1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

D Company - 10 Days at Hill 474

 

Topo map showing Hill 474 on the high mountain ridge
that formed the eastern side of the An Lao Valley.

 

SGT Harold Hall served with Delta Company, 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry,
4th Infantry Division from September 1969 to August 1970.

He was Platoon Sergeant for 3rd Platoon, when, in November of 1969
he unexpectedly became the Platoon Leader, and guided his men
through intense contact with the enemy, in the area around,
and on the slopes of Hill 474.

The following is SGT Hall's account of ten days in the An Lao Valley, in November, 1969.
The events of each day were recorded by him in a journal he kept during that time.
Additional information in parentheses are his comments added years later.

 

 

Dedicated to the memory of
Charles Edward Moake Jr., Roger Steven Powers,
Philip Lawrence Jewell, Johnny William Trainham
..... 1/22 Regulars who made the ultimate sacrifice
on Hill 474.

 

 

**********************

 

Nov. 17---- Our platoon had point today and we did a good job.
We got on a big trail and it seemed to go in the direction we wanted.   We went through a big NVA bunker complex
which was really extensive but had not been used recently.   But then the worst thing happened.  
Lt. Whitworths leg got worse and he had to go to the rear.   He got out on a real late chopper.  
That leaves me Platoon Leader!   I am in charge of the whole platoon.   I hope I can do a good job.

(If I remember correctly, Lt. Whitworth had slipped and banged up his knee on a rock.  
He did not want to go in but he could hardly walk.   He told me to be careful and take good care of the platoon.  
At this point I had only been in country two and a half months and been an E-5, Platoon Sergeant for two weeks.)

 

   

Nov. 18---- We were CA’ed today which was a big surprise.  
We had to wait until about noon and it gave me some time to get my shit together.  
I don’t like being a PL very much and will be glad when Lt. comes back out.
 We were re-supplied and got mail. After that we split up into platoon size
and naturally Headquarters (the CO, First Sgt.) is humping with us, the 3rd platoon.  
It’s a hard job being PL, you have to make sure the perimeter is set up good
and that everyone has claymores and trip flares out.   It started raining again today.

 

Nov. 19---- Today wasn’t bad.   We moved up into the area where Charlie Company got hit and lost a man.
  We are on high ridges/hill tops and for the first time we could see the ocean (South China Sea) today in the far distance.  
It was beautiful!   A chopper started to land on a mountain and an NVA machine gun opened up on it.  
It pulled out without crashing, they called in helicopter gun ships and three real cool F-4 air strikes.  
Charlie Company has found 6 booby traps in the low ground. We were a reaction force all day today.    
It rained all last night, off and on today and it’s cold.   I made sure everyone has a good deep hole with overhead protection
because there have been several mortar attacks by the NVA/VC here.  
I will be glad when Lt. Whitworth comes back out, this is starting to get to me.

(I looked at Charlie Company’s KIA list and did not see a fatality a little before this date. Two were killed in action on 11-13.  
We had found a bloody jungle boot with bullet holes in it and I had been told that a guy from Charlie Company
was hit in the ankle and it was not life threatening but he went into shock and died. I remember seeing the ocean.  
From the maps, I knew we were close but there were always mountains in the way.  
Finally we got to the top of a ridge and could see the blue water and white caps of the waves)

 

Nov. 20---- Today started out just like any other day this past week but turned out to be a day I will never forget.  
We linked up with 2nd platoon just after lunch.   I set up the M-60 machine guns on their hill to provide support
and my platoon stayed to secure the CP (command post).   2nd platoon was going up the hill where the chopper got shot at
from in one direction (straight up the hill right in front of us) and 1st platoon from another (a finger to the right), Hill 474.  
Just as the point man from 2nd platoon reached the top, all hell broke loose.   A claymore mine was blown on him
and then the NVA opened up with AK-47’s. When we were sure there was not any one from 2nd or 1st platoon on top of the hill,
our M-60’s opened up, spraying the top of the hill.   2nd platoon had pulled down the hill with 10 wounded.  
Capt. Chambers told me to take part of my platoon and go down to help get the wounded out.   I had 3 men wounded
on the way down.   After we got to the wounded at the bottom, we got pinned down.  A B-40 rocket or a round from a RPG
landed so close behind me, it nearly lifted me off the ground.   Helicopter gun ships came in but on the first run,
the lead gun ship was almost shot out of the air.   I was close enough to hear the bullets going through the metal.  
It sounded like thousands of tack hammers hitting it.   They passed word that when the F-4’s came in to grab all the wounded
and get out.   Rivera and I had a guy named Joe Caleb.   As the F-4’s came in and we could see the bombs being released,
we started back with the wounded.   The napalm was rolling through the air in blobs and some of it landed close behind us.  
Going back with Joe, the NVA kept sniping at us.   We came out into a small clearing and Joe said, “Stop I am hurting.”  
I had said to Rivera, “don’t stop,” when it seemed like my M-16 exploded.   A snipers bullet had hit the hand guard on my rifle
and ricocheted into Riveras leg.  We were close enough to our CP that some guys came down and helped get Rivera and Joe.
  Charles Moake, the FO for mortars was killed.   2nd platoon tried to carry him out but it was obvious he was dead or dying
and they had to leave him.   There were 17 wounded in action, all together.   Sgt. Burns, La Rue, Sonny and Rivera
from my platoon.   Charlie Company’s 1st platoon took the hill late and lost a man, KIA.

