The Battle Of Hamburger Hill
Written by Tim Nash
History of War - Vietnam War
The Battle of Hamburger Hill took place in 1969 from May 10th until May 20th. The battle was fought between the United States Army supported by their Ally the South Vietnamese Army against The People's Army of North Vietnam. The battle took place on a hill known as Hill 937 on United States Army maps (Hill 937 was named because it was 937 metres above sea level).
However the United States troops whom attacked the hill named this Hill, “The battle of Hamburger Hill” in reference to a similar battle during the Korean War which was known as “The Battle Of Pork Chop Hill” however both of these battles were pointless attacks on locations that had little strategic important to the outcome of the war and resulted in heavy losses to the U.S. Forces. Hill 937 was defended by The People's Army of North Vietnam, some 800 regular NVA troops, well entrenched in an elevated position. The United States and South Vietnamese troops numbered some 1800 Personnel, The United States Air force also dropped 450 tons of bombs on Hill 937.
Dong Ap Bia Mountain some 1.9km from Laotian border in a valley called A Shau Valley, A lone mountain not connect to the Annamite Mountain Range, which borders the A Shau Valley. The Ap Bia Mountain has two peaks, the South eastern peak reaches some 900 metres and the southern peak 937 metres, It has many ridges and is a rugged place were elephant grass would grow up to 12 feet tall. This grass was so large it would be like a knife cutting your skin as you walked through it. Even armoured personnel carriers were completely hidden by the elephant grass. The local Montagnard tribesmen called this hill “The mountain of the crouching beast.”
The Battle of Hamburger Hill occurred in may 1969, It was the second part of a three phase operation to attack North Vietnamese bases in the A Shau Valley. A series of operations intended to free the A Shau valley of NVA Activity. The A Shau Valley from 1966 onwards had been used by the Peoples Army of North Vietnam as a way to send men and supplies to the South. Later it became known as the Ho Chi Mnh Trail. In 1966 the North Vietnamese Army seized a special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley at the battle of A Shau, from then on the North Vietnamese Army controlled A Shau Valley.
In May 1969 Lieutenant General Richard G. Stilwell began to move his forces and large amounts of Artillery into the A Shau valley near the Dong Ap Bia Mountain. The plan was to attack the NVA strong hold of Dong Ap Bia. The attack commenced on May 10th, troops were flown in by helicopter. There was little intelligence of the region as it had be in the hands of the north Vietnamese Army since 1966, the U.S. were expecting strong resistance.
Initially the resistance was light with few engagements. As the American forces drew closer to the top of Mount Ap Bia, resistance became stronger. United States troops fought every inch of the way to the top. After the initial assault on the north face it was decided that a second assault on the southern face would conquer the enemy. Finally on the 15th of may American forces were able to reach the summit of the Dong Ap Bia. This gave the Americans a 360 degree view of the valley and allowed them to entrench in an elevated position as the NVA had done.
As the terrain was harsh and limited to small tracks the North Vietnamese Army were able to attack in small groups along the trail leading up the mountain. (A style of warfare much suited to the NVA). The Americans whom had many heavy weapons, which proved to be ineffective as the terrain was suited to small arms and hand held weaponry. This gave a distinct advantage to the North Vietnamese Army. Over the ensuing 5 days both the Americans and the NVA took and retook the summit. Both sustaining heavy casualties. The Americans were reinforced by air on several occasions.
The battle of Hamburger Hill came to a close on the 20th may 1969 as the Americans once again took the summit and on this occasion the NVA seemed to lose interest in the battle and withdrew from the A Shue Valley. The Americans were winning the battle and had suffered less casualties, this may have been a reason why the NVA choose to give up the fight for Dong Ap Bia.
This Battle was a turning point in the war for the Americans, as the war became less and less popular at home American people saw The Battle of Hamburger Hill as a senseless battle in a senseless war, many Americans believed they should not be involved in Vietnam and protests at home became more frequent. After this Battle President Nixon announced the first withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam.