hris Kyle, the subject of American Sniper, is primarily known for two things: first and often foremost, the unfortunate circumstances of his death. But secondly, and more importantly, are his 160 confirmed kills and his estimated 255 unconfirmed kills. However, another prolific marksman by the name of Ian Robertson from Australia, had no idea how many kills he had to his name. And that's not just a matter of memory. It was simply the sheer level of his proficiency at his job.
“I never did the arithmetic. I never wanted to.”
Growing up, Robertson’s family relied on his shooting skill to get by. A cleanly killed rabbit put food on the table or money in their pocket. A missed shot meant dog food. His military story didn't take flight until he tried to fake his way into the military for service at too-young-an-age around the closing chapters of World War II. The recruiting agent caught on, called his father and he spent the remainder of the war at home. When he finally legally enlisted in 1946, there was little for him to do but sit around in Japan.
Robertson’s military career was relatively uneventful until North Korean troops poured into South Korea and the United Nations started their “police action.” This was the beginning of eight months in the freezing cold, shooting North Korean enemy targets.
If you’ve ever spent time on the range, Robertson's abilities — kill count aside — are hard to believe. He could group 15 rounds in a fist-sized target from 300 meters; he scored critical head shots from 600 meters consistently; and conditions permitting, he boasted confidence at being able to hit a target between 800 and 1000 meters (well over a half-mile) out.
Still, Robertson never talked much about his experience in the military. He didn’t want to be seen as a cold-blooded killer. And while he’s not ashamed of what he did, he didn't want to be seen as a braggart, either. He’s also not really the bloodthirsty type — so much so, he couldn’t bring himself to shoot his horse when it took ill. History is written by the victor, but wars are won and lost by young marksmen like Robertson. [H]
Nick Pell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
Images ©: Australian Army — Australian Defence Image Library