Battle of Hamburger Hill Timeline

April 25 – May 9, 1969
Air Force C-130s prepare 30 landing zones in the A Shau Valley.

May 10
Operation Apache Snow begins.

65 Huey lift ships transport 1,800 men into the A Shau Valley around Ap Bia: Three Battalions of Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais’ 101st Airborne Division and two Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalions.

1-506 and 3-187 secure the Dong Ap Bia landing zones.

May 11
The 3-187 advance is halted after its command post is hit by friendly fire that leaves 2 dead and wounds another 25.

May 12-13
3-187 companies re-position for a coordinated attack.

May 14
3-187 companies attack, 12 killed, 80 wounded, including 1 killed, 3 wounded by helicopter gunship friendly fire

May 15
B Company gets to within 150 meters of summit when helicopter friendly fire hits command post, killing 1, wounding 1, and is forced to pull back to previous position after 36 more are wounded.

Associated Press reporter Jay Sharbutt arrives at the battle scene and interviews General Zais and troops of the 3-187.

May 16
1-506 attacks from the north and takes Hill 916 but is stopped 2,000 meters from Hill 937’s summit.

May 17
3-187 awaits arrival of the 1-506, and prepares for next assault on Hill 937.

May 18
Two-battalion assault ordered: 3-187 from the north; and 1-506 from the south.

D Company, 3-187, is stopped just short Hill 937 summit, and suffers 50 percent casualties, with every officer killed or wounded.

C Company is stopped by a rainstorm, and is forced to withdraw.

General Zais considers calling off attack because of heavy casualties and heightened media attention, but decides to commit three additional battalions.

By this date, 3-187 A and B companies have suffered 50 percent losses; C and D companies have suffered 80 percent losses.

May 19
U.S. newspapers carry Sharbutt’s account of the fight, which he describes as a "meatgrinder."

May 20
Ten artillery battalions hit top of Hill 937 with 20,000 rounds, and 272 airstrikes drop 1 million pounds of bombs and 152,000 pounds of napalm.

3-187, with 2/3 ARVN and a company from 2-506, attack and take the top of Hill 937 by noon, only to find most of the enemy has fled.

Hill 937 is secured at 1700 hours.

Sharbutt’s report of the capture of Hill 937 appears in U.S. newspapers.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Edward Kennedy calls the attack on Dong Ap Bia "senseless, and irresponsible…madness."

May 21
3-187 flies to Eagle Beach for R&R.

General Zais defends the attack on Hamburger Hill at a news conference.

May 23
General William Westmoreland privately congratulates Zais "on a gallant operation…which I refuse to recognize as the much publicized Hamburger Hill."

President Nixon’s press secretary reiterates that the assault was consistent with administration "tactics and military strategy."

May 24
The New York Times reports that some Nixon administration officials fear such costly battles will undermine public support for the war.

Sen. Kennedy calls the battle nothing but "cruelty and savagery," and Sen. George McGovern denouncces the "senseless slaughter."

May 29
Sen. Stephen Young compares Hamburger Hill to the Civil War battle of Chancellorsville.

June 5
Maj. Gen. John Wright orders Allied forces to abandon Dong Ap Bia.

June 8
President Nixon confers with South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu and announces plans to "Vietnamize" the war and to begin troop withdrawals of 25,000 by July 8, and 35,000 more by early December.

June 17
The press reports that the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) is again on Dong Ap Bia in force, and U.S. intelligence admits that some 1,000 NVA have reoccupied the hill.

General Wright tells reporters, if it is necessary to take Hamburger Hill again, he is prepared to commit "everything it takes, up to the entire division, to do the job."

June 19
Sen. Young attacks Gens. Wright and Zais for being "so callous over the welfare of GIs who do the fighting and dying…."

President Nixon orders General Creighton Abrams to "conduct war with a minimum of American casualties."

June 27
Life magazine runs photos of 242 Americans killed in Vietnam in one week.

August 21
Nixon administration issues new mission for MACV: Focus on assisting South Vietnamese armed forces "to take over an increasing share of combat operations."

For more on Hamburger Hill, see James Willbanks’ article Hell on Hamburger Hill published in the June 2009 Vietnam magazine.

Also see Colonel Harry G. Summers‘ (U.S. Army, ret.) article Battle for Hamburger Hill During Vietnam War originally published in the June 1999 issue of Vietnam magazine.

Samuel Zaffiri’s book Hamburger Hill was a Featured Selection of the Military Book Club when it was published. Click here to learn how he came to write it.




7 Responses

  1. bravo rakkasan

    i don’t know how old you are but your response your comment of pretty cool dudes is beyond comment. 90 plus degrees, dirt, sweat, exhaustion, anger, frustration, the sweet smell of sticky blood and cordite assaulting a hill black,BLACK, denuded of trees, follege(sp). stinky ass water, busted up weapons and dust offs and body bags, some the size of a loaf of bread.
    not cool. took me 42 years to go to a reunion last may at ft. campbell.
    blackjack is still kicking as well as co. a and d commanders.
    beware of imposters. if every marine i met was at khan shan as they said, the whole corp would have been there except the regiment or so that was there. 18th of may artillery barrage on the hill of cs gas….wind shifted or whatever and we got gassed. something that i figure only a dong ap bia grunt would remember. plus the news people stayed at the battalion cp. yours, ralph

    • bravo rakkasan

      i forgot…..constant barrage noise, guns,claymores, and of course the 500/1000 lbs. naplam, and of course the angry buzz red streak of the cobras. at night from the battalion cp you could seethe nva trucks with lights on pass back and forth from laos supplies and carring dead and wounded. as confirmed with blackjack. i thought they were flashlights.

  2. M1 Hound

    was not there. heard plenty about the hill later on. By the Grace of God I was elsewhere at the time, Army 1967-1970. Great time line, anyone with any combat experience can feel the scene from this article. Well written, from the gut.

  3. Blackwidow 14

    My 2nd mission as a pilot in VN. We flew out to a small operation about 10 klicks from the dmz and 20 klicks from the Ocean.
    Blackjack and his Rakkasans had trapped some enemy in a marsh and needed some of his men airlifted a very short distance to finish the encirclement. As we approached the area with our H model slicks we tuned into a radio channel that Blackjack was also using to command his gunships.
    What occured was powerful.
    I would have followed Blackjack’s lead anywhere he needed his men dropped. I consider him a very good combat leader.
    Blackwidow 14
    I corp 1969

  4. Bill

    Forty three years ago today, my cousin, Douglas Roy Matheson (Sgt.) died on Hamburger Hill. I take this day to remember him. Though I was only nine years old at the time and I really didn’t know you real well (just only as my older cousin in the Army and was married); your death had a deep long lasting effect on me for years (well in to adulthood). God please grant you rest and peace Douglas and not only you, but all those who relinquished their lives for their country during that battle.

    All my love, Bill Ivory

  5. A student

    I am studying the Vietnam war, and i also know a veteran who was on this hill. I would just like to say to all Vietnam veterans, Thank you, and welcome home.


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