The history of mankind is characterized by a trail continues almost uninterrupted wars and more or less extensive and the United States of America, despite being a relatively new nation, are no exception. The trail of blood for the conquest of the territory and the subjugation of indigenous peoples, the struggle for independence from European domination, the Civil War and subsequent conflicts with foreign nations that continue to this day with the hypocritical name of “missions of peace “are notorious even among those who deal with history in a superficial way.
Among the recent war episodes that have engaged the U.S. Army, the Vietnam War is definitely one of the more interesting because, if you do a comparison with previous conflicts, the political landscape, the mode of surgery and the characteristics of the the enemy territory and constitute a general scenario unconventional. For these reasons, many scholars of military history has never ceased to study the various aspects of this event and also the normal students of modern history continue to be fascinated by the tragic experiences of the soldiers who took part in those fights. The chronicles and testimonies of those who lived through that tragedy were made public in many ways and one of the arrangements for the dissemination of mass more effective and more appropriate to communicate the tragedy of the sacrifice of the individual is that of the masses is definitely the cinema.
The alternation of the phases of the Vietnam War is really urgent. Even the initial stages, when the American presence was more political than non-military, can captivate more than a spy story written by a skilled novelist. It all starts with the end of World War II when, for Americans, has
began to create the fear of a communist bloc led by the Soviet Union, among the most troubling parts of this block was China and the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh City, the undisputed leader of northern Vietnam, was tied hand in glove with the Beijing regime. In 1954 there was the final defeat of the French troops in Indochina and was outlined a kind of boundary line along the 17th parallel between North Vietnam and South Vietnam The presence of American strategic service personnel in Indochina from the second World War II and had the task of helping the partisan troops in the fight against the Japanese, but it is around 1955 that took shape a real support activities towards the South Vietnamese to fight the North Vietnamese communist forces of Ho Chi Minh . Initially, the U.S. assistance was limited to strategic advice and supply of material, and it was in 1961 that the newly elected President John F. Kennedy gave the order to intervene militarily so overt. The difficulties of this campaign were initially underestimated the conflict and immediately took a turn for the worse. The use of personnel and resources was gradually increased but the South Vietnamese troops proved to be able to replicate blow for blow with great efficiency and incredible spirit of sacrifice. Gunplay, more or less bloody skirmishes and battles were numerous and all have resulted in losses of men for both sides, but one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the war in Vietnam was certainly one that took place between 11 and 20 May 1969 for the conquest of a hill called by the locals Dong Ap Bia, 937 meters high (for this called “Quota 937”) and located in the A Shau Valley.
This area was particularly important from a strategic point of view because it allowed to control the passage of troops and supplies from Laos to South Vietnam After ten days of “barrel orbi” American soldiers managed to get the better but losses were so large that ended the conflict, the military called it “Hamburger Hill.” The year was 1969, in January Richard Nixon had taken the place of Lyndon Johnson as President of the United States. At that time, the outcome of the conflict was quite positive and the troops of Ho Chi Minh had been beaten back to the north. During Operation Dewey Canyon, lasted a couple of months and ended in March, the 9th Marines, penetrating into the A Shau Valley, managed to inflict heavy losses (about 1500 men) enemy army but could not completely drive out the enemy troops who had settled in the area in 1966. Thus was organized a new expedition, again in the A Shau Valley, called “Apache Snow” that began in the early days of May 1969. Were used three battalions of the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by General Melvin Zais. The first battalion was formed by the 506th Infantry and was commanded by Col. John Bowers, the second battalion of the 501st Infantry was commanded by Col. Robert German, and the third was the 187th Infantry Battalion commanded by Col. Weldon Honeycut. The U.S. troops were flanked by two battalions of the South Vietnamese. The enemy forces, entrenched in their positions on top of the hill marked on military maps with the initials “Quota 937”, were not willing to give up their positions without a fight. The morphology of the walls of that mountain was particularly favorable to the defense forces.
