Westmoreland , the former commander of U. His stated intention was to locate the PAVN force in his area of responsibility and engage it before it could escape into Laos. Rather than retreat, the PAVN in the valley determined to stand and fight in a series of well prepared concentric bunker positions on Hill Having made no significant contacts in its area of operations, at midday on 13 May, the 3rd Brigade commander, Colonel Conmy, decided it would move to cut off PAVN reinforcement from Laos and to assist Honeycutt by attacking Hill from the south.
Roger Leasure, made probing attacks on the south slopes of the mountain on 16 and 17 May.
Steep gradients and dense vegetation provided few natural landing zones LZs in the vicinity of the mountain and made helicopter redeployments impractical. The terrain also masked the positions of the PAVN 29th Regiment, making it nearly impossible to suppress anti-aircraft fire, while the jungle covered the movement of PAVN units so completely that it created a nonlinear battlefield. PAVN soldiers, able to maneuver freely around the LZs, shot down or damaged numerous helicopters with small arms fire, Rocket-propelled grenades , and crew-served weapons.
The PAVN also assaulted nearby logistical support LZs and command posts at least four times, forcing deployment of units for security that might otherwise have been employed in assaults. Attacking companies had to provide for degree security as they maneuvered, since the terrain largely prevented them from mutually supporting one another. PAVN platoon- and company-sized elements repeatedly struck maneuvering U.
The effectiveness of U. With most small arms engagements thus conducted at close range, U. Units frequently pulled back and called in artillery fire, close air support, and aerial rocket artillery, but the PAVN bunkers were well-sited and constructed with overhead cover to withstand bombardment. During the course of the battle the foliage was eventually stripped away and the bunkers exposed, but they were so numerous and well constructed that many could not be destroyed by indirect fire.
Napalm , recoilless rifle fire, and dogged squad and platoon-level actions eventually accounted for the reduction of most fortifications, though at a pace and price thoroughly unanticipated by American forces. Though Honeycutt constantly prodded his company commanders to push on, he could do little to coordinate mutual support until the final assaults, when the companies maneuvered in close proximity over the barren mountain top.
Fire support for units in contact was also decentralized. Supporting fires, including those controlled by airborne forward air controllers , were often directed at the platoon level. Four of the incidents involved Cobra gunship helicopters, which in one case were more than 1 kilometer 0. On 16 May Associated Press correspondent Jay Sharbutt learned of the ongoing battle on Hill , traveled to the area and interviewed MG Zais, in particular asking why infantry, rather than firepower, was used as the primary offensive tool on Hill More reporters followed to cover the battle, and the term "Hamburger Hill" became widely used.
From a light observation helicopter, the battalion commander attempted to coordinate the movements of the other companies into a final assault, but an exceptionally intense thunderstorm reduced visibility to zero and ended the fighting. Because of the heavy casualties already sustained by his units and under pressure from the unwanted attention of the press, Zais seriously considered discontinuing the attack but decided otherwise.
Abrams , publicly supported the decision. Two of its four company commanders and eight of twelve platoon leaders had become casualties. Gene Sherron, arrived at Honeycutt's command post on the afternoon of 18 May to coordinate the relief. Before any arrangements were made, Zais landed and was confronted by Honeycutt, who argued that his battalion was still combat effective.
After a sharp confrontation, Zais relented, although he assigned one of Sherron's companies to Honeycutt as reinforcement for the assault. Both battalions immediately moved onto the mountain to positions from which they would attack the following morning. The attack was preceded by two hours of close air support and ninety minutes of artillery preparatory fires.
Recent research, particularly based on the statements by General Creighton W. Abrams in "The Abrams Tapes", says its role in the final assault was as follows: The unit was positioned on a stretch of the PAVN defense line that was lightly defended, and sent a scout party to test the forward enemy lines earlier than the proposed assault time; this party was quickly able to discern the minimal enemy strength.
Wright who replaced MG Zais as commander of the st Airborne in May abandoned the hill on 5 June as the operations in the valley wrapped up. In its 27 June issue, Life Magazine published the photographs of Americans killed in one week in Vietnam; this is now considered a watershed event of negative public opinion toward the Vietnam War.
While only five of the featured photos were of those killed in the battle, many Americans had the perception that all of the photos featured in the magazine were casualties of the battle. The controversy of the conduct of the Battle of Hamburger Hill led to a reappraisal of U. As a direct result, to hold down casualties, General Abrams discontinued a policy of "maximum pressure" against the PAVN to one of "protective reaction" for troops threatened with combat action, while simultaneously President Richard Nixon announced the first troop withdrawal from South Vietnam.
To take the position, the st Airborne Division Airmobile eventually committed five infantry battalions and ten batteries of artillery.
In addition, the U. Air Force flew missions and expended more than tons of ordnance. There is no count of the PAVN running off the mountain, those killed by artillery and air strikes, the wounded and dead carried into Laos or the dead buried in collapsed bunkers and tunnels. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the film, see Hamburger Hill.
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