The Battle of Hamburger Hill

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The Battle of Hamburger Hill was fought from May 11, 1969 to May 20, 1969. The mountain where this battle occurred has been referred to as multiple different names, Hamburger Hill, Dong Ap Bia, and Hill 937. The name Hill 937 references to the hills height which is 937 meters (3,074 feet). This hill or mountain It is located in the A Shau Valley, in Vietnam. The Battle of Hamburger Hill was the start of the first phase in Operation Apache Snow. The battle was one of the most fierce in the whole Vietnam War. It was a victory for the United States and big turning point of the war for the Americans. The battle was extremely controversial. Just two weeks after gaining control of the mountain on June 5, 1969 it was abandoned. The hill was deemed an insignificant place to have troops stationed because it had no military importance.

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At first light on May 10, 1969 the first UH-ID command and control helicopters arrived at the base mountain. Some of the generals aboard were Lieutenant Colonel Weldon Honeycutt, Sergeant Major Bernie Meehan, and Captain James Deleathe. Honeycutt wanted to start the attack on Dong Ap Bia in the early morning. The Alpha Company was ordered to protect the landing zone. The Bravo Company was ordered to lead the main attack. The Charlie Company was ordered to launch a secondary attack on the mountain about 150 meters southeast on Bravo’s attack. The Delta Company was to finish evacuating dead and wounded from a ridge not far from the mountain. Delta’s other order was to launch an attack on the north side of Dong Ap Bia. The goal was to have the three attacking companies launch their assaults at the same time. The purpose of having three different attacks on the mountain was so that the North Vietnamese soldier (NVA) couldn’t target their fire to one location.

Day and night artillery would occasionally lay fire down on Dong Ap Bia. At exactly 0646 ( 6:46 a.m.) on May 10, 1969 Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt ordered the artillery to seize fire on the mountain. Honeycutt marked multiple places the he wanted to hit the first day. The fighter bombers used a method called snake and nape. This a combination of napalm strike falled by high drag bombs being dropped. The high drag bombs that were dropped were 250 pounds, 500 pounds, and 1,000 pounds. The mountain was shaken for hours the first day from the high drag bombs and the napalm. At 0800 (8:00 a.m.) the companies left the night defense position (NDP) and started on their orders of the day. Troops left their rucksacks in their NDP to make it easier to travel further and farther faster. They would carry only their weapons and water. In the Bravo company’s sector Lieutenant Edward’s second platoon led the main assault and Lieutenant Broccia’s first platoon followed close behind.

In the Charlie Company Lieutenant James Goff’s 3D led and Lieutenant Sullivan’s 2D followed. At 0810 (8:10 a.m.) Lt. Edward split the Bravo Company into three squads when they started one a trail up the mountain. He sent one squad on the left side of the trail, one the the right of it, and one right down center of the trail. The goal was to get as close as possible to the clearing in the dense forest that was on and around Dong Ap Bia and rush the enemy bunkers. Bravo was only able to make it ten yards into the clearing because the North Vietnamese troops had already set claymores, explosive devices triggered by motion. The claymore were hanging in the trees that faced toward the trail, because they didn’t see the claymores they went off and left four people wounded. The squads retreated thinking the NVA would be attacking them after the claymores went off. After waiting a while and no attack coming from the north vietnamese troops Bravo tried to advance again. Just a few feet past where the first claymores were that went off was more claymores hanging from the trees. Again Bravo Company walked under them and three more people were wounded.

The Charlie Company started their attack at around the same time Bravo did. Charlie was moving up the ridge. Charlie Company started their attack on Hill 900 which neighbored Hamburger Hill and then make their to Hill 937. When they were about 150 meters from the mountain edge they started taking fire. The fire was coming from three different enemy bunkers that were about 20 meters away from Charlie. Charlie company’s recoilless rifle squad were able to quickly take out the bunker one by one using flechette rounds. After the encounter was over Charlie quickly advanced toward Hamburger Hill. Just after passing the bunkers they just destroyed, Charlie came to a saddle that was on the western edge of Hill 900. As soon at the Charlie Company started move forward through the saddle the NVA troops opened fire on them. The fire caught the whole Charlie Company off guard. 

The shock made all men hit the dirt for about five minutes. The whole Charlie Company grawled on their stomachs from tree to tree. They were being shot at by multiple bunkers. They took out the first rather quietly, but in the time it took to destroy the first bunker six men in 3D Platoon were wounded. The second bunker gave them more difficulty as it took almost 30 minutes for Charlie to overrun and destroy it. When the Charlie Company tried to advance pass the second bunker they were met with heavy sniper fire from the trees. Sp.4 Tyrone Campbell was on the very right of the 3D’s platoon line when the sniper fire started. When it started he dove behind a log for cover. Two other soldier were behind the log with him, when he tried to recognize them he say that they were both shot. After he made this discovery he saw the sniper that killed them. At the exact moment he saw the sniper that fired the shots the sniper targeted him but it ricocheted and missed him. At 0903 Lt. Col. Honeycutt received a call from Captain Johnson saying the Charlie 3D Platoon had moved through the second bunker line and and were pushing told the top of Hill 900.

