• Jim Costa

Jim’s Rant For The Day. Pork Chop Hill Again.

A few weeks ago I wrote a Rant about the 1959 Movie Pork Chop Hill, inspired by a true battle, that depicted the ego driven decisions of generals sometimes made in war.

Well, I saw it again this past week, only this time it was during the Vietnam war. Ken Burns, the author of the 1990 series on The Civil War, recently produced a series on the The Vietnam War. That series is being televised on PBS now. Thursday night, in Part 4 of 10, the following was revealed.

The North Vietnam army set up trench works on the top of Hill 875, named after its height, near Dak To, in the Central Highlands. They were rifle pits only, absent cannons. Their plan was to coax the Americans to attack them. The troops digging on the hill thought it was foolish because the hill was not a threat to the Americans.

In late November, 1967, the Americans attacked the steep hill and after several days took it. Of the 570 US troops involved in the attack on the hill, 340 became casualties. One of the attacking companies was ordered to take the summit when two other fresh companies were sent in to lead the next attack. The original company had 24 troopers left out of 140, and all of the remaining 24 were wounded. They were ordered forward for publicity purposes.

One of the survivors said after they arrived at the summit they sat on the hilltop for about an hour, then everyone was flown off by helicopter. The view from the top was of a triple level foliage jungle top, giving no ground visibility below - the hill was worthless. In his own words, “We accomplished nothing.”

Every night since then I have been haunted by those words, “We accomplished nothing.”

Another fact pointed out by that episode was that Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, in the last two years of his office secretly believed the war could not be won, yet he still pushed and directed it. Five months later in April 1968, he became president of the World Bank Group.

P.S. Episode 1 of The Vietnam War airs today on PBS.

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