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    “We are in for some tough fighting ahead, but I feel we have never before been more capable of success than now. The NVA we are going to meet out there will be highly trained, well-equipped, hard-core troops who will stand and fight, especially when we get close to his base camps and supply depots.” (Colonel John Hoefling, 2nd Brigade, March 1, 1969)

    The Vietnam War could have been called a comedy of errors if the consequences weren’t so deadly and tragic. In 1951, while war was raging in Korea, the United States began signing defense pacts with nations in the Pacific, intending to create alliances that would contain the spread of Communism. As the Korean War was winding down, America joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, pledging to defend several nations in the region from Communist aggression. One of those nations was South Vietnam. 

    Faced with such a determined opponent, skilled in asymmetrical warfare and enjoying considerable popular support, the Americans would ultimately choose to fight a war of attrition. While the Americans did employ strategic hamlets, pacification programs, and other kinetic counterinsurgency operations, they largely relied on a massive advantage in firepower to overwhelm and grind down the Viet Cong and NVA in South Vietnam. The goal was simple: to reach a “crossover point” at which communist fighters were being killed more quickly than they could be replaced. American ground forces would lure the enemy into the open, where they would be destroyed by a combination of artillery and air strikes.

    One of the most infamous battles of the Vietnam War, the Battle of Hamburger Hill - officially, part of Operation Apache Snow - occurred in spring of 1969. Towering over the perilous, elephant grass choked length of the A Shau Valley, Hill 937, otherwise known as Hamburger Hill or Dong Ap Bia (“Crouching Beast Mountain”), rose to a height of over 3,074 feet above sea level. The Americans launched a series of 11 attacks against this low mountain’s NVA defenders, leading to fierce combat involving both advanced weaponry and infantry tactics unchanged since World War II. 

    The Battle of Hamburger Hill ranks as one of the most famous - or infamous - of the Vietnam War. Over time, however, all nuance and context have vanished, leaving a legend of pointless butchery which ignores the very real strategic and tactical considerations that converged to produce the encounter. The battle pitted several battalions of the 101st Airborne Division, one of America’s most famous fighting units, against the 29th Regiment of the NVA. The latter’s toughness, skill, courage, and zeal earned it the unofficial sobriquet of “The Pride of Ho Chi Minh”. Both units fought extremely hard and with great determination, inflicting high casualties on one another. 

    The change from an elusive strategy to one of aggression marked a shift in North Vietnamese action, too. Documents captured during the battle indicated the 29th moved into the A Shau Valley and occupied Hill 937 as a staging area for a second full-scale attack on the city of Hue. This, in turn, triggered a shift in American military thinking, though as was often the case during the war, the results suffered from the effects of large-scale political interference.

    The Battle of Hamburger Hill: The History and Legacy of One of the Vietnam War’s Most Controversial Battles chronicles one of the most controversial campaigns of the war, and the effects it had on both sides. You will learn about the Battle of Hamburger Hill like never before.

    ©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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