The Father of USMC Sniping

Born in Lincoln, NB in 1935, Edward James Land, Jr.…

legends.jpgBorn in Lincoln, NB in 1935, Edward James Land, Jr. graduated at 17 from high school in 1953 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps a few days later.

After joining the Corps, he served in several stations and ultimately became a drill instructor at San Diego. “I was one of the friendly drill instructors, of course,” Maj. Land said with a laugh. During his time here he made staff sergeant, and in 1959 he was selected for OCS (Officer Candidate School). After completing OCS and basic officer’s training, Land was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the 4th Marine Regiment in Hawaii.

During his time there, Land began to lay the foundation for his future accomplishments. After a year as a platoon commander, Land started shooting competitively and was selected for the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific rifle and pistol team. On his own initiative, Land worked with CWO Arthur Terry to found the Corps’ first modern sniper course.

Legends Cross Paths
The first class was conducted in June 1961 and the second was run only months later. During that second class Land would make a significant acquaintance—Carlos Hathcock, who would later be known for his Vietnam sniping exploits. In fact, the two of them were soon selected for the Marine Corps Rifle Team, serving together for almost two years with the group. However, in 1965 they parted ways, with Hathcock being deployed to Vietnam as an MP and Land being transferred to Okinawa as an ordnance officer. It was the intervention of a general that caused them to cross paths again.

General Nickerson, who had been assigned to command the First Marine Division, happened to come though Land’s ordnance shop in Okinawa. He recognized Land from a meeting the two had at Camp Perry in which Land had briefed him on the value of sniping. Nickerson’s desire to get snipers into action in Vietnam led him to have Land transferred to his division in Vietnam in the fall of 1966. “His orders to me were simple. He wanted snipers in the field. He ordered me to get this done, and that he did not care how,” Land explained. Land was faced with starting up a sniper program with no rifles, ammunition, range nor any trainers. However, the general had made it clear he wanted this done, so everyone in the chain of command was attentive to Land’s requests. “His support was absolutely critical to the success of our efforts,” Land stated.

Getting It Done
Land immediately had a list of all the Marines in-country who were rated as DMs (Distinguished Marksman), the highest award given for marksmanship skills. It was in this exclusive group that Hathcock’s name appeared. Land pulled him and two others (Master Sgt. Reneke and Staff Sgt. Roberts) in as instructors in the new sniping program.

For firearms, Land began pulling together what he could, ranging from M1D Garands to Winchester .30-06 rifles from the Corps’ “special service rifles” section intended for recreational use. After Land had managed to pull together a group of instructors and equipment, he was ready to move to the next phase. “We decided that for us to teach sniping, we needed to operate in the field. Only by going out and doing it would we know what we were talking about,” said Land. Over the span of about a month they did just that.

They ran their first class in December of 1966, having requested 21 candidates from one of the battalions. As the program progressed, Land and his growing group of instructors turned out more and more skilled snipers. In fact, the program’s reputation grew to the point that Land learned that he and Hathcock had VC bounties on their heads.

In 1975, Land was assigned as the marksmanship coordinator for the Marine Corps, making him responsible for all the marksmanship training in the Corps. Unfortunately, the Corps’ sniping program had been cancelled in 1972. Through his efforts and the help of Capt. Robert J. Faught, who had also worked on the sniper program and understood the nuances of the bureaucracy of the Marine Corps, Land managed to get the sniper program started again. Ultimately, a formal school was established in 1977 at Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia that is still in full operation today.

The Major’s Life As a Dedicated Civilian
It was during this year that he saw the establishment the school in Quantico that Land retired from the Corps as a Major, but his story does not end there. In fact, his work with the NRA was just to begin. He had a longtime connection with the organization though his time at Camp Perry, his work with NRA State Associations and Clubs, and his training as an NRA-certified instructor in several disciplines.

He began at the organization as a field representative, but was soon moving up through the ranks. After serving as a director of two divisions within the NRA, Land took a leave of absence to help a friend with serious medical problems. During that time, he was elected to NRA’s board of directors. He was elected to his current position of NRA Secretary in 1994.
To say that Maj. Land’s life up to this point has been consequential would be an understatement. Who knows what accomplishments he has planned for the future?

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  • Sniper Guardian

    Good point, Captain Robert Russell did start the first, full circle Sniper Training Program because his 12 men including Cpl. Ron Szpond were used in combat. Lands boys were shooting paper targets in ’61 so I wouldn’t consider that a full-circle program. Also, it’s true that Captain Robert Russell had the first sniper training program in Vietnam in 1965 a year before Land even arrived. Why does Major Land always try to rewrite history like this?

