For this case study I will be covering the Battle of Dong Ap Bia also known as “Hamburger Hill”, one of the bloodiest and most infamous battles of the Vietnam War. This battle took place from May 10-20, 1969 in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. This battle took place during “Operation Apache Snow” which was the second part of a three phase campaign intended to destroy North Vietnam Army (NVA) Base Areas in the remote A Shau Valley1. This was not the most casualty producing battle but because it took place toward the end of the Vietnam War when it had become very unpopular with the American public it received an excessive amount of negative political and press coverage. It became the focal point of the media and started a debate on our military strategy that led to a major turning point in the War.
The debate put simply was whether or not the cost of American lives was worth it to take a hill that had no strategic value since shortly after the hill was taken it was abandon. This debate led to “Vietnamization” which was President Nixon’s plan to slowly reduce the American forces in Vietnam while strengthening South Vietnams army and political influence to prepare them against a communist takeover and allow the U.S. to leave the conflict with its honor intact.3 Shortly after the battle of Hamburger Hill came President Nixon’s announcement to withdraw 25,000 troops by July of 1969 followed by 35,000 more by that December.
After the final bloody assault on the 20th of May a Soldier wrote “Hamburger Hill” on a piece of meal ration box and nailed it to a tree at the base of hill 937 and under that another Soldier wrote “was it worth it?” As previously stated the battle on “Hamburger Hill” was a part of Operation Apache Snow which was created to seek and destroy North Vietnam Army strong holds and weapons caches in the A Shau Valley.. The A Shau valley is were a convergence of entry points from the Ho Chi Minh Trail entered South Vietnam from Laos. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was built by the Vietnam Peoples Army(PAVN) to provide supply routes to the North Vietnam Army and Vietcong from North Vietnam to South Vietnam through the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.
It consisted of a combination of truck routes, tunnels and trails for foot and bicycle traffic. It was said to have over 9000 miles of web tracks, roads and waterways.3 The A Shau Valley was fiercely defended by the enemy because it was extremely important to the North Vietnam Army and Vietcong because of its strategic location. It was used to stage several of their offensives, one of them, the attack on HUE during the TET offensive in 1968 that led to the death of nearly 8000 innocent civilians and another 18,000 wounded and the loss of 142 U.S. Marines. Months prior to Operation Apache Snow, The U.S. forces had gained intelligence that PAVN was reestablishing strong holds and weapons caches in the A Shau Valley. On January 20, 1969 three battalions of the 9th...