A few minutes after Captain Johnson made this call NVA troops launched a counter attack on the Charlie Company. They attacked Charlie’s left flank. As a group was attacking their left a group of NVA troops sneaked up behind Charlie and attacked their rear. After 28 minutes of fighting the 3D Platoon suffered 17 casualties, two were killed and fifteen were wounded. General Honeycutt was unaware of the change situation for Charlie Company. He was wanting for a call saying they topped the mountain but instead got a call for Captain Johnson requesting for permission to retreat. Captain Johnson said “I am going to have to pulled back. The Third Platoon has taken a lot of casualties. We got to pull back.” The request to retreat angered General Honeycutt and made him snap. In return to Captain Johnson’s called he said “You can’t pull back. You pull back now and you’ll expose Bravo’s right flank.” Charlie Company was falling apart. Most on the men in it were dead or wounded. Before Charlie Company could retreat Bravo Company had to retreat so that their flank wasn’t exposed. The NVA troops sensed the retreat and went on the attack. They opened fire and threw grenades at the Charlie Company. As the retreat started NVA troops rushed them and shot the wounded with RPGs. Half of the Charlie Company was dead or wounded.

Captain Johnson was holding Donald Sullivan and his 2D Platoon in reserve about 30 meters below the saddle. Johnson told Sullivan about the 3D’s situation and Sullivan and his crew rush over to help the 3D. They formed a skirmish line behind the 3D Platoon and started up the mountain. As Sullivans men tried to advance up the mountain they were hit with heavy fire.

The Charlie Company’s failure was mirired by Delta Company on a smaller scale. Delta repelled in a deep ravine in an attempt to recover seven different bodies that were left near a river. They reached the river at 1354. As they were attempting to recover the bodies a NVA Platoon attacked them. The fighting lasted about 20 minutes. Ten Delta troops were wounded in the fight.

At 1400 Lt. Trautman and the 2D and 3D Platoons were in position to start their retreat. They first dragged the dead and wounded off the hill and the remaining living troops withdrawn for the hill. By 1600 everyone was off the mountain.

On May 15th Honeycutt gave Alpha and Charlie the order to exchange position. At around noon that day after 4 hours of airstrikes hitting the mountain the Alpha and Bravo companies started toward to mountain again. Honeycutt ordered them to take position along the ridge facing the draw. A few minutes later NVA troops came out of the draw and advanced told Alpha and Bravo not knowing they were there. The companies caught the NVA off guard stunning them with gunfire that sent them retreating back into the draw. The companies kept pressure on the NVA and pinned then in the draw. While the NVA were pinned in the draw fighter bombers rained 500 pound bombs down on them along with napalm strikes. By the time the airstrikes were over all the NVA soldiers that were in the draw were dead. Both the Alpha and Bravo Companies moved out of their assault positions at around 1 in the afternoon. The troops moved forward in skirmish lines. They were quickly able to overrun the enemy position around the knolls of the mountain and killed seven or eight more NVA troops. As some as Garza his men tried to advance further they were hit with heavy gunfire. Garza remembered from earlier about the snipers in the trees and ordered his men to spray the treetops. They quickly killed multiple snipers and watched them fall out of the trees all around the 4th Platoon. They were able to advance through the treelines at lot fasted of a pace after they took care of the snipers. Open the opposite side of the lines troops were able to see the top of Dong Ap Bia. The top of the mountain was only about 150 meters away from them.

As Garza and his men broke through the top of the treeline they were met with the heaviest NVA gunfire they have faced so far in the hole Battle of Hamburger Hill so far. The fire was so intense it made every single soldier didn’t fight back at first and just run for a place to hide from the rounds flying past their heads. Then suddenly out of nowhere while the rounds were still flying Garza stood up and started yelling down the line at his men saying “Come on everyone up! Move it! Lets go!” The man did what Garza had ordered and started trying to advance again but it was quickly stopped by an enemy heavy machine gun turret the was set up about 20 meters away from the men. Garza had his pockets filled completely by grenades and started throwing one after another as fast as he could at the NVA troops. Bressina was able to take care of the heavy machine gunner with his M72 LAW and the men were about to start advancing again. The further the men advanced the sleeper the slope on the mountain got. The slope got so steep it was hard to walk the NVA with just rolling grenades down at them.

The 4th Platoon called in an airstrike. The first fighter bomber jet dropped a 1000 pound bomb on the NVA. Body parts of dead NVA troops and debris rained down on the 4th Platoon. The airstrike didn’t get all the enemy bunkers so they called in a gunship. The first gunship did its run in the wrong direction and killed 2 troops in the 4th Platoon and wounded another 15 troops, one of them being Captain Littnam who was in charge. Honeycutt radioed Boccia and ordered him to continue the attack no matter what. After the mishap with the gunship the NVA launched a large counterattack, seeing this Garza pulled his platoon back into the tree line.

