American Heroes

The deadliest soldier in US military history

In modern warfare, to become the deadliest soldier in US military history it means that you have to do something extraordinary. There are stories that are hard to believe, and the story of Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson is an example. Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson is one of the most decorated soldiers in the history of the legendary 3rd Infantry Division.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Among the thousands of warriors in US military history, one is really special. Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson is officially the deadliest American soldier and maybe the most humble with 2,746 confirmed kills. He fought as a commander of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle nicknamed “Carnivore,” during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He helped directly to lead the ground assault with his men overwhelming the enemy with a relentless show of military might that left a trail of dead in his wake. The deadliest soldier in US military history is no joke.

First tour: Carnivore

As a commander of “Carnivore,” he was obliged to report confirmed kills to his superiors. He used a green journal to catalog the dead trail left by his crew. The same green journal which revealed the astonishing tally — which only began to come lightly as he and co-writer James Tarr were researching his exploits for his memoir, also titled “Carnivore.”

Maybe, some other soldier could be a deadlier in earlier wars, but since detailed records have been kept, Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson tops the list. He grew up in Island, Ky., hanging out in strip mines and hunting deer with his daddy’s gun. Johnson’s first kill came at the tender age of 13 when he nailed a six-point buck with a .22-caliber rifle.

America's deadliest soldier Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson atop of Bradley Carnivore
America’s deadliest soldier Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson atop of Bradley Fighting Vehicle nicknamed “Carnivore” (Photo: XY)

In high school, he joined the ROTC, and in 1986, he joined the Army, fulfilling a childhood dream spawned from the pages of comic books that led him later through his career to the title of the deadliest soldier in US military history.

In the dawn of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he joined Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, and he was tasked with some other objectives. He was going on to hunt bigger game. His first KIAs comes in March 2003 at the battle of As Samawah he wiped out a truckload of Iraqis with six high-explosive rounds, and that was only beginning.

He counted the dead by tallying rifles — and human heads — among the mangled or charred wreckage left behind by the Carnivore and that was during his first deployment.

Second Tour: Infantry

In his second tour, in 2005, he changed his primary job, from the commander of Bradley Fighting Vehicle he became sharpshooter credited with 121 kills, his longest from 821 yards. Believe or not, Johnson honed this skill while hunting in Kentucky during his childhood. His total kill score is second only to the late Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL who had 160 confirmed kills.

“I had already had the talent of being able to shoot due to the fact that I grew up with a rifle that wasn’t zeroed to me,” Johnson said, recalling his early use of a gun calibrated for his father.

Interesting thing is that, despite he was deployed as a sharpshooter, in his second tour, for his count kill he didn’t use a sniper rifle. Johnson is not trained as a sniper and was not equipped with a sniper rifle. New kill counts helped him to become the deadliest soldier in US military history.

The deadliest soldier in US military history Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson brandishing Iraqi AK-47 during Operation Iraqi Freedom
The deadliest soldier in US military history Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson during Operation Iraqi Freedom (Photo: XY)


He personally said that his personal score of 121 enemies killed during his second tour is correct, but that he didn’t use a sniper rifle because he is not a sniper. Further, he claims that nowhere in the book does stand that he is a sniper. He said that that all these kills were with M4 and M14 rifles, according to the interview he gave to the Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Achievements and recommendations

After two tours in the second Iraqi war, he comes back home with 37 medals in total, including a Silver Star for valor and four Purple Hearts. Johnson gives all the credit to his troop — call sign “Crazy Horse” — whose lineage dates back to legendary General George Custer.

Post military life

Johnson retired and lives in Daytona Beach, Fla. these days, with his wife and four kids. For most veterans war is not over when they come home. The same stands for Dillard Johnson, after war there is war. Shortly after he went back home he fought with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He lives and works as a consultant for an ammunition company. Johnson has a bullet permanently lodged in his leg and he doesn’t often talk about his career or his accolades or wartime souvenirs, not even the Iraq flag he took off Saddam Hussein’s limousine during the Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2013, he wrote the book “Carnivore: A Memoir by One of the Deadliest American Soldiers of All Time.” The book has instantly become a bestseller and triggered a lot of controversies among the veterans. Many of them think that the claim of The deadliest soldier in US military history is not accurate.