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"The Hill"


By Lee Russell

The inspiration for this episode was the movie "Hamburger Hill", the 1969 battle it was about, and several lesser known actions. It was the official policy of the United States government to target the North Vietnamese Army and VC Main Force battalions to attack. Wherever they were, wherever they went, the the US would fight them. No particular piece of ground meant anything more than any other. If the NVA/VC were there, we would attack. After we won (we always would) then the objective was abandoned. Some bunkers might be blown up, tear gas grenades thrown into others, then we walked away. The NVA/VC soon learned they could re-occupy such positions almost at once. And the the US would attack again. Note that this was the policy of the civilian government, principly Secretary of Defense Robert S. MacNamara, not the military.

The NVA and VC were masters of defense. They specialized in digging and camouflage. They tunnelled into hillsides from the rear, constructing underground bunkers and pushing machine guns through firing slits between tree roots. Tiny camouflaged "spider holes" held snipers who connected to the main positions by slit trenches and tunnels. Point elements of US units might find themselves shot at or attacked in force from the rear. Approach routes were mined and booby trapped. Protected escape routes allowed enemy troops to safely withdraw.

One of the methods the US used to deny a captured position to the enemy was to defoliate it (kill the vegetation) with chemicals. The various defoliants (mostly commercial) were given Color code names, Agent Purple, Agent White etc. One of the most effective was Agent Orange. Hastily developed, some batches were inadvertently contaminated during manufacture by the compound Dioxin, a carcinogen which could cause long term genetic damage. The shootdown of a helicopter on such a mission triggers the Bravo Company attack.

The writer for this episode was Vietnam vet Stephen Smith. Other than providing the Agent Orange 55 gal drum markings, and some help with the citations, there was little need for my assistance.

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Next/Saigon Part One & Two