    • Rebecca Collier

      I think you should check your dates, and sources; and most of all remember that neither you nor I were there at the time, and the men we now speak of knew very well their own accomplishments and also those of others.
      Bear in mind that others likely labeled Jim Land to serve their own purpose, Ive never read a self-profession of glory from him. I spoke with him regarding the days in Hawaii, and heard him credit other men for much and speak nothing of his own accomplishments. I found Mr. Land to be more concerned about others than himself, and so will question others for making statements about his character and accomplishments publically without affording him an opportunity to address such issues.
      I believe that no one man in this distinguished group of men either earned, sought, nor desired single praise for themselves.
      Rebecca Collier,
      Granddaughter of CWO A. F. “Gunner” Terry of the Hawaii Marines.

  • Tom Rossi

    Actually, USMC Captain Robert Russell formed the first sniper training program in history. That was in 1965. Land wasn’t the first, and is not the Father of modern sniping. I guess if you are the Secretary of the NRA you get to tell any story you want. Don’t fall for it boys, do your research.

    • Rebecca Collier

      Hi Tom, is this the same Robert W Russell that had blue tick coonhounds, from el cajon? we should talk, my grandfather is, was cwo Arthur Terry. Im in Vista, ca and will be trying to find a way to contact you.. or if you get this heres my email

  • Morgan Hamilton

    This man is my hero. There is nothing that he can’t do. I’m pretty sure he can scale a tall building in a single bound.

  • herk fin


    Subject- nra vs herk fin

    Hello all. Approx 6 weeks ago the nra floated a news leak that they might endorse harry reid. When they received a landslide of negative feedback they stated that they were only testing. Yesterday 8/31/2010 they announced they will not be endorsing harry. @ the same time they are taking members’ money ($5000) to give to harry’s campaign. Harry is the closest thing I have seen to the anti-Christ. He and others have contributed to the breakdown of this great country. After 40 years of life membership I have left and quite honestly with a fair amount of anger. The nra ‘s logic is if politicians are pro gun they will endorse them. Using this same logic if obama was pro gun they would endorse him. I object them telling me I just don’t understand the beltway mentality. Over 40 years I have donated thousands of dollars to the org and they now are still saying they are a one issue organization. The bottom line is that I am asking (almost begging) all of you to call ,write, email the nra & ask them why they would support the ilks of reid. To provide $ to this organization is a slap in the face of millions of people that sent their hard earned $ to defeat people like reid. They are a cash cow with their mailing program but I think they might be trying to milk a bull. Please confirm or deny my statements. If you like harry reid join the nra. Also please confirm and I will be pleased to remove you from this rant. GUNS YES- nra NO. God bless America herk fin

  • Larry Baker

    In the same vein of thought as Bryan, I also am an Endowment Life member of the NRA; and some of their political ideas, are out in left field. Instead of lobbying to try to get these politicians in line, how about filing charges of TREASON; against them. The’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and not to tear it down. Also, file a legal action, to declare the 17th Amendment; null and void. All senators are in office illegally, as the 17th Amendment to the Constitution; was never lawfully ratified. The senators answered to the people before it was allegedly ratified, and if they didn’t do as they were told; they could be fired. Let’s go back to Constitutional government. GOD BLESS AMERICA

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  • Bryan

    Good for him. Now see if he can get the NRA back on track. After this latest sell out, I refuse to ever give my money to the NRA for any reason. I will not go to their events or buy products either endorsed buy or featuring the logo of that sell out organization. The NRA is complicit in the erosion of our liberties. Thank you for your service Jim. Now do it when it counts and stand up for ALL of the constitution.

  • dean murray sr.

    Thank you, Mr Land, for your service and the many others who more then paid their dues to our nation, mostly without recognition or thanks .. Our nation is all the more so in dire need of people of your dedication — We do not need people who adhere to political correctness over their country’s needs.

  • Russell Geddes USMC Ret

    Major E.J.Land might as well be the father of the marine scout/sniper program as it was all but dead when he got a hold of it because of beaurocrats and fools. If it were not for his, Carlos Hathcock, Master sgt,(Top) Reinke, the usmc would not even know what a scout/sniper is anymore. Go get get em E.J. whooyaa and semper fidelis.

  • Jim Tarleton

    Jim Land is not the Father of USMC Sniping, but he certainly made a tremendous contribution.

    During the Great War, there was a very prolific Scout Sniper School located at the Quantico Overseas Depot. They trained 475 Scout Snipers, and built a replica of one of the French battle sites of which I have a photograph. The same techniques taught at the OSD were later utilized by Jim Land.

    The 5th and 6th Regiments had numerous Scout Snipers, using the Winchester A5 equipped 1903 Springfields. Let us not forget them, as many gave their lives for our freedom.

    Semper Fidelis.

  • Jay Leishman

    Jim Land deserves a huge amout of credit for the outstanding work the 8541’s produced in Nam. Without his extreem hard work restablishing the Scout/Sniper program we would have suffered a time gap of knowledge and application that could have been catastrophe. Major Scotty Harris, USMC, MCRD, San Diego first brought Jim to my attention and headed me toward the correct MOS.