Book Review: Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam (by Michael Lee Lanning) : VN

Book Review: Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam (by Michael Lee Lanning) : VN

8/12/2001 • Reviews, Vietnam Book Reviews

Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam, by Michael Lee Lanning, Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, 1998, $20.

There have been sharpshooters and snipers ever since the advent of firearms. In the military in Vietnam, it took some 204 hours of special training to produce a sniper. It took less than a second for him to earn his pay. Whether he “pulled down” on a highly decorated NVA officer or some anonymous VC cadre, the American sniper faced unique challenges in Vietnam. He was fighting in unfamiliar jungle terrain, forced to “outguerrilla” the guerrilla enemy–with the element of surprise and a telescope-equipped rifle.

Novels and movies have portrayed snipers as heartless killers, but they were just highly skilled soldiers and Marines, trained for a specific job. They included men like Ed Eaton, who recorded most of his kills beyond 500 meters, including one from a moving helicopter at night. Marine Sergeant Charles Mawhinney recorded 216 probables and 103 confirmed kills–the equivalent of three NVA companies. Battlefield commanders depended on the sniper’s mental toughness, knowing that effective sniping could mean the difference between a mission’s success or failure.

One of the more interesting facts in Michael Lee Lanning’s book concerns the relative efficiency of the sniper vs. the ordinary infantryman. In World War II, U.S. troops expended 25,000 small-arms rounds per enemy killed. With the advent of more automatic weapons, that number doubled to 50,000 rounds per kill in Korea. In Vietnam, since every soldier carried a rifle capable of fully automatic fire, the number swelled to 200,000. By contrast, U.S. snipers averaged one kill for every 1.7 rounds fired. Lanning believes that a pilot who shot down enough enemy planes to become an ace would be called a hero by the public, but a sniper who killed five enemy soldiers might be called a murderer–a thought-provoking point.

Colonel Calvin G. Bass
U.S. Air Force (ret.)

52 Responses to Book Review: Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam (by Michael Lee Lanning) : VN

  1. bob forster says:

    Saw the program on the History Channel about snipers. Can you tell me what awards and/or decorations Sgt Ed Eaton received. Thanks, Bob Forster, Capt. USAF ’68=71

    • dg1904 says:

      The Valley Herald, Milton-Freewater, Oregon, reports he was awarded 3 Purple Hearts, 3 Bronze Stars with Valor device, 4 Air Medals, and numerous Army Commendation Medals along with other miscellaneous medals throughout his career.

      • Bill Wilmeth says:

        I’d be interested to know what Ed Eaton is doing today. He is a brave soldier and a genuine hero. Are there any other accounts of his night action that saved his comrades’ life?

  2. Marco Huesch says:

    Wondered myself… but not on the CMOH website, nor on on-line lists of Army DSC winners. Beats me…sounded like a CMOH citation for sure.

    • dg1904 says:

      Again from the Valley Herald, “At this time, Col. Pete Peterson and Major Perkins are requesting the Army to properly award Eaton a Medal commensurate to his actions on April 3, 1969.”

  3. Bill Smith says:

    I couldn’t find a listing for Ed Eaton in the CMOH or DSC lists for Vietnam. Seems like a serious oversight, in light of his manifest heroism in refusing to leave a comrade to be captured. There have been a number of incidents of late when belated recognition has been bestowed on one of these deserving warriors. If he has been overlooked in this respect, perhaps this is a case that should be pushed for a high -ranking award, DSC at a minimum.

  4. 308 says:

    What are some of your favorite books and media collections documenting the Vietnam War?

  5. Loren R. England says:

    I am still waiting to learn how Sgt Ed Eaton and the captain he went back to die with were rescued since they both were interviewed they must have survived or is this a embellisment on a not so true story.

  6. Charles says:

    I have known Mike Perkins personally for the last 15 years. He is not one to embellish stories. And yes, the story is true.

