooting that would be it. The ART of sharpshooting is learned by doing however. The Army FM's and even the Marine Scout-Sniper manual covers some technical aspects superficially, and are lacking in many ways in my opinion. They have many excellent TTPs (Tactics, Techniques and Proceedures), but tend to fall a bit short in the craft, in my opinion. Gary Yee's book I will have to look into. I read a cute little paperback called, oddly enough, "Sniper" which was a cursory historical look at the evolution of modern organized sharpshooter programs.

As for leaderships appriciation of the skillset...well...we'll agree to disagree about that. I believe your view of it is the exception...not the rule. The introduction of leadership training courses for SEOs (Sniper Employment Officers) only works if they actually attend the class, and since it advances thier career not much at all to do so...you can imagine what happens. There has been a significant shift in the view of what is an "acceptable loss, injury, ect." Though it may not seem proper to throw it out there so blatantly, sharpshooters are volunteers, they CHOOSE to assume that risk. Casualties are not politically popular though, and as such the controls placed on many teams keeps them from doing thier job in the sense that everyone things like sharpshooters were employed in previous conflicts.

So...I can see how it wouldn't be a great reach for living history units to have many of the same problems when posessing a special skillset or impression. Alot of "How do we use them?" or "I don't care...just go that way."

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:18 pm 
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Jboring,

Excellent comments. I will be the first to admit that my research is a decade behind your experiences. Your comments certainly reflect a goal that many of the Vietnam era snipers hoped to achieve. Our military has added a very potent and effective weapon to its arsenal.

During the Civil War the vast majority of volunteer and Regular officers were wholly unfamiliar with sharpshooters. While tactical manuals described the evolutions of Light Infantry; these essentially addressed the changes brought about by the rifled musket. Usually 2 of the 10 companies were 'flank' companies and detailed as skirmishers with rifles, while the rest of the regiment was to be armed with smoothbores. Berdan was the first to oganize an entire brigade of specialist troops to serve as skirmishers and long range sharpshooters--all of them armed with highly accurate weapons and trained to hit targets at distances beyond the range of most infantry of the day.

His concept, and the USSS was so successful that Gen. R.E. Lee requested the CSA Congress to authorize the formation of a Corps of sharpshooters for the Army of Northern Virginia in April of 1863. So, while the USSS was being slowly bled to a skeleton, Lee was fielding a Corps of dedicated and highly trained sharpshooters. These battalions were the 'tip of the spear' who blunted many of Grant's assaults during the Overland campaign and were among the last effective combat units left to surrender at Appomattox

The Mores of the time also played a factor. To most people of the era, shooting a enemy from a great distance when he couldn't see you was considered little better than murder. The concept of standing in ranks and volleying away was still considered the most civilized way to conduct warfare. Southern newspapers advocated for the prompt execution of any Berdan sharpshooter captured. There is no evidence that this happened, but it reflects the attitude of the time.

Great post. Keep them coming.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:41 pm 
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The demonization of the enemy is an important compartmentalization that a soldier performs in order to justify the taking of a life. This may be done wholly, or at the moment you pull the trigger. The concept of honor amongst soldiers shifted as time progressed. You'll see this concept displayed vividly during WWI when you have English posters of Germans bayoneting babies. This concept was embraced by states to great effect. What made a sharpshooter's job so distasteful is that it didn't require this view of the enemy, matter of fact, there need not be any strong emotional response at all and the enemy you are shooting may not even be a direct threat to you. It is this that perpetuated the "cold blooded" view of sharpshooters. In a way this is still true, but the view isn't by their comrades, but rather the enemy hunted.

This brings us back to the demonization, portion of the post. This sharpshooter's craft is accepted because it get results, and is inflicted against an enemy who is considered less than human. This view began to take root in Vietnam, as nothing speaks louder than results. The animosity that modern sharpshooters have to deal with his mostly a result of them being viewed as "hot dogs" or considering themselves better than their fellow soldiers. This may be true in some, I've certainly met them. But for the most part, it is the reaction of a uniform organization to something that doesn't quite fit.

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Company B, 1st USSS Regt.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:11 pm 
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Also...does anyone have any idea why I can't register on the Authenic Campaigner Forum?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:17 pm 
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Jboring wrote:
The demonization of the enemy is an important compartmentalization that a soldier performs in order to justify the taking of a life. This may be done wholly, or at the moment you pull the trigger. The concept of honor amongst soldiers shifted as time progressed. You'll see this concept displayed vividly during WWI when you have English posters of Germans bayoneting babies. This concept was embraced by states to great effect. What made a sharpshooter's job so distasteful is that it didn't require this view of the enemy, matter of fact, there need not be any strong emotional response at all and the enemy you are shooting may not even be a direct threat to you. It is this that perpetuated the "cold blooded" view of sharpshooters. In a way this is still true, but the view isn't by their comrades, but rather the enemy hunted.

This brings us back to the demonization, portion of the post. This sharpshooter's craft is accepted because it get results, and is inflicted against an enemy who is considered less than human. This view began to take root in Vietnam, as nothing speaks louder than results. The animosity that modern sharpshooters have to deal with his mostly a result of them being viewed as "hot dogs" or considering themselves better than their fellow soldiers. This may be true in some, I've certainly met them. But for the most part, it is the reaction of a uniform organization to something that doesn't quite fit.


Interesting insight. It's one of the reasons why the Civil War was such a hard war...can't really rationalize demonizing somebody who is essentially "you" if geography and chance hadn't been slightly different...

Glad for the views of a Real Life veteran, glad to have you.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:41 am 
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Glad to be here :-)

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