Through the Crosshairs: A History of Snipers

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In Through the Crosshairs, Andy Dougan traces the history of the sniper from the first instance of strategic shooting during the English Civil War, to the sharp-shooters in the jungles of Vietnam, and shows how the sniper, while once a pariah in the eyes of his fellow troops, has evolved into the ideal soldier for modern warfare. Dougan identifies the great marksmen of each era and explains the circumstances in which their reputations were established. From the gunman who chose not to fire on a retreating George ...

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Overview

In Through the Crosshairs, Andy Dougan traces the history of the sniper from the first instance of strategic shooting during the English Civil War, to the sharp-shooters in the jungles of Vietnam, and shows how the sniper, while once a pariah in the eyes of his fellow troops, has evolved into the ideal soldier for modern warfare. Dougan identifies the great marksmen of each era and explains the circumstances in which their reputations were established. From the gunman who chose not to fire on a retreating George Washington during the Revolutionary War, to the "white stocking" snipers of Chechnya, Through the Crosshairs provides a fascinating look at the marksmen and women who have taken up the gun to expert and deadly effect.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This breezy account of snipers and sniping since prehistory is built on specific cases: British naval icon Horatio Nelson being felled by a sniper's bullet at the pivotal Battle of Trafalgar in 1805; legendary World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle dying at the hands of a Japanese sniper in 1945. Relying exclusively on published sources, Dougan (Dynamo: Defending the Honor of Kievas), a Glasgow-based journalist, traces the evolution of weapons and tactics from "the sling and the bow" to the modern terrorist armed with "a weapon that can punch a hole in light armor at a distance of more than a mile." Dougan enlivens his narrative by employing frequent anecdotes about the pioneers and illustrious practitioners of this deadly art. On several occasions, the author uses apocryphal stories as examples even while admitting that they are likely spurious. And various errors, however minor, are too numerous to overlook. The American Revolution began at Lexington, Mass., not Kentucky; Germany invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914, not August 18; and Ernie Pyle died near Okinawa weeks before the war ended in Europe, not after. Such carelessness can only diminish the book's credibility. Agent, Lucy Vanderbilt at HarperCollins UK. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Subtitle tells all: a brisk, unexceptional history of snipers. The first recorded British death by sniper was Robert Greville, Lord Brooke, felled during the English Civil War. The sniper took aim from the Lichfield Cathedral, and Brooke never had a chance. Scottish journalist Dougan (Dynamo, 2002, etc.) shows the vital role sharpshooting has played in almost all the major wars of the 20th century, and he suggests that sniper skills have turned a few ordinary men-like Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, who killed at least 93 men in his tour of duty in Vietnam-into legends. Dougan's treatment of nonmilitary snipers is a bit less satisfying: his rehearsal of the assassination of JFK is just that, a rehearsal of familiar details. And John Muhammad and Lee Malvo's sniper escapades, Dougan rather banally says, remind "us of our abject fear of the nameless terror that strikes when we are most vulnerable and then vanishes." Dougan does offer a lot of sharpshooting trivia, which readers may want to store up for cocktail parties (by all lights, George Washington should have been shot by British sharpshooter Patrick Ferguson on the banks of Brandywine Creek, except that Ferguson couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger), and he also examines the sniper as a symbol (in the 1940s, he suggests, snipers played a critical role in Soviet propaganda, heroes who would save the Soviet Union from Hitler's aggressions). Indeed, some passages here border on propaganda: starry-eyed tales of the stealth and bravery of men like Hathcock-not to mention Dougan's description of sharpshooting as a "craft"-run the risk of glamorizing what is, ultimately, cold, clinical killing. Best for armchair military historybuffs. Still, if there's another sniper scare, expect Dougan to reinvent himself as talking-head pundit.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786717736
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

ANDY DOUGAN is a journalist and the author of the bestselling Dynamo: Defending the Honor of Kiev as well as several other books. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

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