Technical Sergeant John E. Boitnott, Korean War Sniper
By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)
From the December 2008 issue of SOF
To instruct the 5th Marine Regiment’s newly organized sniper school, the regimental commander recruited his unit’s Distinguished Riflemen and high expert shooters, among them Staff Sergeant John E. Boitnott. Considered by many to be the Corps’ most accomplished Korean War sniper, this competitive rifleman—who’d earned his Distinguished Badge two years earlier—helped teach the course and then returned to the front lines to try his own hand at scoped rifle shooting.
Early on it became a personal affair for Boitnott when a Chinese sniper’s bullet ricocheted off his helmet. Clearly, enemy snipers were targeting the 5th Regiment’s trenches on Outpost Yoke, but it was almost impossible to spot them. Then Boitnott devised a winning (though dangerous) countersniping technique. Partnering with Private First Class Henry Friday, Boitnott hunkered down, rifle ready, eye to his scope, while Friday voluntarily trotted along a trench line to lure Chinese fire. Sure enough, an enemy sniper rose to the bait, plinking a shot at the Marine lines—and taking in return a dead-on shot that ended his sniping career. Witnessed by Lieutenant Homer Johnson, the distance was later plotted on a map: 670 yards.
TO SNARE A CHICOM
Over the next two days Private Henry and Staff Sergeant Boitnott continued this tactic, resulting in nine confirmed kills at ranges up to 1,250 yards. However, when war correspondents publicized their controversial countersniping effort, higher command halted it. The 5th Regiment’s 1953 staff journal recorded Sergeant Boitnott’s continuing sniping:
“July 14—In mid-afternoon Sgt. Boitnott on Outpost Bruce expended one round in killing one enemy.”
“July 15—S/Sgt. Boitnott on Outpost Bruce expended eight rounds of rifle ammunition in killing four enemy.”
“July 17—This morning S/Sgt. Boitnott on Outpost Bruce killed one enemy at long range with a rifle and four hours later killed another.”
“July 18—S/Sgt. Boitnott of “I” Company killed one enemy with one round of rifle fire.”
As a result of his deadeye shooting, Boitnott was meritoriously promoted to technical sergeant, while reports of his countersniping appeared in newspapers all across America.
Extract from The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting by Major John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.).
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