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Old 05-24-2019, 07:55 AM
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Arrow Memorial Day: Remembering the Battle of Hamburger Hill.

Memorial Day: Remembering the Battle of Hamburger Hill.
By: Cole Hammond - Commercial Appeal - 5-24-19
RE: https://www.commercialappeal.com/sto...ll/3764967002/

As Americans this weekend memorialize the casualties of our war dead, a small band of U.S. soldiers of the 101st Airborne division will recall in their collective memories that they were comrades in-arms of a famous battle during the Vietnam War.

The Battle of Hamburger Hill, fought 50-years ago this month, is seared into the memories of its participants; a struggle in the heavily contested A Shau Valley. Fought over a specific mountain, known as Hill 937, denoted for its height in meters (approx. 3 thousand feet), it was also called Dong Ap Bia by the North Vietnamese, which translates into ‘Mountain of the crouching beast.'

Part of a chain of mountain ridges and numerous valleys, Hamburger Hill sat one mile from the Laotian border and contained multiple ridges and fingers that came off the summit. The slopes of Dong Ap Bia were covered in extreme overgrowth of sharp elephant grass up to 7 feet, thick bamboo groves and triple-canopy jungle, making daylight appear as dusk. The entire area was a support system for the North Vietnamese, infiltrating supplies and men into the South, and the general vicinity contained roads for trucks, major supply depots and the like.

Photo link: https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/3c2...t=405&fit=crop
A wounded U.S. paratrooper grimaces in pain as he awaits medical evacuation at base camp in the A Shau Valley near the Laos border in South Vietnam on May 19, 1969 during the Vietnam War. The 101st Airborne Division attacked the North Vietnamese Communist forces at the 3,000-foot Ap Bia Mountain, or Hill 937, in the 10-day battle known as Hamburger Hill by the GIs. Forty-six Americans were killed before the mountain was taken, and the death toll for North Vietnamese is around 517. (Photo: (AP Photo/Hugh Van Es))

After increased enemy activity had been noted by Army recon teams in the valley, Operation Apache Snow was commenced May 10, utilizing a Marine Corps regiment, multiple airborne battalions and allied S. Vietnamese forces as well. The 3rd battalion, 187th Regiment of the 101st – also known as the “Rakkasans” -- would be tasked with finding the enemy, on or around 937- and eliminating him. This understaffed infantry unit was at 65-percent strength at the outset of the campaign due to recent engagements, contributing in the attrition of the units. The commanding officer of the battalion was Lt. Colonel Weldon Honeycutt, a no-nonsense career soldier and North Carolinian that had joined the army as a teenager at the end of WWII.

On the morning of May 10, an hour and half prep of the battlefield commenced, with multiple batteries of artillery opening, followed by dozens of sorties by attack aircraft and helicopters firing their ordinance. At 7 a.m. transport helicopters inserted the initial element of forces into landing zones in the valley, with one mission: Find the enemy and make contact. The first day drew only light contact for Alpha and Charlie companies, in that due to the rugged terrain, extreme heat and thick underbrush progress was slow. Bravo and Delta, which were kept in reserve choppered in on the second day- and incorporated into the general scheme of the attack.

The 1st battalion of the 506th regiment was as well working its way north toward the area, but due to the hazards of the terrain and constant ambushes by the enemy would not arrive until the latter part of the battle- leaving the ‘tactical’ burden to the four rifle-companies of the 3/187. As day two absorbed into the third day, the fighting intensified, clearly indicating to the commander that they were facing more of the enemy to their front than originally thought. In fact, as the battle progressed, the enemy -- North Vietnamese -- were able to fortify their forces on the hill.

Video link: https://youtu.be/tp-DuEPuZQ0
Little did U.S. troops know at the time that they were facing the 29th NVA Regiment, which had distinguished itself in other battles previous. On May 14, the fourth day, Col. Honeycutt decided to attack more aggressively and could not wait for reinforcements, so orders were given to B, C and D companies to attack from different vantage points. Unfortunately, the attacks were unable to be well coordinated due to the terrain and enemy resistance had become extremely heavy. C Company being counterattacked several times took the highest casualties on the day, losing its first sargeant, two of three platoon leaders, the company executive officer and six squad leaders; all were either killed or wounded. To compound matters, a helicopter gunship flew in and shot up friendly troops, killing two and wounding at least twelve, mistaking them for the enemy. This was the first of three cases of fratricide during the battle.

As day fell to night after a day of fighting, the American soldiers could see enemy cooking fires above, which was usually unheard of in an engagement like this and could hear enemy troops hollering down at the men of the 3st battalion.

The topography of the landscape favored defense, and, conversely, the enemy did well in fortifying positions. They had built earthen-log bunkers -- some 6-8 feet deep, with crisscross firing angles to take advantage of the slopes. The slopes also harbored dozens of spider holes, allowing for a quick burst of gunfire or grenade throw with the enemy stealthily melting back into the earth. They also had dozens of light and heavy machine-gun emplacements strategically placed and manned.

May 18th and 19th again witnessed the depleted airborne companies making progress, then gradually having to dig in, move forward or back down the steep slopes as the fighting devolved into a slug fest on the squad level; with each company making its own progress on sheer will.

On the morning of May 20, ten artillery batteries opened on the hill and fired for almost an hr., before dozens of air sorties by tactical aircraft came in with napalm and 250 lb. bombs on the now denuded mountaintop. As fire stopped, up went the riflemen, working their way up the slopes and ravines encountering lighter resistance than previous, and making it to the summit within two hrs.

After enemy stragglers were were cleaned out, the bloody mess of Hamburger Hill ceased. Six hundred and twenty three of the enemy dead were counted, with a much higher casualty rate no doubt noted, as many were crushed in their earthen graves from bombs, and others being taken into Laos. Of the airborne troopers of the 3/187, thirty nine were killed and another 292 wounded -- more than 70 percent of the battalion. Total US losses were 71 dead and 372 wounded. The battle, although tragic, did accomplish its strategic task, albeit a costly one.

On this most reverent of days, remember these men, many of whom spent their last breath in that hellish place, experiencing the most seminal event of their lives.

about: Cole Hammond is a Memphis financial adviser who writes about military history.

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This is just one of a thousand more incidents that happen during any war. It a brutal life taking process - Kill-or-be Killed. It seems mankind hasn't been able to remove that notation from his vocabulary. This is happening all over the world today & tomorrow and God only knows how much longer this type of slaughter will continue? War is the most awful process of mankind. The terror and brutality of it never ends. Peace on Earth is what we all say we want - but day after day - week after week - year after year this is what mankind does on this planet of ours. God help us - will we ever learn!

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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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