Adelbert Waldron, forgotten sniper ace
In the first half of 1969, 36-year old Sgt Waldron of the US Army’s 9th ID in Vietnam was credited with 109 confirmed kills, making him the highest scoring US sniper in history until Chris Kyle bested him in 2011.
Snipers have been a specter of the modern battlefield since the American War of Independence when Colonial sharpshooter Timothy Murphy was reputed to have killed both Sir Francis Clerke and General Simon Fraser with single well placed shots from a distance. Fast forward two hundred years and sniping had become an obsession of the U.S. military foot soldier. In Vietnam several sniper schools produced wickedly efficient young snipers who have since become legend such as marines Charles Mawhinney, Eric England and Gunnery Sgt Carlos Hathcock Snr.
However the most successful sniper of the conflict is a little known US Army Staff Sergeant, Aldelbert “Bert” F Waldron III.
Adelbert Waldron was born March 14, 1933 in Syracuse, New York and spent his formative years hunting in the wilds of the Empire State. He joined the Navy in 1953 and left that branch after successful service as an E-5 (GMG2) in 1965. Waldron enlisted in the Army in May 1968 as a Sergeant, the equivalent rank he held in the Navy. Sgt Waldron found himself attached to Company B, 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment (Scouts Out!) of the 9th Infantry Division in South Vietnam the same year.
An expert marksman with a rifle he was chosen to attend the 9th Infantry’s in-country sniper school run by members of the Army Marksmanship Unit and formed with the blessing of the division commander Lt Gen Julian J. Ewell. The 9th Infantry was the only major U.S. Army combat unit to conduct operations in the Mekong Delta where it was part of the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF). Riding shotgun on U.S. Navy brownwater Tango Boats and PBRs the MRF attempted to clean out the multitude of insurgent units operating in that lawless VC-rich area. In this high tempo hazardous environment Waldron was placed as a sniper.
Unique among the highest scoring U.S. snipers of the conflict (Chuck Mawhinney with 103, Eric England with 98 and Carlos Hathcock with 93) who were all Marines with bolt-action rifles, Waldron was a Soldier with a semi-automatic weapon. He used an accurized M-14 rifle, known popularly as an M-21.
The M-21 Waldron used was a National Match quality weapon with a Leatherwood 3-9X Adjustable Range Telescope (ART) graduated to 600 yards (not meters) and the standard leather M1907 sling. Rock Island Arsenal converted some 1,435 of these weapons for use as sniper weapons and sent them to Vietnam in 1969. From then on it was the primary Army sniper rifle until 1988.
The M21 was accurate out to 800m and fired the M118 standard NATO 7.62mm round though most snipers used a matchgrade 173-grade hardball. Waldron at times used an early AN/PVS-2 Starlight night vision scope coupled with a suppressor and sniped targets in the middle of the night in base defense and counter-ambushes. On one such night he took no less than nine confirmed targets.
While the typical PVS-2 was only able to see a man-sized object out to about 100 yards on a starlit night, when coupled with a AN/TVS-3 500-million candlepower IR spotlight mounted to a tower or a Huey flying overhead, this illumination allowed shots out to 500 yards.
Between Dec 1968-May 1969, 9th ID snipers accounted for 934 confirmed kills, mostly in darkness in Night Hunter, Night Search, and Night Ambush operations. According to the records, just over 11 percent of these were Waldron’s alone.
Waldron was also credited with making one of the most famous near-mythical shots in sniper lore:
From Lt. Gen. Ewell in the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History’s archives:
“…, our most successful sniper was Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron, III, who had 109 confirmed kills to his credit. One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot (this from a moving platform).”
Promoted to Staff Sgt Waldron finished his tour in Vietnam with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Presidential Unit Citation, and two (2) Distinguished Service Crosses and a $50,000 bounty on his head. He taught at the US Army Marksmanship Unit briefly as a senior instructor before leaving army service in 1970.
In later years he worked for noted
mercenary private military contractor, firearms engineer and former CIA operative Mitchel WerBell III.
