A Survivor's Story

Hill 1338
Hill 875


I joined the Army six months out of high school (Sept.1966). I was from the Philadelphia, PA area (about 30 miles north of the city) and was sent to Fort Ord, CA for basic. After the eight weeks of basic I was sent to Fort Gordon, GA for eight weeks of AIT. After that I completed the three weeks of jump school at Fort Benning, GA. I received a 14-day leave to come home and after that left from Fort Dix, NJ for the adventure of a lifetime (and one I hope not to repeat again).


For the first couple of months all the operations we conducted were pretty easy as they were in the general area of our base camp at Bien Hoa. All we really ran into were small groups of Viet Cong that posed no real problem. Then around the beginning of June of 1967 the whole brigade was shipped north about 300 miles to the Dak To area. This is when the shit really hit the fan. The battle for Hill 1338 was the first time we had run into NVA regulars and they were tough.

I was with the Weapons Plt./Co. A/2nd Bat./ 173rd on June 22, 1967. I had been with the 173rd since about March 1, 1967 and was an 11B (rifleman). At the time of the battle I had just turned 19 years old and was very scared to say the least (as you might guess). The official name of the operation was "Greeley" but we called it "The Battle of the Slopes" or just plain "Hill 1338". Co. A started what was supposed to be a routine patrol on June 18 and on June 21 we received orders to back our base camp at the Dak To airstrip. On the morning of June 22 we started down a slope, my guess is there was anywhere from 130 to 150 guys in our company when we walked into an ambush. We were pretty much alone although Co. C was nearby and Co. B was in reserve. The battle started at about 0630 hours and was over by about 1400 hours. Our company had 76 dead and 23 wounded.

The only reason our platoon wasn't cut to pieces was because we were the last in line that morning and heard the ambush before we walked into it like the 2nd and 3rd platoons had. We, and the 1st platoon were able to form a defensive perimeter to hold off what turned out to be a human wave charge by the NVA.

After 1338 we were really beat up so we were shipped to the coast to guard a USAF base (was pretty good duty). I believe it was sometime in September, 1967 that we were told we were going back to Dak To because of heavy enemy activity in the area. As you can guess none of us were very happy. Most of the company consisted of new guys or men pulled from other companies and battalions. On November 19, 1967 we were caught in another ambush on a hill named 875.


I was hit in the right leg about an hour after the fight started but the bullet wound was not that bad and I was able to continue to fight. Don't get me wrong, I was no hero but the bottom line was that we were getting our ass kicked and were in real danger of getting over run so I had no real choice. Later after the fighting slowed up, I went to the aid station to get my leg taken care of. When I started to go back to the line the lead medic told me to stay there, as he could not get the bleeding stopped.


Sometime that night an air strike was called in and a USAF F-100 dropped a 500-pound bomb right on our command post, which is where all the wounded were. The bomb killed 40 guys from Co. A, including all the medics. I was hit again in the right leg and when I woke up (about 40-feet from where I had been lying) my leg was split open from my knee to my ankle. The fire was so heavy that no helo could get in and at least eight were shot down trying. Finally, on the 22nd of November they started getting the medevac in, I was one of the first ones they were attempting to load. This all sounds pretty good, however, we were drawing sniper fire and on the way to be loaded into a chopper, one of those SOBs nailed me in the back, which went into my stomach. It was then I decided the Army was not for me. I spent several days at a field hospital in Vietnam to be stabilized and then to Clark AFB for a week and then to some place in Japan for a week. I got back to the USA right before Christmas 1967. I was sent to Walter Reed in Washington, DC and was there until July 1968, at that time I was put on retired status. I spent 1 year and 10 months on active duty and left at the rank of Sgt. (E-5). By the way, the final count of that battle from the 2nd Bat. was 107 KIA, 282 WIA and 10 MIA. I never really heard what the breakdown for Co. A was but I know of the 20 of us that were in the weapons platoon only five of us were left alive.


I was surprised to find that anyone was still interested in an event that happened so long ago.