  7. Billy says:

    Just saw the television show about Snipers. Having served in the 82nd ABN and been around many brave men, including snipers, the story about SGT Ed Eaton was truly something to behold. It makes me proud to be an American – to read about such heroism, for him to have not been awarded the CMOH is a HUGE oversight, in my opinion, and should be remedied ASAP!

  8. Wake says:

    How did Eaton and the other soldier survive?

  9. Mike says:

    I had the same question about what happened next. I found it here:

    It’s the same book that Brent linked to above but this link allows you to read the book in your browser.

    The link takes you to where the chapter about Mike Perkins (the injured man) starts. It’s on page 221. A couple of pages are missing (Google’s way of getting you to buy the book). The part that is in the TV show is there though and it starts on page 225.

  10. Moe says:

    I was wondering the same thing since seeing this show the other night. This is all I found…

    “He was able to keep the enemy at bay until help arrived.

    “I spent a couple of weeks in the hospital before I could walk again, and then I went back into the field again after 30 days,” Eaton said.”

    It would’ve been nice for them to at least mention that. I think he deserves a CMOH but I’m just a nobody.

  11. Ed Eaton says:

    To clarify a couple things:
    Lanning misquoted me on the distance of my kills. Most were under 500m not over.

    In reference to the Hist channel storyi and as to how Maj. perkins and myself got out. Our Bn. Commander came in later. We thought for sure we were left alone but thank God; only thought it. I caught a ride on a Cobra that took me to a rice pattie where I was later picked up by a Dustoff.

    As to Awards for this action. Mike while in a hosp. in Japan requested action to be taken on this matter. Our Bn. was in the process of leaving VN and I’m sure that in that hectic situation the paperwork was lost.

    Ed Eaton 3/60th 9th ID 68-69

    • Paul Dodson says:

      I enjoyed watching the show. I admire you for your bravery and service to our country. Please let me know if there is a petition I could sign for you.

      Many Blessings,


    • Oli says:

      Mr. Eaton I salute you.

    • Steve George says:

      I just watched the sniper show on History Channel, and your story was absolutely inspiring. It was a gross injustice to overlook your barvery and valor under such overwhelming odds. You are a true hero. I hope your story gains the right attention to look into this and award you your well deserved MOH. I was truly shocked when I looked on the net to read your “citation”, only to see you hadn’t receive one. This needs to be fixed ASAP!

    • Moe says:

      Mr. Eaton,

      I find it such an honor to even be talking to you. You are a true hero and an inspiration to those of us who may soon find ourselves in similar situations.


      • Bill Wilmeth says:


        I have known guys like you, who are reluctant to prolcaim or even discuss the details of their actions in dire situations, as well as the outcomes and consequences. If nothing else is ever done to recognize your actions, please know that you have inspired a number of us to pause, thank God for his mercy, and bless the fact that men like you walk among us.

        Bill Wilmeth
        Ogden, UT

    • andrew says:

      You and Hackworth are both heroes and both deserve the Medal of Honor and I cannot believe you were not decorated for your amazing act of courage and self sacrifice not to mention skill. I had trouble geting 6 rounds into a half inch group at 50 metres with a scope zeroed for 100. No one was shooting at me it was daytimeetc etc. You are a I repeat a real life heroe. God bless you . AB

    • Russ Halvorsen says:


      You are one hell of a man! Proud to call you my friend. You deserve the MOH, no question about it.

      Hope to see you soon.


    • Cryingwolf says:

      Sgt. Eaton:

      Thank you for adding your comments to this page and stating what happened after the incident in the Mekong Delta. Like many others I saw the sniper program on the History Channel and started searching for what happened to you. I sat watching the segment about you and Mr. Perkins at my friends’ home with tears in my eyes, yelling “CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR!” repeatedly.

      Men like you – who not only served their country, as I did mine, but who placed their life before their brother’s without hesitation in such a selfless act of sacrifice – truly define the word “hero”.

      Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know, and I thank you for your actions on my behalf, my husband’s behalf (5th Group Special Forces, deceased), and on behalf of the United States of America.

      You have my word that I will write letters as many others in this forum will do; the oversight of your actions by your command is a tragedy. Please know your actions that night did not go unnoticed and there are those of us out here who know exactly what you did and how much it means.

    • Mike says:

      Mr. Eaton,

      My ten year old son and I watched your story on the History Channel last night. You are an inspiring man. I will reference your story when the topics of bravery and courage are discussed. As well as loyalty and honor. Thank you for your service and I hope you are well.

    • David Lesperance says:

      you had to pro tect your buddy and you did, with out regard for your, for your own life. i am proud of you sir, and you will be rewared by a highed power than our messed up gov…i wish you the best

    • Dennis Gleason says:

      I haven’t seen you in years. It’s about time for you to rotate back to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, so I can buy you a bucket full of beer. If you should by some miracle ever see this note, you know how to find me.

      Your Friend,

      Dennis Gleason

    • Nancy Asbridge says:

      Thank you for your service to our country.

  12. SClev says:

    Truly a remarkable story. The fact Mr. Eaton was not awarded the CMOH for his actions is appalling I am writing letters to my Senators requesting that his actions be reviewed and some commendation awarded. I’m certain there were many selfless acts carried out in Vietnam where nobody survived to tell the story. In this instance, however, is documented and Mr. Eaton should be shown the nations sincere gratitude and admiration he deserves. As for the BN., well shame on him.

    • Dennis Gleason says:

      You are absolutely correct, sir. I grew up with Sgt. Ed Eaton and went through high school with him. From what I’ve read about his combat missions, there is little doubt that he should at least be nominated for the CMOH.

  13. BCOMBS says:

    National Hero….deserves CMOH….I will send a letter to my Senator…..

  14. Dave Davis says:

    Sgt. Eaton, Thank you for your clarifications on how the incident concluded. You are a true “American Hero” and I also believe you should be awarded the Medal of Honor.

  15. Keith Bills says:

    I’ve heard of many selfless, compelling acts of heroism, but Ed’s story is amongst the most selfless one I’ve heard against an incredibly overwhelming force. If this is not conspicuous gallantry I do not know what is. Ed, you are a remarkable man and one that I am extremely proud to call a fellow American. I too will be writing my Senator. Thank you for being who you are!
    Keith Bills CDR, USCG (Ret.)

  16. Al says:

    How sad that such a man is not acknowedged properly by our country.Please America, the CMOH.
    Semper Fidelis

  17. D. McNelly says:

    Sgt. Eaton, Thank you for you service to our country. I saw the History Channel program covering your stand at the downed helicopter and your refusal to leave Major Perkins, who was certain to be overrun by the enemy. I think it stated on the program that you were Nineteen years old at the time. I was awestruck by the bravery, character and valor that you demonstrated at that young age. I was impressed by all aspects of your action. I have read a number of CMOH citations, and while all of them are impressive, I have seen few that showed the numerous, effective and deliberate actions that were so clearly self sacrificing.

    I certainly hope that you do get the CMOH you deserve for two reasons. First, I would like you to get the recognition you clearly deserve. Secondly, I would like for our nation not to miss out on the extraordinary example of all human qualities you have demonstrated. If we do not elevate heros like yourself, how can we ever expect future generations to know what is possible. If someone even comes close to what you did, or only does a portion of it, I would think it appropriate for CMOH consideration. All the men that were there with you that night likely owe their lives to you. And we all owe our freedom and way of life to you, and men like you, who have given everything to preserve it. Thank You is not enough. God Bless You!


