New book: One Shot Kills – A History of Australian Army Sniping

One Shot Kills
A History of Australian Army Sniping
By Glenn Wahlert and Russell Linwood

Australian Army Combat Support Series – 2
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $19.95 in paperback ISBN 9781922132659

It will be obvious to anyone reading my blogs that I am in ‘catch up’ mode – trying to get through all the great books I’ve been sent for review in the past months. This book should have received my attention earlier.

One Shot Kills is co-written by two qualified Army marksmen with the express intention of relating the true stories of actual snipers and in the process, separating fact from fiction, while at the same time improving the existing body of knowledge about this highly specialised skill.

One incredible fact the authors reveal is the longest confirmed sniper shot in history: 2,815 metres by the Australians in Afghanistan, although they add a note of sensible caution to discourage sensationalism surrounding the reporting of the number of ‘kills’ and similar claims.

An authors’ Q&A reveals some interesting insights:

On the increasingly “surgical” precision in warfare: They believe such warfare is only going to become more frequently used to limit mass casualties through selective and definitive action. Snipers, they say, are ideally suited to do that. Before too long, it is possibly even going to be robotised.

Why so few Australian publications from snipers? “The brutal reality is that in World War I, many just did not make it home. One of the very few who did, and wrote about it, was Ion Idriess, a prolific writer. Following World War II and Korea, like their WW I counterparts, few snipers wanted to write about their terrible experiences, remembering in those days, sniping was regarded by even fellow soldiers as unsporting” or even “uncivilised”. Even worse, they felt that folks back home could regard them as “almost criminal” e.g. how do you tell your son what you really did in the war? Attitudes have changed over time, and nowadays that perception has changed, and snipers are now rightly regarded as “force multipliers” who actually reduce the rate of casualties by more quickly destroying the enemy’s capacity to keep fighting by taking out their commanders and key weapon system operators, meaning fewer casualties over all.”

About their research for the book: “We spent two years of research and writing, including finding and interviewing retired snipers from the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most interesting aspect of the research was interviewing veteran snipers from past wars. These men were so appreciative that someone was interested in their stories after so many years. Most had rarely spoken of their Army experiences.

The most memorable of the stories related to me comes from an interview I did with a Korean War veteran and sniper. About a month after their arrival in Korea, Robbie Robertson and Lance Gully were tasked with providing a protection detail for their battalion’s commanding officer, who liked to be well forward with the troops. On this day, the commanding officer’s party had just arrived at an apple orchard near the town of Yonju. While the Commanding Officer gave his orders to his company commanders, both Gully and Robertson reconnoitred the immediate area, with Gully moving to inspect what appeared to be an irrigation ditch.

Robertson suddenly ‘heard rifle shots and a flurry of grenades bursting’. The ‘irrigation ditch’ held a section of North Koreans who threw grenades at Gully as soon as he came within range. Without thinking, and in order to dodge the grenades, Gully jumped into the ditch firing from the hip. As Robertson ran towards the commotion he saw Gully ‘staggering out [of the ditch] with seven holes in him and a big flap of scalp sticking up’. As Robertson approached, Gully said breathlessly, ‘there’s a million of them in there, and they’re all yours’.”

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