Eric England (born 1933 in Union County, Georgia) was a sniper for the United States Marine Corps 3rd Marine Division during the Vietnam War. Joining the US Marine Corps in 1950, England was a Nationals rifle shooting champion by age 19 in 1952.
In 1968, he won the all-time long-range champion (998 points out of 1000 with 45 Xs). He also won the Leech Cup (1000 yards open sights) and the Coast Guard cup. The year he won the Leech cup, he was there with Carlos Hathcock who won the Vanderbilt cup (1000 yards scoped). The Leech Cup is the oldest trophy awarded in competitive target shooting in the United States. Firing is with rifles equipped with metallic, non-magnifying sight The trophy is awarded to the highest-scoring competitor in the Long Range High Power Championship, determined through a 10-shot shoot off, after shooting 20 shots at 1000 yards slow fire prone. He held this record for 42 years. He has had a 24 year career on the USMC rifle team, winning national and international competitions as participant and coach. He also participated on two Olympic teams.
He currently holds a record as one of the five American service members with the highest number of confirmed kills. He is listed as having had 98 confirmed kills, with dozens more listed as "probables". While Marine Corps sniper legend Carlos Hathcock is generally given credit for being the top ranking US Marine Corps sniper, he actually had 93 confirmed kills, behind Chuck Mawhinney who had 103 confirmed kills, and England who had 98. When the US Army snipers are included, England shows to be ranked at third overall, with US Army sniper Adelbert Waldron moving to first with 109 confirmed kills. However, Eric England had 98 confirmed within only seven months' time, before being medically evacuated. (England had many solo sniping missions, and witnesses were not always available to confirm his kills which may have been 200 or 300. England has never mentioned his number of kills; this estimate had to be obtained from former USMC officers who knew him. The same situation was true for Carlos Hathcock and other scout-snipers.)
Although little known outside of sniper circles, England is highly respected. Carlos Hathcock was once quoted as saying, "Eric is a great man, a great shooter, and a great Marine."
‘It wasn't me, it was Old Yeller’, England had said,
referring to his trusty target rifle which he had nicknamed.
See more of “Old Yeller” at the NRA Museum, go here!
in the Historic Union County Courthouse
A sculpture in England's honor was erected at the Union County courthouse in Union County, Georgia, in 2006. Guest speakers included former Governor of Georgia and US Senator Zell Miller, also a former Marine, and a friend of England; and Maj. Jim Land, USMC, Ret., in Vietnam.
Sculpture as displayed Memorial Day, 2011
Eric England is holding the trophy (left). The third from the left is Zell Miller, former Senator and Governor of Georgia and Eric's cousin. The younger fellow holding the sculpture is the sculptor Andy Davis.
“Local hero honored by Historical Society”
March 2, 2006
By JARED PUTNAM Union Sentinel Editor
“Zell Miller speaks at the tribute to Eric England before helping to unveil the sculpture depicting England as a sharp-shooter. The Union County Historic Courthouse was the site of a special tribute Sunday, as guests packed the Candler-Duckworth Courtroom to honor retired Marine Master Sergeant Eric England, ‘history’s greatest long-range shooter and legendary scout-sniper.
England, a native of Union County, served in the Marine Corps from 1950-1974. His service included time in Vietnam as a sniper with the 3rd Marine Division. England established his national marksmanship record at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1968. Not only has it never been broken, it is actually the longest standing shooting record in history at the National Rifle Association. England also participated on two Olympic teams.
Sunday's ceremony included the presentation of a sculpture depicting England as a sharp-shooter, and featured a guest list that included members of England's family, old army buddies, and former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Zell Miller.
Eric Rich, England's only nephew, began by explaining how much of an impact his uncle had on his life. "From a young boy uncle Eric has and always will be my hero," said Rich. ‘Whether it was him teaching me how to shoot, how to hunt or how to fish, I always wanted to make my uncle proud. Well today uncle, I'm proud of you.’
Another speaker, Franklin Hunter, entertained the audience with childhood tales about England, always being careful to edit his stories enough to keep from getting England or Senator Miller into any trouble with their wives. One such story involved coaxing a drunk cat into a mailbox, before watching its inevitable dash in and out of a startled mailman's car windows.
When Senator Miller took the podium he spoke about England's early years in the military. ‘When Eric came home he was as sharp, squared away, and spit and polished as anything I had ever seen. He looked like he stepped off a Marine Corps. recruiting poster. I thought he was 10 feet tall,’ said Miller, ‘and I still do.’
Senator Miller later talked about going to the Baseball Hall of Fame with Hank Aaron, comparing England's stature at Quantico to the legendary homerun king's presence in baseball circles. People were ‘nudging one another and whispering, 'That's Eric England.' That's the kind of man we are honoring here today.’
Another former Marine, Major Jim Land of the NRA, described England as ‘one of the most humble people I know.’ Land recalled that when England set his marksmanship record he immediately brushed it off. ‘It wasn't me, it was Old Yeller’, England had said, referring to his trusty rifle which he had nicknamed. [Old Yeller as he called his rifle is a far cry from the target rifles of today and is on exhibit at the NRA museum.]
Land went on to remark about how truly talented England was. ‘It almost wasn't fair,’ said Land. "He was so knowledgeable, so capable... his enemy was really handicapped. [But] the thing he did that was more important than any enemy he annihilated, he taught the youngsters how to use a rifle." Land seemed to capture the sentiments of all who spoke about England as he finished, saying, ‘Eric is one of the greatest Americans I know.’
Near the end of the ceremony, both Land and Senator Miller unveiled the sculpture, a donation made to the Union County Historical Society in honor of England's outstanding service to his country. The sculpture not only depicts England in his days as a sharpshooter, but also includes the signatures of many former Marines and replicas of marksmanship awards that England earned throughout his life.
As for England himself, he stayed true to his humble nature, speaking only briefly during the tribute to acknowledge others. England thanked the historical society, as well as the guests in attendance, before recognizing his military buddies and all those who currently have loved ones serving in the armed forces.
In 2009, PFC Sherri Gallagher of the USAMU broke the oldest record in High Power shooting: the 1000 point aggregate. Gallagher shot a 999-67x to win the Remington-Bushmaster Open, breaking Eric England's 42-year-old record of a 998-45x. In perfect symmetry, both records were set on Easley Range, Fort Benning, Georgia.
Eric England used this rifle, “Ole Yeller”,
a Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifle
Sherri Gallagher used this rifle, times change!