    Doug McNelly
    San Jose, CA

  18. Jim Whitney says:

    I just saw the history channel and discovered your intense involvement in the Vietnam War.
    For all the years of our friendship and sips of terrific whiskey and conversation in Alaska,and seeing you occasionally in eastern oregon over the years, barely 4 years after this unbelievable and extraordinary experience, not hardly a whisper of this experience was ever discussed. Amazing.
    Your only comment was,”you can’t believe all the crap I was in, in Vietnam”. I left it at that.
    My friend, I commend you for the risks you took for your country, for your self, and for your friends you stuck with through the most challenging of situations.
    Now I understand how Alaska was such a cakewalk for you. The Alaskan stories we shared were just “living” risks we both took while up there.
    So, the next time you are in Eastern Oregon, give me a call and I will buy you the dinner and the whiskey(however, not the 6 in a row that you recieved one night in the Porpoise Room in Homer, Alaska. We might even discuss airplanes, beaches and tides!! All in the course of Great Memories.
    The best to you, my friend.


  19. Paul H. - Lover of "Kentucky Windage" says:

    And for further clarification & for those wondering why someone couldn’t throw Mike Perkins into one of the rescue Huey’s depicted on the History Channel, & yet for those also wondering where the 3rd seat was located in the Cobra that Ed Eaton escaped to the rice paddy with…

    The rescue Hueys were incorrectly shown on the History Channel, they were Cobra gunships that were supporting the unit, and when they ran out of ammo, they came back for the men. Cobra’s are canopied 2-person gunships, so the men had to ride on the 3 foot winglets, outside of the aircraft. That’s why Mike said, “I’ll fall off.” With his injuries, he knew he couldn’t hold on to the winglet.

    I’m guessing that later, Mike was picked up by a Huey & Ed rode the winglet of another Cobra to a rice patty where he was medavaced out.

    Ed, I commend you on your heroism. I know you were just doing your job & trying to stay alive, but you truly deserve the CMOH. Hopefully the History Channel has rekindled the spark needed to get you the well-deserved Medal of Honor. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you did & all you continue to do. Without you, gifts like Tawna wouldn’t exist & people like Mike wouldn’t be around to influence his students the way he does, Because of you, the world truly is a better place.

  20. Michael from Abq says:

    D. McNelly and Paul H. hit the nail on the head in regards to Ed Eaton more than deserving the CMOH! During the last 40 years, it seems as though you have to get killed or almost killed to even be considered for the CMOH! Believe or not, people can commit great acts of heroism and live to tell about it! Yes, the two World Wars and the Korean War were horrific conflicts with many acts of heroism, but to suggest that the men who fought in Vietnam, or are fighting now, have done less is highly insulting at best! We will not take away the glory of the men who fought the first half of the 20th century by recognizing the glory of the men who have fought since. To the people who make these decisions: Recognize these brave men for the reasons stated above in the other comments, but also do it because its the RIGHT thing to do!

  21. John Scordato says:

    Sgt. Eaton,

    After watching the history channel special I was surprised to see that you were not listed among the very special breed of men that we call heroes or Medal of Honor recipients.
    To go back and save your superior under fire and wait until you were both rescued certainly fills the the task of bravery.

    Congrats ! You are among the most respected solider and fellow man.


  22. […] Thinking himself left for dead, Ed told Mike that the last two bullets were for himself and the injured friend but was rescued before it came down to that decision.  Ed Eaton described his rescue on the commentary for the book Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam, by Michael Lee Lanning, on the website […]

  23. B.C. says:

    I just saw the show in Asia (yes, this is a neutral opinion from an Asian) and it blew my mind the capabilities and capacities of the characters profiled. Once you heard of existence of an actual person with such fearless courage and selflessness like Ed and not a just Hollywood character to top that off, you know America is in good hands and will rebound to remain the most powerful nation in the world for the foreseeable future despite all the talks by pundits that China will soon to overtake America. Whilst I am unfamiliar with the criterion in awarding the Medal of Honor, I think common sense in any culture would conclude that Ed had max-out any yardstick of bravery, etc. Having said that, not honoring Ed with a Medal of Honor may indeed a sign of malaise in governmental decision-making and the beginning of the end of the mighty America. Please prove me wrong.

