One of these videos was posted on my Facebook site earlier in the week resulting in quite a few comments from vets and non-vets alike. The main reason for posting is two-fold: first, to show how the scenery has changed – vegetation reclaiming the land after 45 years. Second, many people had absolutely no idea what it was like patrolling (humping) through the jungles- posed pictures somehow don’t offer a real “feel” of that experience – hopefully, this video will give viewers a taste of what us grunts experienced when moving through the jungles way back then.
While watching this video, you’ll have to use a little imagination so consider the following: The temperature and humidity are both in the mid-90’s; the rucksack of supplies on your back weighs about 70 lbs. – its straps are digging into your shoulders, restricting the blood flow to both arms which are already numb – you can try shifting the pack around, doubling up the towel under the straps and even increase your forward bend (like in the picture below) during the hump for temporary shoulder relief; the sweatband circling your head is now soaked through and beads of salty moisture are rolling down your forehead and irritating your eyes – causing them to water and get blurry; your fatigues are soaked through and through from sweat and your back is beginning to itch; watch out for the elephant grass fronds, their razor sharp edges tear and cut skin and become irritated from your salty sweat; Oops, land leaches are beginning to fall from upper branches onto the troops as they pass through; snakes, spiders and other insects rebel when entering their domain;
higher canopied jungle have “wait-a-minute vines” hanging from above, their thorny rope-like vines snag onto uniforms or rucksack – stopping you dead in your tracks. The solution is to back up and allow the soldier following you to “unsnag” the vine from your body to continue the march; 90% of the time, columns of soldiers will not walk on trails and instead, use machetes to cut a path through the thick jungle, making travel much more difficult and slower;
spacing is critical and soldiers normally keep a distance of 10 – 15 feet between one another – closer in thicker jungles; when setting up a small perimeter for the night, sleeping positions need to be cut out in the thick vegetation and pathways cleared to a central location for night guard and radio watch – everyone rotates and gets an hour-long turn every night. So there ya have it, everything you might experience while on patrol through the endless jungles. Oh yea, I almost forget the two most important things – keep a sharp eye out for enemy soldiers who could be lurking anywhere and for their boobytraps – both, capable of maiming and death!
In 2012, a Facebook friend of mine visited Vietnam and toured Dong Ap Bia, where a punishing 11-day battle took place for a mountain near the border with Laos. The 101st Airborne Division fought North Vietnamese regulars in May 1969 for control of the site designated as Hill 937 on U.S. military maps, but known to American soldiers as “Hamburger Hill.” The U.S. operation took the hill, but only after 71 Americans died and 372 were wounded. Some estimates put the Vietnamese deaths at 600. This friend sent me these two videos and several pictures of current day Hamburger Hill to share.
I am not attempting to tell the story of this battle – certainly there are thousands of versions. Instead, the focus of this article is to educate those who have never been in the military or had to patrol / fight in the jungles and hills of Vietnam. It is an opportunity for one to experience what it might have been like. In the second video, my friend is following a guide up “Hamburger Hill” in the A Shau Valley and filming the video while walking – he is not carrying any supplies on his back, yet, he is short of breath, which makes it difficult for him to provide a running commentary. It’s the monsoon season and both men are following a small path. Prior to showing the video, I’ve posted his pictures and some from the actual battle, and then added comments from those viewers who’ve seen the video earlier in the week.
Hill, between the ‘Screaming Eagles’ of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) and the 29th ‘Pride of Ho Chi Minh’ NVA Regiment.
LZ for the evacuation of those wounding during the battle.
Dong Ap Bia (Hamburger Hill)
Fighting up the hill
LZ at base of Hamburger Hill
Guide heading uphill
Looking downhill into an opening within the thick vegetation
One of the LZ’s used during the battle
Stairs at the base of the hill – leading up to the monument
Monument near hilltop honoring those Vietnamese Communists lost during the battle
English version of plaque inside of monument
Near the summit
Backside of mountain where the NVA escaped
Example of elephant grass
Okay, it’s time to watch the video – please keep in mind all the things I mentioned at the beginning to get an up close and personal feel of what grunts had to endure in the jungles and hills of Vietnam.
Better to watch in “full screen” – items to watch for:
- My friend cuts his hand when brushing against elephant grass
- He comes upon a snake and bunker, but it’s too fast for us to see anything
- He stops to film an unusual flower and loses his guide. Since they are on a trail, it will be easy for him to catch up. When cutting our own trail and losing sight of the person in front of you sometimes causes panic due to the uncertainty of how to proceed. Most of the time, the person in front will come back for you when he notices you gone.
All the current photos of Hamburger Hill and the video are presented here courtesy of Jonas Thorsell. Here is a direct link to his website and his original article: https://namwartravel.com/hill-937/
Comments from Facebook:
“Looks so different now!”
“…not all of the terrain was this thick and heavy. Some areas had been defoliated and cut down.”
“Yes the foliage varied in the A Shau and some hills were steeper than others. Walked point there a couple times and avoided trails like that as much as possible.”
“That was life back then nothing important but taking the next step !!!”
“From the vantage point of 40 some odd years later, I am asking myself, how the hell did we do it for weeks at a time?”
“WOW! Barely a trail there at all. I don’t know HOW you could have seen any enemy! They could lie down just a few feet in, and you’d never see them! Snakes? Insects?”
“I’ll tell ya, we sure did pick some God-awful pieces of real estate to assault and then abandon…”
“That was one of the things wrong with this War – ground was not/could not be held.”
