X number of confirmed kills: how do they know?

A vet I once knew told me that he had 120something confirmed kills in Vietnam. (Is that a lot or is that a small number?)

If you’re in a jungle shooting at people and it’s dark and you’re shooting at a distance, how do you know if the bullets you’re shooting actually killed someone? And how do they sort out who killed how many people? And who “confirms” it?

Aside from snipers and fighter pilots (or bomber gunners in WWII), I have never heard of “confirmed kills” in the military below the “unit” level.

I am open to correction on that point, although I would also note that nearly every combat veteran with whom I have ever spoken was quite reluctant to talk about their “victories” (and rarely wanted to talk about their combat experiences, at all). l would not cry “bullshit” on this guy’s claims, but I would certainly suggest a healthy dose of skepticism.

(That would be a huge number, unless he happened to be manning a machine gun at the front of a prolonged frontal attack across open ground.)

To be fair, there are exceptions to every generality, and while I concur that most combat veterans are quite reluctant to talk about killing people, many are also not so reticent. You can see the more talkative ones on the History Channel fairly frequently, and I personally know of one veteran that was forced out of the service for showing gruesome home movies… He’d slaved an 8mm movie camera to his weapon in Vietnam, and was showing the resulting ‘gun camera’ footage to pretty much anyone who would sit still for a couple minutes. In a training enviroment, that might have been acceptable, but to house guests…?! Yuk.

‘Confirmed’ kills might come from extraordinary situations, such as one man stuffing a stachel charge into a bunker, then counting the pieces afterwards, but again I agree that aside from snipers and fighter pilots, accounting for any one soldier’s kills would be quite rare.

I would agree that generalizations have exceptions. There are occasional guys who take vocal pride in their efforts. On the other hand, for a more typical reaction by a guy who committed wholesale slaughter (necessary as it was) check out the current thread American Soldier Kills 500 Japanese Soldiers.

It depends on what he was doing. For a sniper or a fighter pilot, 120 kills would be damn fine work. If he was in regular leg infantry as, say, a machine gunner, then it might be not so impressive.

Even machine gunners only rarely know which people they killed… In a unit action, there’s lot of lead flying about, and from many, many weapons, including usually multiple machinegunners. That makes it pretty hard to sort out who killed who, and in most cases, there’s no serious attempt to assign bodies to individuals.
Rubitsky is another extreme case, and I’d be pretty damned quiet too, I imagine. That had to be horible beyond my meagre powers of imagination.

I’d like to make one small point here. Most combat veterans are not at all reluctant to talk about their experience to other combat veterans. This has been my experience at a lot of post mission debriefs and reunions of my WWII bomb group.

It is simply impossible to convey the experience to others and most don’t even try.

Confirmed kills meant the enemys dog tags or body were acquired