  24. ray quitlong,jr says:

    i saw the account of sgt eaton’s heroic feat in history channel,manila last was an extra-ordinary effort for a nineteen year old..if we are to compare this generation’s nineteen year olds to that 19 year old soldier in vietnam more than 4 decades ago,most will conclude that indeed, sgt ed eaton deserves the highest military award..

  25. Steve Goff says:

    Dear Mr.Eaton,
    I am simply in awe. God bless.

  26. Mike says:

    I saw the Sniper program, it was very interesting indeed.
    However the Ed Eaton story, is without doubt an epic tale of heroism and selfless bravery, it simply gave me goosebumps.
    Ed Eaton, from a British citizen.. you epitomise what constitutes a true hero and deserve the very highest acolade and award possible for your actions, I sincerely hope this happens to you sir.

  27. FrankVII says:

    Sgt Eaton,

    I enlisted in the Army and served from Feb 73 to Feb 77. I went to Infantry, Airborne and Ranger schools. I spent all my time (except for the above training) in the 82nd Airborne Division. My enlistment was just as our involvement in Vietnam was ending so I never saw combat. However, your bravery was the kind that I always hoped I was capable of. I will never know if I am truly capable of it; you will always know that you are!

    My best to you and I hope that you get the recognition and awards that you deserve.

  28. Don says:

    The Ed Eaton sniper episode is one incredible account of heroism. I spent most of 1969 in the boonies in Vietnam. I was honored to witness first hand the dedication and bravery of so many magnificent young men. We saw our share of pretty terrifying days but I still can’t imagine the incredible courage it took to do what Ed Eaton did that day. I salute you sir.

  29. Jeremy says:

    I hope that Sgt. Eaton receives his due MOH in a timely manner so that he receives it in person and not posthumously. I think a petition should be created and then sent to congress or has something like that already been created? Either way, I salute you Mr. Eaton. You are a true hero!

  30. Unaka John says:

    Ed Eaton…Around 1964 I was devastated when I was sent home for medical reasons, and the Army said they did not need me. Within a few months, when the true situation and chaos of Vietnam became known, I began to thank God daily for what I originally thought was a raw deal. We all now know what effect Vietnam had on an entire generation. I cannot imagine being able to summon the courage you showed. You now know the limits of your own mind, heart, and soul. I envy the self assurance you must feel to realize you were willing to offer your fellow man the greatest sacrifice any of us can ever make…your own life! God bless you, there are thousands like me who already hold you in the highest regard, with or without the MOH.

  31. Branson Willis says:

    Freedom lives and you live, in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

  32. Larry Starnes says:

    My CO – Captain Charles Q. Williams – while I was stationed in Germany 1967 – 1969 was the 2nd soldier to receive the MOH in Viet Nam. I have met and visited with Colonel Don “Doc” Ballard also received the MOH for his actions in Viet Nam. These men are not just soldier’s they are GREAT SOLDIER’S as is Ed Eaton because they are willing to give it all up for their fellow man.
    I have read every MOH Citation since it was started during the Civil War and many I have read several times. Ed Eaton should be one of those to receive The Metal of Honor.
    I will also contact my senator – this has to be done
    Larry from Missouri

  33. tony says:

    Let’s not forget all the other heroes who took part in that war both american and vietnamese. I think the vc get a raw deal in all the movies and documetaries. They took on tanks, heavy bombers artillery with little more than ak47`s. Now that takes balls.

  34. james fairley says:

    I am from glasgow scotland after listening to ed eaton on history channel i thought for a nineteen year old outstanding bravery and to go back into the lions den to help a comrade when an opportunity to leave came, true grit and guts. If he was british the v.c.would have been awarded for his actions a team player

  35. Ed Eaton says:

    While Michael wrote a good book; he did get one thing wrong. Most of my kills were under 500m not over.

    Ed Eaton

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