This is going to be a semi-regular topic that will be appearing on the front page in which I will do small write ups of actions in military history. The eagle-eyed among you may have already spotted, this article will be on the infamous battle of Hill 937, more famously known as Hamburger Hill. I'm gonna talk about the historical action, and then give examples and ideas as to how this could be used in Arma.
The battle was fought as part of Operation Apache Snow during the Vietnam War, between May 10th and May 20th. The objective of Apache Snow was to locate, fix and destroy North Vietnamese Army bases in the remote A Shau Valley. Apache Snow was a large operation, as the A Shau was decidedly owned by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces and provided a corridor for supply and retreat from South Vietnam into Laos - part of the successful Ho Chi Minh Trail.
To ensure success in sweeping the valley, the Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (overall command centre of Allied and ARVN units) dedicated 2 infantry divisions, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnamese) 1st Infantry Division and the American 101st Airborne Division. The 101st had previous combat experience with the A Shau and considered it to be a "valley of death". When orders were cut for them to return to the A Shau, morale in the 101st plummeted.
Hill 937 was named as such by the American forces in Vietnam, following the tradition of naming elevated areas after their designated height on topographical maps. 937, dubbed 'Hamburger Hill' by the troops who fought there, is actually called Dong Ap Bia, or Ap Bia Mountain in Vietnamese. Only sitting 1.2 miles (1.9km) from the Laotion border; if fortified the mountain could have disrupted the NVA and VC resupply routes through the A Shau valley dramatically. There was one major obstical blocking the 101st from this goal, the 7th and 8th Battalions of the 29th NVA Regiment, some 800 men.
The unlucky few sent to secure the hilltop, were the men of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne. In later actions, support came from the 3rd Regiment, 1st Infantry ARVN; 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry US and the 9th Marine Regiment US.
937 was surrounded by a range of ridges, called the Annamite range. The mountain itself is actually unconnected to this raised ground, meaning that the only way to the top is by forcing your way up the steep sides, metre by metre along the thin and snaky ridges and peaks which extend from the peak to the valley floor.
The terrain on the mountain is nearly inhospitable. Triple-canopy jungle limits landing zones, and once on the mountain itself there are dense thickets of bamboo and thick concentrations of elephant grass, which sometimes "stood taller than an M113".
Confounding these tricky conditions, the men of the 101st had to deal with a mountain that had connected trenches and bunkers - almost the entire mountain had been fortified by the NVA. Prior to the assault, the US forces were not aware of how deeply entrenched the NVA were in the A Shau, but they expected a fight. As such, the Order of Battle was pretty hefty for an operation in Vietnam.
THE US ORBAT
Operation Apache Snow had 3 Infantry Battalions of the 101st assigned to it. The 3rd Brigade, commanded by Colonel Joseph Conmy, consisted of the following :
- 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt
- 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Robert German
- 1st Battalion, 206th Parachute Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. John Bowers
- 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, ARVN
- 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, ARVN
Comny's plan was a fairly simple one, he ordered the supporting 5th Cavalry and 9th Marines to block the valley in South Vietnam and begin pushing towards the Laotian border in an attempt to flush out the NVA. Meanwhile, the 5 Infantry Battalions under his command were airlifted into the Valley on May 10th, attempting to block any escape route into Laos while pushing back towards the 5th Cavalry & 9th Marines. The hope was to trap fleeing NVA forces between the deployments in a classic hammer and anvil strategy.
The members of the 29th NVA Regiment had other ideas. They instead kept themselves secured within the safety of their fortifications on Hill 937, sending out small probing patrols to keep the US infantry busy.
I found this on google, it is not me. Photograph shows one of the NVA Bunkers
THE BATTLE OF HAMBURGER HILL
Now for the meat of this article, the battle itself.
The 101st saw limited contact from the day they landed, May 10th, 1969. Sporadic firefights with minute numbers of NVA regulars led the commanders to believe that the plan was working. As such, the men of the 101st pushed onwards towards Hill 937. The men of the 3rd Battalion, 187th led the way onto the Northern slopes of the mountain and began to encounter the first set of defences. Comny decided to surround the Vietnamese by lifting Bravo Company, 2nd Bn, 501 PIR to the Southern slopes of 937. From there, the troops pushed Northwards, encountering a mess of interconnected defensive positions occupied by a stubborn and dedicated foe. With the terrain proving to be more of an enemy than an ally, the men of Bravo Company found themselves alone until the 15th May.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Bn, 187th, tried to break the deadlock by conducting a multi-company assault to the North on the days of the 14th and 15th. The attempt encurred heavy losses, with the US forces managing to secure a few dozen meters a day and having to withdraw at night. The morale of the men on the ground was being drained rapidly with their base camps becoming full of medical evac cases waiting for Medevac choppers to make it through the withering AA fire to extract them.
It was around this time that the decision was made to hit the hilltop with Napalm, an effort to strip the NVA of their hiding places. While the devastation was severe, the NVA troops weathered the aerial bombardment in carefully constructed bunkers.
On May 18th, the order was given for a co-ordinated assault on the hilltop from both sides. Both the 1/506th and the 3/187th pushed against the NVA defenders. Delta Company, 3/187th managed to get within 75 meters of the summit but got bogged down in intense fighting, sometimes with troops engaging each other within 20 meters. Delta took a heavy beating, severe casualties forcing them ultimately to withdraw. The order was eventually given for the 3/187th to be released from the battle and brought back to their basecamp. The 3rd Battalion, 187th suffered 320 killed or wounded, including 2 company commanders and 12 platoon leaders.
On May 20th, the final assault began. 2 Fresh battalions (2nd, 501st & ARVN 2nd, 3rd Infantry) assaulted the hilltop at 10:00 hours. The attack was proceeded by 2 hours of CAS strikes and 90 minutes of Artillery Bombardment. Despite this heavy "prepping", the NVA defenders managed to defend the hilltop for another 7 hours, finally losing control at 17:00.
After the battle, a token US force was deployed to hold the hill and block NVA resupply from Laos. This, however, was not to last. On June 5th, Operation Apache Snow concluded, and Hamburger Hill was abandoned. An unconfirmed amount of NVA troops managed to withdraw to Laos, and the 29th Regiment returned shortly after, re-capturing Hill 937. In all, the 10 day battle cost the US 72 KIA and 372 Wounded. It cost the US 19,213 rounds of artillery, 890 tons of bombs and 115 tons of Napalm to take a Hilltop that would ultimately be abandoned.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Hamburger Hill has a bunch of ideas to be used in Arma, not just assaulting a Hill. If you want to explore possibilities, read up on Operation Apache Snow, but here's one idea for the final assault on May 20th.
Objective: The Comms Bravo Outpost
Hostiles: INDFOR Nationalist Militia
The Comms Bravo area gives you a nice hilltop to allow you to place bunkers and AA (though I reccomend only using ZU or DshKs), and has a nice commanding view of the surrounding Jungle. You can easily place bunkers of units in defensive positions on the approaches to the hilltop, forcing the players to fight their way to the summit. This is the sort of scenario which could be quite easily operated by one zeus and also gives the option for adding jets to the player side - I recommend the A-10 with a full GBU load.
I'd reccomend against adding armour into this mission, as in reality it's shitty conditions for any tanks to operate in. If you want to break from history a little, you could throw some M113s in to see how a Mech platoon operates with tracked APCs pushing the hilltop.
I hope you enjoyed the article!