In modern warfare, to become the deadliest soldier in US military history means that you have to do something extraordinary. Some stories 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 legendary 3rd Infantry Division history.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Among the thousands of warriors in US military history, one is 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 13 when he nailed a six-point buck with a .22-caliber rifle.
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 was tasked with some other objectives. He was going on to hunt bigger game. His first KIAs came 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 it 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 with 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.
Interestingly, despite being deployed as a sharpshooter in his second tour, he didn’t use a sniper rifle for his count kill. Johnson is not trained as a sniper and was not equipped with a sniper rifle. New kill counts helped him become the deadliest soldier in US military history.
He said that his score of 121 enemies killed during his second tour is correct, but 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. According to the interview he gave to the Soldier of Fortune magazine, he said that all these kills were with M4 and M14 rifles.
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 returning 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. He doesn’t often talk about his career or accolades or wartime souvenirs, not even the Iraq flag he took off Saddam Hussein’s limousine during 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.