The few gullies running down longitudinally towards the base of the mountain were narrow and shallow, so you could spend a few men at a time, and could easily be swept by fire from the positions defended by the 29th Regiment North Vietnamese. The roads leading to the top were scarce and deficient protection and shelter. Also the vegetation, usually very lush, has brought great benefits to the rise of American troops during repeated assaults. On the 11th day began to climb the hill Dong Ap Bia. Alpha and Delta companies were engaged on the north, Bravo and Charlie companies on the other two sides accessible. The first contact with the enemy took place on the north side and the American command knew immediately that the opposing forces were far more substantial than expected. It was therefore kicked off the first foray with Cobra helicopters (Bell A-H1) armed with 70 mm rockets., Who performed an initial bombardment of enemy positions. The North Vietnamese soldiers had organized a thick bunker system that, thanks to the vegetation, it was impossible to identify; also the robust construction of these casemates minimized the effect of the bombing. Unfortunately many rockets hit the target and failed disastrously stations killing two American soldiers and wounding thirty-five including himself Colonel Honeycut. This involuntary knife in the back forced the two companies to abandon the position conquered and back down to the starting pits. Unfortunately this accident happened other times in the course of this battle and sometimes by artillery support. The next two days were unleashed more attacks, with catastrophic outcome. The deduction of the command was that the enemy positions, as well as being more substantial than expected, they were also getting fresh troops and material from the slope facing Laos. On days 14 and 15 while two companies persevered with futile attempts on the north, was made an encirclement maneuver so he can launch an attack simultaneously on both sides and at the same time, stop any flow of aid to the troops barricaded on Quote 937. The assignment to circumvent the hill was assigned to the 1st Battalion. This initiative also encountered a number of unforeseen challenges: one of the men was moved by helicopter but the thick vegetation prevented to find landing spots logistically valid.
The soldiers who faced moving on foot were also difficulties and delays for the impenetrability of the jungle. In addition, the enemy troops, you knew that instead move nimbly through their territory, they succeeded in creating continuing difficulties, to inflict substantial losses with numerous ambushes. In fact, many helicopters were shot down and during the unloading of troops in the recovery. For these reasons, only a part of the 1st Battalion succeeded in making the first assaults on the top of the hill on 16 and 17 May but even these failed and the losses were enormous. The entire contingent was deployed completely only on 19. On the 19th came another contingent of troops fresh: the 501st Infantry Battalion and two battalions of the South Vietnamese. With this increase in the number of soldiers it was possible to relieve the companies most tried and decimated in those days of hell. The final attack began at 10.00 am on the morning of May 20 after nearly two hours of bombing by artillery and helicopter. The companies were led to attack simultaneously and South Vietnamese troops were decisive for the final victory. The price was finally conquered 937 at 17.00 that day. U.S. forces battle cost more than 70 dead and 370 injured. The fallen of the enemy were 680. The conquest of “Hamburger Hill” had no great strategic importance for the fate of the conflict and the most devastating effect it had on the American public. Ironically, the hill was abandoned on June 5 of that year. During those 10 days were employed five infantry battalions for a total of 1,800 men and 937 were discharged portion of 450 tons of bombs and 69 tons of napalm. The history of these soldiers has been told in a film of great value by director John Irvin. The film was presented in 1987 and is considered by many to be a true masterpiece for the realism of the scenes and settings. John Irvin is primarily a writer but he has directed many successful films of various kinds. Among his most famous action movie should be mentioned: the dogs of war; “magnum code,” “Kin,” “Robin Hood – the legend,” “the spiral of revenge” …
The list of films set in war scenarios is endless and, thanks to the skill of the directors and set designers, everyone can arouse emotions more or less intense when we identify ourselves with the characters. Unfortunately in our unconscious is now established the feeling that all the situations narrated in the film are the fruit of the imagination of the director. In reality we should deal with in different ways the stories from episodes that actually happened. With this approach the suffering of those who have suffered the vicissitudes of human history can help us grow inwardly and their sacrifice will have more meaning.