Their officers and senior noncoms were drawn from the U.S. Army's elite. An all-volunteer unit of paratroopers, the "Sky Soldiers," men of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) were MACV's "fire brigade," rushed to stem the tide wherever the fighting was heaviest. In 1967 the attention of General Giap and his North Vietnamese Army (NVA) focused on a small mountain hamlet in the Central Highlands called Dak To. From June to November 1967, in the hills and valleys surrounding Dak To, the 173d fought some of the bloodiest battles of the entire Vietnam War.
While the seventy-seven-day siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968 remains one of the most highly publicized clashes of the Vietnam War, scant attention has been paid to the first battle of Khe Sanh, also known as "the Hill Fights." Although this harrowing combat in the spring of 1967 provided a grisly preview of the carnage to come at Khe Sanh, few are aware of the significance of the battles, or even their existence. For more than thirty years, virtually the only people who knew about the Hill Fights were the Marines who fought them. Now, for the first time, the full story has been pieced together by acclaimed Vietnam War historian Edward F. Murphy, whose definitive analysis admirably fills this significant gap in Vietnam War literature. Based on first-hand interviews and documentary research, Murphy's deeply informed narrative history is the only complete account of the battles, their origins, and their aftermath. The Marines at the isolated Khe Sanh Combat Base were tasked with monitoring the strategically vital Ho Chi Minh trail as it wound through the jungles in nearby Laos. Dominated by high hills on all sides, the combat base had to be screened on foot by the Marine infantrymen while crack, battle-hardened NVA units roamed at will through the high grass and set up elaborate defenses on steep, sun-baked overlooks. Murphy traces the bitter account of the U.S. Marines at Khe Sanh from the outset in 1966, revealing misguided decisions and strategies from above, and capturing the chain of hill battles in stark detail. But the Marines themselves supply the real grist of the story; it is their recollections that vividly re-create the atmosphere of desperation, bravery, and relentless horror that characterized their combat. Often outnumbered and outgunned by a hidden enemy--and with buddies lying dead or wounded beside them--these brave young Americans fought on. The story of the Marines at Khe Sanh in early 1967 is a microcosm of the Corps's entire Vietnam War and goes a long way toward explaining why their casualties in Vietnam exceeded, on a Marine-in-combat basis, even the tremendous losses the Leathernecks sustained during their ferocious Pacific island battles of World War II. The Hill Fights is a damning indictment of those responsible for the lives of these heroic Marines. Ultimately, the high command failed them, their tactics failed them, and their rifles failed them. Only the Marines themselves did not fail. Under fire, trapped in a hell of sudden death meted out by unseen enemies, they fought impossible odds with awesome courage and uncommon valor.
From their early days in 1965 when the order of the day was to drive the insurgent Viet Cong from the villages around Da Nang to the final, dramatic evacuation of Saigon ten years later, Semper Fi Vietnam relates the whole gutsy, glorious saga of the Marines in Vietnam in stark, riveting detail. Acclimating to their strange new surroundings occupied the Marines' first few weeks in South Vietnam. Throughout the day, peasants dressed in pajama-like clothing and sporting conical hats worked the paddies behind the heaving water buffalo. If daytime scenes appeared bucolic, the arrival of sunset quickly changed that perception. Gunfire and explosions erupted at dusk. Marines nervously watched bright tracers cut colorful swaths across the night sky. From distant bamboo thickets, mortar shells flew skyward to crash in the paddies. The Marines were learning that the war in South Vietnam was unlike anything for which they'd been trained.
More than 100 compelling, true stories of personal heroism and valor- in a special expanded edition honoring courage in the face of war. Here are dramatic accounts of the fearless actions that earned American soldiers in Vietnam our highest military distinction--the Medal of Honor. Edward F. Murphy, head of the Medal of Honor Historical Society, re-creates the heroic acts of individual soldiers from official documents, Medal of Honor citations, contemporary accounts, and, where possible, interviews with survivors.Complete with a list of all Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients, this book offers a unique perspective on the war-from the early days of U.S. involvement through the return home of the last soldiers. It pays a fitting tribute to these patriotic, selfless souls.
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