Waldron was WerBell’s resident firearms instructor in his private training schools at the “Farm” in Powder Springs GA. It was in that school that Waldron’s name became linked to such groups as Lyndon LaRouche’s NCLC and people still comment snidely on possible legal troubles that he may have been in.
Hey everyone wants to throw stones when they can be anonymous about it.
Waldron died in quiet obscurity on October 18, 1995 in California. He was 62 years old. The former sniper who literally owned the night for six months in the Mekong delta is buried at Riverside National Cemetery, Section AB, Row B, Site 37.
Notably, Waldron did not publish a book or lecture as many other noted snipers of the 20th century have.
His DSC Citation :
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron (ASN: RA-11938508/NSN: 4615848), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Sergeant Waldron distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period 16 January 1969 to 4 February 1969, while serving as an expert rifleman during fourteen sniper missions. On 19 January while his company was being resupplied near Ap Hoa, Kien Hoa Province, approximately forty Viet Cong unleashed a heavy barrage of small arms and automatic weapons fire. Courageously exposing himself to the fusillade, Sergeant Waldron killed a number of the aggressors and was instrumental in forcing them to break contact. On the night of 22 January in an area infested with enemy soldiers and booby traps, he skillfully located a Viet Cong probing force. Calmly moving through open rice paddies from one firing position to another, he deceived the communists as to the actual strength of his unit and prevented a night assault by the main enemy element. During the night of 3 February when a nearby Vietnamese Army unit came under attack, he moved toward the battle site and, spotting several Viet Cong attempting to flank the Vietnamese soldiers, stopped them with deadly accurate fire. Later t hat night he saw another enemy soldier gathering his comrades’ weapons and killed him also. On these and other missions, Sergeant Waldron tirelessly located and made contact with numerically superior hostile forces. By his continuous disregard for his own safety, he prevented ambushes on friendly troops and contributed greatly to the success of allied operations. Sergeant Waldron’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 1068 (March 28, 1969)
Action Date: January 16 – February 4, 1969
Company: Company B
Battalion: 3d Battalion
Regiment: 60th Infantry Regiment
Division: 9th Infantry Division
His Second DSC Citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron (ASN: RA-11938508/NSN: 4615848), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Sergeant Waldron distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period 5 February 1969 to 29 March 1969, while serving as an expert rifleman on eighteen separate sniper missions in Kien Hoa Province. On 14 February while his squad was conducting a night patrol near Ap Phu Thuan, Sergeant Waldron, observing a numerically superior hostile force maneuvering to assault a friendly unit, moved rapidly from one position to another to deceive the enemy as to the actual strength of his squad and killed several Viet Cong. As a direct result of his determination, the enemy was routed and their assault prevented. On 26 February near Phu Tuc, he located a Viet Cong team preparing to launch a rocket on a Mobile Riverine Force. He adroitly shot and killed the soldiers. At Ap Luong Long Noi on 8 March, his company was attacked by a Viet Cong force. Sergeant Waldron killed many of the communists and forced them to withdraw. Despite adverse weather conditions, poor illumination and the pressure of arduous missions night after night, he repeatedly located and engaged many hostile elements, killing a number of the enemy. Sergeant Waldron’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 2904 (August 2, 1969)
Action Date: February 5 – March 29, 1969
Company: Company B
Battalion: 3d Battalion
Regiment: 60th Infantry Regiment
Division: 9th Infantry Division
-Ewell Julian J Lt Gen “Sharpening the Combat Edge: The Use of Analysis to Reinforce Military Judgment” US Army Center for Military History Various archivists 1974
-Gilbert, Adrian Stalk, Kill The Thrill and Danger of the Sniper Experience St Martins Press 1998
-King, Dennis Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fasicsm Doubleday 1989
-Lanning, Michael, Inside the Crosshairs Snipers in Vietnam 1998 Ballentine-Random House
-Plaster, Major John L., lecture on Sniping in Vietnam, Louisville, Ky, May 2016.
-Roberts, Craig, Crosshairs on the Kill Zone: American Combat Snipers, Vietnam through Operation Iraqi Freedom 2007.