I ran across this picture of Waldron last night, and it got me thinking about the man and how it is strange that the sniper who served in Vietnam and ended with the highest number of confirmed kills is almost unknown. Certainly unknown to the public and likely unknown to most of the shooting/gun world who know the name Hathcock.
Waldron was a US Army sniper who served in the 9th Infantry Division during Vietnam and operated in the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam. This area is full of rivers and creeks and rice farms. Very muddy and messy.
The Mekong area was infested with Viet Cong during most of the early part of the war. The canals and rivers let communist troops insert up into the country from the sea and acted as easy ways to bring in supplies. Being pretty much impossible to patrol with infantry troops, it was a constant focus of interdiction attempts and the use of the river boats by US forces was heavy. This was the reason for the so-called “brown water navy”.
A joint Army-Navy task force consisting of elements of the 9th Infantry Division, which included Waldron’s 3/60th Infantry, and the Mobile Riverine Force (also known as Riverines or the Brown Water Navy), were specifically designated to operate from a base deep within the Communist-controlled Delta with the mission of securing the area. As an Army sniper, Waldron often traveled on Armored Troop Carriers (ATC or Tango Boats), searching for an elusive enemy hidden along the canals, in the jungles, and among the civilians.
On the night of January 19, 1969, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron was conducting a reconnaissance mission with a squad from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment in Kien Hoa Province, South Vietnam. The group suddenly came under attack by an estimated force of forty heavily armed Viet Cong. As the fighting raged, Waldron made an incredibly bold move by leaving the safety of their defenses to set up a sniper position. Using the starlight night-vision scope on his rifle, he was able to spot the enemy maneuvering in the dark. In the ensuing gunfight, Waldron killed and wounded several VC, inflicting so many casualties that the insurgents broke contact and withdrew. For this action he was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor
Three days later, while concealed in the sniper position and looking through his night-vision scope, he spotted a large group of Viet Cong moving through the countryside. He carefully maneuvered his way through the rice paddies from one position to another, engaging the VC and making them believe that they were fighting multiple shooters. Waldron single-handedly held off the enemy for over three hours and killed eleven VC before he was forced to withdraw. He earned the Silver Star for “extraordinary heroism in close combat with an armed hostile force.”
On the night of January 30, Sergeant Waldron and a fellow soldier set up a sniper ambush position at a strategic intersection surrounded by a large rice paddy just northeast of Ben Tre. At 8 p.m., Waldron took out a Viet Cong scout maneuvering in the tree line. Forty minutes later, a squad of sixteen VC began moving towards their position. Calls for artillery were denied because of the risk to civilians in a village near their position. Despite the lack of support, Waldron decided to engage the enemy. With eight shots, he took out eight VC during the ensuing firefight at a range of over 500 meters. With half of their men dead, the remaining VC withdrew into the darkness.
Four days later, Sergeant Waldron and his teammate set up a sniper ambush position in a rice paddy just south of Ben Tre. It was just after 9 p.m. when a group of five Viet Cong suddenly appeared from a wooded area at the edge the rice paddy. A nearby ARVN unit was coming under attack and the VC were attempting to outflank their positions. Sergeant Waldron took careful aim and proceeded to pick off the enemy one by one. He killed a sixth VC attempting to gather weapons and equipment from his dead comrades. His actions helped protect the ARVN flank, saving them from further losses. From January 16 to February 4, Waldron had conducted fourteen sniper missions. For his actions in these daring night missions, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron III was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).
That’s right. First DSC. He was awarded two.
On the night of February 14, Waldron was conducting a reconnaissance mission with a squad near Ap Phu Thuan, in Kien Hoa Province. While patrolling the countryside, the team engaged a large force of Viet Cong moving to attack a nearby Allied unit. During the firefight, Sergeant Waldron maneuvered through the brush, firing his rifle from one position to another, killing several VC in the process. Suffering heavy losses, the insurgents were confused over the size and strength of the American unit they had encountered and withdrew. Due to the efforts of Waldron and his squad, the VC were routed, and a major attack was thwarted.
On February 26, Sergeant Waldron was riding in an ATC with the Mobile Riverine Force through the Mekong Delta. The boat was sailing near Phu Tuc when Waldron noticed something suspicious in the trees along the shoreline. Using his rifle, he spotted a Viet Cong team preparing to fire a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) at their boat. With great skill and accuracy, Waldron eliminated both VC while the Tango Boat was still moving. This was an incredible feat of marksmanship, but it may not have been the only time he accomplished such a shot. According to the commander of the 9th Infantry Division, Major General Julian Ewell:
“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.” Ewell noted that Tango boats moved at speeds of two to four knots and about 100-150 meters parallel to the shore.
For numerous acts of heroism in Kien Hoa Province from February 5 to March 29, 1969, Sergeant Adelbert F. Waldron III was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross. In just a short time, he had developed a reputation as the deadliest sniper in the Mekong Delta, earning him the nickname, Daniel Boone. After serving eight months in the jungles of Vietnam, Sergeant Waldron’s unit returned to the United States in July 1969.
Waldron also made good use of helicopter sniping tactics with the Starlight optic. Reportedly using the chopper to draw fire at night, then using his night vision to fire down on the communist troops trying to shoot down the chopper.
During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Sergeant Waldron had 109 confirmed kills.
Being in the Army in Vietnam mean Waldron used the XM21 sniper rifle. Which is a national match M14 that mounted the ART II optic. The ART system was a Redfield 3x-9x that was part of a complex system of cams and adjustments that automatically zeroed the scope as you ranged. Turning the power ring let you range a target using two stadia lines that you would line up on a target’s shoulder and waist. Once they line up, the range ladder on the Redfield would give you the yardage. The Leatherwood system externally moved the optic to zero if for that range. No further need to adjust the elevation on the scope. The caming system was matched to the M118 ammo used. Pretty simple to use once fitted to the gun and zeroed. Not simple to actually set up and zero to get working.
As for the M21/M14, I have already said all I am going to say about that at other times. see below.
Waldron had a mysterious post war life that is not easy to research and appears to be more rumor mill than fact. So I will skip that. Waldron never did write a book or give lectures and take advantage of his war time accomplishments, so little is known about him.
On October 18, 1995, Adelbert F. Waldron III died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-two. His remains are interred at the Riverside National Cemetery in California.
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