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My brother was there67 n 68 still has problems, Tommy Hernandez
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Omg I am watching the 10 part series of the Vietnam war and I myself have not served but I DO have so much RESPECT for All who endured this tragic war ! My heart aches and I’m sorry but I tear up just understanding or trying to understand and comprehend what all the men and women went thru ! I was born in 65 but after watching what took place I wish I could have been there to back and support the military at that time !
i am a South African and follow all wars fought the globe .My heart goes out who lost their
loved ones.Hamberburger Hill is one of the worst battles fought in Vietnam.Judging by the
comments of the war vets one cannot describe the FIGHTING THAT WENT ON THERE.
Reblogged this on yabbaman21 and commented:
A story about Hamburgers and Pork Chops that reminds me of Police and Sheriffs that because of what happened on 9/11/2001 gives me the creeps about what the Federal Attorney General has planned for the competition. Making Mince Meat of the competition. Only a guess.
The photo with the caption, “Dong Ap Bia (Hamburger Hill)” is not a picture of Hamburger Hill. That is a photo of The Rockpile on Route 9 below the DMZ. Razorback is in the background.
Thanks for the input. I’ve removed the photo and substituted with the correct ones. / John
On Tue, May 10, 2016 at 10:27 PM, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel wrote:
I stumbled upon this page and got mesmerised by the hell this Hill in particular was! It is far beyond my imagination how anyone could have survived in such a place… I’m not american neither have been into a conflict, but I sincerely give all my respect to the vets who have been there! Thank you for this insight 🙂
Thank you for your response, Jasiek. There are over 200 articles on this website relating to Vietnam War. Also, you may want to consider my book, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel which is selling well in the U.K. and people are learning more about that war and the 18 year old soldiers who fought there.
On Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 3:52 PM, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel wrote:
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Hello there! I’m a broadcaster for the U.S. Air Force and i’m in the process of making a Veterans Day special video and would like to use a photo from this blog, the first one with a troop facing away pointing to our right while talking to a group of men. If i can have your permission or be pointed in the direction to who owns this photo, i would like to use it in my product. That would be greatly appreciated! i’m trying to finish this within the next few days so i hope to hear from you soon! Thanks for your time and a well done journey entry!
These are not my photos and were taken from the internet. As long as you don’t use them to sell in a product, you should be able to use anything on the internet…if owner is known, then his name should be included. If not…/ John
On Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 11:41 AM, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel wrote:
Walked up Hamburger Hill earlier this year with a guide who was based in Dong Ha. He took me up to the monument but I remarked that it didn’t seem to be the highest point (there appeared to be 2 higher points on either side of the trail) although the contours are now masked by the re-grown forest and it’s not easy to figure out the summit landform. We scrambled up through the forest of one of these points and came across some old foxholes and rusty barbed wire but didn’t see anything else. Everything seemed to be dense jungle although I recall from other photos and Google Earth that there is a more open area of grassland in the direction of Laos from the monument. We didn’t go to explore that way as the guide didn’t seem to want to go and the trail was overgrown – I was reluctant to venture off alone much as I would have liked to. Near the bottom of the trail (where the small road from A Luoi stops) there is a museum – unfortunately it was closed but I poked my head through the window and it looked interesting inside – exhibits of weapons, photos, maps etc. Maybe go back there again sometime. We didn’t see anybody else on the hill that day (it was April 2015) and I’m not sure if it even sees many veterans, foreign tourists or locals – fortunately the trail was free from litter – something you don’t see on the trails in the mountains of Indonesia where I stay. The overall thing that really hit me was how quickly nature has reestablished itself on that bombed mountain in just 45 years – unrecognisable from the photos of the battle site of May 1969 you can find online.
Thanks for the update Caspar! I’ve heard similar stories from other Nam vets that have revisited battle locations as well as museums, which of course, are slanted to the communist point of view. Appreciate it!
On Sun, Oct 18, 2015 at 2:56 AM, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel wrote:
Hopefully youll receive notification on this but did you manage to find the ‘Mung Ma’ airport monuments or is this something that has been added since your visit (ive just come back).
Also did you find the downed helicopter?
Unfortunately my ‘guide’ (who spoke no English) just took me and my driver up the steps and didnt want to venture into the foliage.
thank god, I served with 1st brigade 101st airborne from sept 67 and then to bien hoa when the rest of the division came, in bien hoa for tet and then on to camp eagle in I corps, till end of april 1969, left just before hill 937 started, somebody was watching over me
I was there also. the VC and NVA were not the biggest problem we faced. it was the weather which played a big part in it. I could not believe that 3 weeks later the enemy occupied the hill again. I still feel anger when someone asked me about the battle and what it was like. I have PTSD that requires me to see a shrink every 90 days – meds keep me sane. I also have type 2 diabetes thanks to agent orange.
Thank you Brother for your remarks. I’m right there with you on PTSD, meds and Diabetes. I’m glad you survived! Thank you for your service! Welcome Home Jim!
I was their and wounded the last day of battle May 20,1969 changed my life forever. Now have battled cancer and heart surgery twice due to agent orange.
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I was a grunt there i walked point cutting
Threw that jungle was a bitch.i was scared
The stickers spiders leeches,and the enemy
If you were not their lets say hope you never
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Reinforces my decision to go into the Air Force. I have always thought highly of the ground troops that had to do this and actually feel empathy for them and what they had to do. Thank you to all the brave men that did this type of war.
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