VIETNAM’S LEADING BATTLEFIELD TOUR OPERATOR

Join us for a journey through the history of Vietnam conflicts.

HAMBURGER HILL TOUR VIETNAM - THE LAST PATROL

Hamburger hill tour Vietnam/private hamburger hill tour from Hue
Hamburger Hill tour Vietnam - The Last Patrol
A couple of months later, as I was still digesting the experience of attending the reunion, Mike contacted me about going back to the hill together. We had talked about it before, but I wasn’t sure if we could make it happen. As it turned out, John Snyder from 1st Platoon Bravo Company had decided he wanted to join us as well. So after having detailed our plans, I also asked my friends and colleagues in the namwartravel team, Stephen Berlinguette and Ciarán McCann if they would like to join. Both immediately agreed and started to clear their schedules for that week in February. Now we were a team of five.
We made plans to stay overnight in A Luoi in the A Shau Valley about 40 miles west of the city of Hue near the Laotian border. After an early morning check out from the hotel in Hue, we boarded the rented van that would take us up to the valley. On the way, we stopped at the site of LZ Blaze from where the Rakkasans had lifted off on their combat assault to Hill 937 that morning almost 54 years ago. After the stop we continued to the hill, stopping on the way to drop off our papers at the police office and picking up two additional local guides from the village. I had asked our regular guide Mr Vu, the owner of Annam Tour ( www.annamtour.com ) to arrange for two more guys from the village that could help carry our load and hopefully also provide some local knowledge of the hill. And they sure did. They knew every inch of the hill, having spent their lives going up and down Hill 937 and the surrounding hills.

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Hiking Hamburger Hill

It took us a good hour or so to get up to the monument. We stopped there for a quick snack before we continued towards the summit. On the summit, they had cut down the elephant grass which made it quite easy to navigate and move around. We stopped by the sign, took some pictures and Mike and John shared some stories with us.
We had chosen to move down the ridgeline where both Mike and John had fought during the battle. John with Bravo Company had fought here the first six days of the battle before they were pulled back to the Battalion CP and Mike’s Delta Company came in to take over their positions.

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Mike Smith ( C company ) and John Snyder ( B company ) on the summit of Hamburger Hill

It is a very steep descent from the summit on the northern side. At some points you slide down the steepest bits, hoping you won’t fall over and tumble all the way down. A couple of hundred meters down from the summit, we were in the area that Boccia calls The Clearing in his book. This is where Bravo Company got stopped during every assault the first days. The NVA had a .51 caliber machine gun trained directly on the entry point to that section and there was nowhere to get around it considering the steep slopes on either side of the ridge. They had to face the brutal and deadly fire from the enemy as they tried to flank the enemy bunkers, only to be pushed back by heavy machine gun and RPG fire. Unfortunately, they also fell victim to friendly fire from both the jets dropping bombs and Huey gunships shooting ARA.

Hamburger hill tour Vietnam/private hamburger hill tour from Hue

On the 18th, the ninth day of the battle, Mike in the 2nd Platoon Delta Company reinforced by a small unit from the battered Charlie Company was pushing up this section, at the time, the jungle was gone. Trees stumps, logs, rocks, and craters were the main features. And mud. As the battle raged, the rain came in heavy, turning the steep slope into a muddy hell. The Airborne soldiers crawled up as they advanced towards the NVA soldiers shooting down on them. Delta took heavy casualties, including having their Company Commander seriously wounded. One of the Charlie Company Platoon leaders was left for dead, but he managed to crawl back down to safety.
It would take two more days of intense fighting before The Rakkasans could finally take the hill.
Walking down this area with two of the men who had fought, and lost friends here was a very powerful experience. None of us non-veterans really knew how to relate to this, so we all tried to focus on the terrain and moving forward. I tried to guide Mike and John to the best of my knowledge on the specific terrain features that they would know so they could match it against their memories of the battle.

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Walking through dense jungle on the hill

We spent several hours on the mountain that day and got as far down as the area where they had their Company CP set up. Navigating in the thick jungle isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but with some solid navigating, we knew we were in the right place. There were even some marks of the old foxholes that the soldiers had dug in the area. Around the area, we also found a poncho and some rubber holders for radio batteries.

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Walking down the steep northwestern ridge trail 

Realizing we would run out of daylight; we started the climb back up the steep hill. After several hours on the mountain, we could all feel the strain, so we made sure to move slowly but steadily.As we were leaving the battle area, Mr Vu asked Mike; is this the last patrol? Mike replied it probably was. I found it fitting so I have decided to name the video series I am working on, Hamburger Hill tour Vietnam – The Last Patrol. Below is the first part where I sit down with men from 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, including John Snyder who was with us on Hamburger Hill this time.
Traveling there with these legendary warriors was a humbling experience. I learned so much from Mike and John as we explored the area. Not only about the events and locations as such but also the impact the battle had on these men and their brothers. Mike told me afterward he had found some closure.I hope you have enjoyed reading the article together with watching the images and the videos. My aim is to help veterans tell their stories and I hope people will learn more about the war and what these men went through. This amazing journey was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But my project doesn’t end here. I already have my next visit to the hill planned and there is much more to explore there. Among other things, I want to reach all the way back to the Battalion CP and the original LZ area. I will continue to collect material about the Hamburger Hill battle and other events during the war and hopefully help more people understand better what these brave men went through.

Hamburger hill tour Vietnam/private hamburger hill tour from Hue
Video link for the Last Patrol