While Bravo was being counterattacked the Alpha Company was still fighting their way up the ridge. They were facing heavy sniper fire the whole way. Lt. McGreevy thought any attack he tried to launch would fail but he lead the attack further anyway, and moved rapidly to try and take out the bunkers. The 1st squad was led by Sergeant Michael Lyden and the 2nd squad was led by McGreevy. Lyden and his men layed down cover fire while McGreevy and his men inched slowly up the hill. Lyden was hit in the chest with and RPG and killed. The NVA Pounded both squads with RPG’s and left half of the men wounded or dead. McGreevy ordered a retreat, the NVA troops saw this and tried to follow them. Captain Butch now replaced Captain Littnan.

The next morning at 0734, 1000 pound bombs were dropped on the mountain. After the bombs were done being dropped the artillery hit the mountain with 105mm, 165mm, and 8 inch howitzer rounds in hopes of destroys the remaining enemy bunkers. For this attack, Alpha was order to lead. At 0830 Alpa left their NDP and headed toward their attack position. As they went up the mountain they swept past the first five bunker and found blood splattered everywhere but no bodies. Then soon after that a NVA Platoon came charging out of the jungle toward Alpha. Their charge was easily stopped with recioless rifle fire and grenades and the NVA retreated. No one was wounded by the NVA’s charge.

In the early morning on the 17th artillery started to hit the mountain. At 0918 the first fighter bombers started dropping bombs on Dong Ap Bia. At 0952 Alpha pushed out of their NDP on Hill 800. Their objective was to get to Hill 900, which was 1000 meters away. They were stopped by enemy machine gun fire after a short time of advancing but were easily able to push them back.

The two battalion assault was then postponed yet another day. The next morning both Alpha and Delta started up the ridge. When Alpah got to the saddle, McGreevy split the men into two squads. As they started to advance further NVA troops started coming out of spider holes and binker everywhere, but Lipscomb still ordered his men to keep advancing. The enemies grenaded Lipscomb and hims men wounding 3 people. The Americans then threw grenades back at the enemy lines. Even though the enemies were still shooting and throwing grenades at them the Americans kept advancing. Lipscomb knew his only chance was to rush the NVA. Lipscomb was blown up by a grenade. Then Captain Sanders was shot, leaving Lt. Walden in charge. At 1115 the troops started to receive extremely heavy fire. They called in a napalm strike and it completely destroyed enemy lines. A couple minutes later Walden called Honeycutt and told him they were only about 75 meters from the tops on the mountain. Not long after making the call Walden was wounded by an enemy grenade. Delta had 50% casualties at this point and the troops that were still alive were almost out of ammo.

Charlie Company led by Captain Johnson ran up the mountain at 1230 to help Delta. Then a huge storm ruled in and Honeycutt ordered the men to stop the assault until the rain stopped, but the rain never stopped so the troops had to withdraw.

The next morning the mountain was hit with artillery and 1000 pound bombs. At 1000 all the men from all the Companies started advancing up the mountain. At 1010 the men pushed past the first bunker line finding it abandoned. At 1030 the men were only 100 meters from the military crest of the mountain and almost to the second bunker line. At this point there had been no shots fired from the enemies. At 1040 the NVA started to attack. About 15 of them came out of a trench and fired RPG’s on the Charlie Company. The Americans answered with a grenade shower. Then the NVA started rolling grenades down the steep slope at the them. Captain Johnson ordered his men to keep moving since they were only 75 meters from the top. Soon after they were pinned down from 5 different bunkers. The men were able to use the 90mm and destroy the bunkers and keep advancing. The NVA were still dugg in at the top of the mountain. When the men got to the top they were pinned down by heavy enemy fire. The fire was coming from about 6 different directions. 

After 15 minutes of fighting they were able to destroy 10 enemy bunkers. Seeing this most of the remain NVA troops retreated toward toward Laos down the western side of the mountain. Two Bravo Platoons went to cut the retreat NVA off. On the eastern side of the mountain the NVA were trying to start counterattacks on Alpha and Charlie, but their attempts failed. Then the NVA started to charge the men like they have previously done to Bravo. They did this for 15 minutes straight. Every time NVA stepped out of the bunkers they were shredded by M16 fire. After they stopped pouring out, two fighter bomber dropped two cluster bombs and napalm on the bunkers. When Charlie went to sweep the ridge they didn’t see any sign of NVA, just 65 dead bodies. NVA tried to run off the mountain in all directions.

By 1655 the fight for Dong Ap Bia was over. In total the NVA lost 663 troops. The Americans had 70 killed and 372 wounded. The mountain was no longer called Dong Ap Bia but now Hamburger Hill. On June 5, Gen. John wright ordered all positions on the mountain to be abandoned because it had no military importance. By June 17 NVA troops were again occupying the mountain.

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The Battle Of Hamburger Hill. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
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