Khe Sahn Hills


In mid-April of 1968, our Regiment, 1st Marines, relieved 27th Marines (regiment) in the Khe Sahn TAOR.  

The Khe Sahn TAOR included Khe Sahn itself, and the surrounding hills.  Our battalion, 1st Battalion, had positions on Hills 881S, 869, 952 and 558, where the Battalion CP was located.  

Some Remembrances:


This is a map of the hills near Khe Sahn that was 1st Battalion, 1st Marines TAOR.   The areas marked correspond to the respective hills we had positions on when we took over the TAOR in April.  

Initially, 950 was Alpha company, 861 was Alpha and Bravo, and 881 South was Charlie and Delta.  In early June, during a battalion operation south-east of Khe Sahn, our Battalion CO was seriously injured, and LtCol Archie VanWinkle, a MOH winner from Korea, took command.  

After the operation, we shifted the companies around so that Bravo was on Hill 881 South, Delta on Hill 689, Alpha on hill 861 and Charlie on 558 with the CP.  It was at this time that the decision was made to abandon the hills (finally!) and we were to destroy all positions in preparation for a pull-out.  New tactics were to be more of mobility rather than static.


 Khe Sahn Hills Strategy


This link is just some comments on the Khe Sahn Hills strategy - i.e., taking and holding the high ground in a non-conventional war.

These pictures are of the Khe Sahn base during June 1968 - We were doing a helicopter recon of the area for an upcoming operation, and stopping by 1st Marine Regiment Headquarters (at Khe Sahn base) to get latest maps and intelligence.

The C-130 in the second picture was downed sometime in late 1967 or early 1968, I think.  The C-130's were used for re-supply, and would land on runway without stopping, and air crews would push out pallets of supplies with parachutes attached.  BUT:  Each time the planes circled to do their stop-and-go landings, NVA would start popping mortars - this plane got hit by one.

The last picture just shows Khe Sahn from a ground level point of view.  There were a number of Marines and others at the base - 1st Marine Headquarters, as mentioned, and one battalion (I believe 3rd) operated from the base also.


These next 4 are from Hill 558.  The first one is some of the S-2 staff preparing for some day work (patrol) with one of the platoons from Bravo.  From left, Cpl Ditgen, ARVN SSgts Cung, Thanh and Hue (Interpreters) and LCpl Hofmann. All patrolling in the Khe Sahn hills area was platoon sized or bigger - no squad or smaller. 

The next picture shows a CH-53 helicopter - this is during the pull-out phase around the first part of July 1968.  

The third picture is us blowing (destroying) our bunkers during the pull-out phase.

Last picture is a self-important, much younger me proudly holding a self-made cup - canister and a live .50 round - one always handled the cup with care.. 





These next 6 are from Hill 881 South - home of Charlie and Delta companies when I was there. 

The first picture is from Delta looking towards Charlie company's position. As mentioned, Hill 881 South had a saddle-back type summit. 

The second picture is of Delta's CP - note the flag.  I still think the NVA used it as an "aiming stake" for their mortars..

The third picture is looking toward 881 North - the smoke plumes in the distance are from our 106 MM section firing at some reported NVA movement. 

The fourth picture is Sgt Langley, 1st Platoon Sergeant.  He was KIA on Hill 689 about 2 weeks after this picture was taken.

The fifth picture is of 1st Platoon headquarters.  All the comforts of home.

The final picture is of an area in Laos we call "CoRoc".  The NVA had heavy artillery buried in the hillside (130's) on railroad tracks.  Every so often, they would wheel them out and bombard the Khe Sahn base heavily.  I thought a picture of CoRoc with a rainbow was a nice touch..




These next 9 pictures are from Hill 689, during the first part of July.   Delta had taken over this hill and destroyed bunkers, etc., as a prelude to our pull-out from the hills.  

However, during a routine patrol down the west side of Hill 689, 1st platoon was ambushed - the NVA had dug spider holes and attacked the platoon in force.  

On the 6th of July, LtCol VanWinkle, the CO, moved to 689 with myself, the S-3 and whatever Marines we had left on 558 as reinforcements for Delta.  Our mission was to retrieve our dead and pull out.

During the night of the 7th, the NVA hit us with a heavy probe - probably 20 or 30 strong.  They snuck in the wire yelling "friendly" and "corpsman".. got by the west slope corner M-60 gunner, then things got interesting.

We lost 6 dead that night, and at least 15 NVA.  The next day, we tried a retrieval led by Charlie company CO (Capt Hank Trautwein).  Lost some more Marines, retrieved 1 body and left 2 more.

During the day, we called in all manner of air support - napalm and 250 pound bombs.  We called them "Napes and Snakes".  

The final night, we retrieved the last dead with some Marine volunteers camouflaged up going down the slope using M79 and flare ships for illumination.

The last 2 pictures are of SSgt Cung - ARVN interpreter - and myself on the day that we left Hill 689.