Growing up in the 1950s, I saw an awful lot of World War II movies on TV. And in a lot of those movies, there were snipers. The German sniper was always up in a bell tower; the Japanese sniper, up a palm tree. And I don’t remember ever seeing an American or British sniper.
Snipers were bad guys, almost the same as assassins. Only the enemy had snipers. Yes, I know that isn’t true. Of course our side had snipers, too. But in the movies the sniper was always some Axis villain picking off our boys from high up in the bell tower.
Now snipers are good guys and America is proud of them. That’s how it is today.
In Civil War movies, both Blue and Grey had snipers but they were called “sharpshooters,” never snipers, and theirs was presented as a brave and honorable calling that helped their side win battles. I do not understand the difference between a sniper and a sharpshooter.
Anyhow, the question is, how did snipers go from being bad guys, only employed by the enemy, to good guys fighting for America? How did that happen?
Or am I just remembering it all wrong?
5 comments on “Do I Remember This Correctly?”
Perhaps snipers were portrayed as bad men because there was an implied sense of cheating without honor? Perhaps because our wars were fought on enemy soil? They knew their land, probably played sniper games, without “rules,” as children. Perhaps the movie makers wanted to show the American soldier was better at hand to hand combat and our weapons were better as well, so only a sniper in a sneak attack could get the better of him? Perhaps as foreign nations became better trained, funded and psychotically enraged, and our forces began suffering large casualties, America needed specially trained warriors to engage in stealth warfare who were even better trained and especially, whose missions were secretive? I’m sorry I just can’t seem to wrap this up. Thanks for something to think about.
IT SEEMS TO ME OUR SOLDIERS WERE ALWAYS TRYING TO TAKE LAND BACK FROM THE JAPS AND GERRYS, WHO, OF COURSE, WOULD ALREADY BE OCCUPYING THE ADVANTAGEOUS HIGH GROUND OR CONCEALED POSITION. NOW, AS ALWAYS, OUR SNIPERS ARE TRYING TO PROTECT OUR SOLDIERS FROM THE ENEMY LOOKING TO COUNTER-ATTACK. ANYWAY, THAT’S HOW IT FIGURES TO ME..
Being a sniper was only an “honorable” profession or sorts after Vietnam. In fact, during the Revolution one of the complaints from the honorable officer corp of the British Empire, who carried with them the hundreds of years of valor fighting your enemy face-to-face on the open European battlefield, thought this business of the militia colonists fighting behind trees and scurrying through the woods in a quasi-guerrilla war, was appalling. Honorable soldiers just did not fight that way.
The sharpshooter of Civil War fame actually fought from the same positions as the average soldier. hence still maintaining an element of face-to-face fighting your enemy… it’s just that the sharpshooter was just that.. a sharp shooter a bit better than the average soldier. As a rule the average sharpshooter did not take up a position from which to hide in a stealthy manner to drop the enemy from a hidden position while the enemy figured they were safe behind the lines. WW1 spawned sharpshooting snipers on all sides, firing from hidden positions and picking off unaware enemy soldiers.
Formal sniper schooling didn’t come into being until late WW2 and Korea. But after Korea.. and after Vietnam, formal sniper training was discontinued; there still was an aura of dishonor being a sniper. Since our involvement in the Mid East the military strategy of clandestine sniping has become a first string military tool on the modern battlefield, but as a secret, clandestine engagement operation as a per target mission, not generally assigned on routine squad missions of engagement. These days, thanks to Hollywood, there’s a bit of “romance” in being a sniper… given your target is not some poor lowly private who happens to pop up his head at a bad time, but rather focused on specific targets of high ranking leaders or political officials.
I have noticed this myself. I dunno. I’m no fan of war, but I can’t criticize nations for defending themselves and I have a lot of respect for those that fought fascism in WW II. As long as war exists, there will be some people with quite unsavory job descriptions.
In the restitution of all things, under Christ’s rule, war will be a thing of the past. I pray for that kingdom daily and live with the hope that someday soon we will see a world where no one has to be a sniper.
I think you do, because I love those old war “films” (propaganda as my dear old dad calls them). Some of the newer films show the allies with snipers, mostly Russians vs. Germans; however there were a couple from the seventies with american snipers!
One today forgets that the proper term in the modern army is sniper/scout, and most of the time they are portrayed as scouts, relaying information back to the squad.