Today in History May 20, 1969

After 10 days and 10 bloody assaults, Hill 937 in South Vietnam is finally captured by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. The Americans who fought there cynically dubbed Hill 937 “Hamburger Hill” because the battle and its high casualty rate reminded them of a meat grinder. Located one mile east of the Laotian border, Hill 937 was ordered taken as part of Operation Apache Snow, a mission intended to limit enemy infiltration from Laos that threatened Hue to the northeast and Danang to the southeast. On May 10, following air and artillery strikes, a U.S.-led infantry force launched its first assault on the North Vietnamese stronghold but suffered a high proportion of casualties and fell back. Ten more infantry assaults came during the next 10 days, but Hill 937’s North Vietnamese defenders did not give up their fortified position until May 20. Almost 100 Americans were killed and more than 400 wounded in taking the hill, amounting to a shocking 70 percent casualty rate. The same day that Hamburger Hill was finally captured, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts called the operation “senseless and irresponsible” and attacked the military tactics of President Richard Nixon’s administration. His speech before the Senate was seen as part of a growing public outcry over the U.S. military policy in Vietnam. U.S. military command had ordered Hill 937 taken primarily as a diversionary tactic, and on May 28 it was abandoned. This led to further outrage in America over what seemed a senseless loss of American lives. North Vietnamese forces eventually returned and re-fortified their original position.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day

March 29th is National Vietnam War Veterans Day!

The U.S. Navy performed a wide array of missions during the Vietnam War. In the air, the Navy was a key partner with the U.S. Air Force during the Rolling Thunder and Linebacker air campaigns against North Vietnam, and in other air operations in Laos and Cambodia. On the coast, it developed a highly effective blockade to prevent the resupply of enemy forces by sea, engaged in naval gunfire support missions against enemy targets in the littoral areas of Vietnam, and provided amphibious transport for Marines operating in I Corps. On the rivers, Navy task forces protected commercial traffic, assisted allied ground forces in pacifying these areas, and interdicted enemy troops and supplies moving on these inland waterways. The U.S. Navy also supported the war effort with a massive sea and riverine logistics operation, built and managed shore facilities throughout South Vietnam, and provided extensive medical support for the allied military operation. A total of 1.8 million Sailors served in Southeast Asia. The
Navy provided the allied effort with many unique capabilities, the most significant being the projection of U.S. combat power ashore and control of the seas to support a land war in Asia far from the United States. Overall, the Navy suffered the loss of 1,631 men killed and 4,178 wounded during the course of the war.

On March 29 we honor all those who answered our Nation’s call to duty in Vietnam. With conviction, our Nation pledges our enduring respect, our continuing care, and our everlasting commitment to all Vietnam Veterans.

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