The Fallen Angel remembers the 173rd Airborne today...on the 8th of November in 1965, one of the toughest Airborne battles was fought in the jungles of Viet Nam.
At about 0600 on the morning of 8 November C Company began a move northwest toward Hill 65, while B Company moved northeast toward Hill 78. Shortly before 0800, C Company was engaged by a sizable enemy force well dug in to the southern face of Hill 65. At 0845, B Company was directed to wheel in place and proceed toward Hill 65 with the intention of relieving C Company.
B Company reached the foot of Hill 65 at about 0930 and moved up the hill. It became obvious that there was a very large enemy force in place on the hill,C Company was getting hammered, and by chance, B Company was forcing the enemy's right flank.
Under pressure from B Company's flanking attack the enemy force—most of a Viet Cong regiment—moved to the northwest, whereupon the B Company commander called in air and artillery fires on the retreating troops. B Company halted in place in an effort to locate and consolidate with C Company's platoons, managing to establish a coherent defensive line running around the hilltop from southeast to northwest, but with little cover on the southern side.
Meanwhile, the VC commander realized that his best chance was to close with the US soldiers so that the 173rd's air and artillery fire could not be effectively employed. He attempted to out-flank the US position atop the hill from both the east and the southwest, moving his troops closer to the Americans. The result was shoulder-to-shoulder attacks up the hillside, hand-to-hand fighting, and isolation of parts of B and C Companies but the Americans held against two such attacks. Although the fighting continued after the second massed attack, it reduced in intensity as the VC commander again attempted to disengage and withdraw. By late afternoon it seemed that contact had been broken off, allowing the two companies to prepare a night defensive position while collecting their dead and wounded in the center of the position. Although a few of the most seriously wounded were extracted by USAF helicopters using Stokes litters, the triple-canopy jungle prevented the majority from being evacuated until the morning of 9 November.
The result of the battle was heavy losses on both sides—48 Paratroopers dead, many more wounded, and 403 dead VC troops.
Here is the link to the tribute video by Big and Rich:
If you get a chance, raise a glass to the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd tonight ("Airborne!"). Many of the Viet Nam vets that trained me and my generation of paratroopers wore the 173rd patch on their right shoulder.
Update: In the Company of Soldiers has more on Lawrence Joel who saved a lot of lives on the 8th of November in 1965 and was awarded the Medal of Honor.