(I can remember while running down to get to the wounded from 2nd platoon, there were a few coming back up on their own.
  Some with blood on their faces and one wounded guy had his helmet shot off right in front of me.  
As we got down to the wounded and guys taking cover, at first I thought that they were shooting at us
because the sound of the bullets was so loud.   I soon realized it was the AK-47 bullets cracking around our heads.  
Nick Abramo was up the hill ahead of me and we made a half-hearted attempt to shoot back at our attackers
but there were so many wounded.   The CO or Colonel called on the radio and told Lt. Smith to go on and take the hill
but Lt. told him he did not have enough able bodied men to mount any kind of an attack. When the B40 rocket or RPG round
landed behind us, I thought it was a stray artillery round but later when I asked the FO about it,
he said they didn’t call in artillery at first because there were so many of our guys scattered around the hill.
Some of the guys from 2nd platoon were wounded very badly with 5 or 6 bullet wounds each.
A couple of them were wounded even worse and it’s a miracle that more didn’t die that day.
Hill 474 had been prepped by artillery before 2nd platoon went up it and with all the air strikes on it the day before
we were lured into the classic false sense of security that nothing would be there, plus the terrain was more open
than we had been in before.   There were scrub type trees and bushes with open areas all around.  
Not the triple canopy jungle or thick elephant grass where you would expect an ambush.    
We were later told that the 173 Airborne Div. had lost men 6 months before on the same hill)

SGT Harold Hall

Nov. 21---- Last night after we dusted off the last man, Capt. Chambers came to our location and said tomorrow morning
that 3rd platoon would get on line and go up Hill 474.   There I stood with tears in my eyes, blood stains all over me,
no shirt on and a shot up rifle.   He is about 6ft. 4in. tall and had his arm around my shoulder.  
I looked like a little boy next to him. I stayed awake all night praying.   We went up the hill this morning but by then
1st platoon and Charlie Company had done all the hard work.   It had been a well planned ambush, we didn’t have a chance.
The top of the hill had a little L shaped leg to it and 2nd platoon walked right into the trap.   Dave Henkels and I helped put the FO,
Moake in a body bag.   He was a good guy from Illinois and had humped with us down a valley
when we were close to Alpha Company.   We found 5 dead NVA but they probably carried off many more. 
Charlie Company lost two more men in a little draw on the other side of 474. Heard Joe Caleb will loose sight out of one eye.
  Rivera and I carried him out but he would have done the same for us. We are all brothers.
We spent the rest of the afternoon picking up dropped equipment.   I lost my hunting knife, hope I can find it.

(They had flown an infa-red, heat seeking device over Hill 474 that night and said they picked up 15 heat sources
going down the other side.   I talked to a Spooky Gun Ship pilot and he had me shine a flashlight in his direction
so he could spot my location before he opened up with mini-guns.   It’s really something to see mini-guns firing at night
and sometimes they had three working at a time. You could see Moakes body on the lower side of Hill 474.  
He had been shot in the back of the head and his brains were exposed.   2nd platoon had tried to drag/carry him back down
but without a litter it was impossible to get him out.   His pants had pulled off but were still attached by his boots.  
  The napalm had landed close enough to Moake to burn his pants that had pulled off but did not burn his body)

 

Nov.22---- The first part of the day we re-searched the battle area and I found the other part of my M-16 hand guard
with a big hole in it.   Found a good watch that someone dropped, some bandoleers of M-16 magazines,
a claymore and a sandbag with M-79 Grenade Launcher rounds.   I could not find my hunting knife
and no one else has picked it up. We searched all the little trails leading out. Everyone is still jumpy and scared.  
Then the last part of the day was spent pulling longer patrols.   We covered large areas west of 474
checking out all the little draws.   We set up by ourselves on the north side of 474 with a NOD (night observation device?)
to check enemy movements.   Charlie Company and LZ Stinger were mortared.
We could see the mortar flashes in the valley below.   We took a compass reading in the direction of the mortar flashes,
called that into higher (Captain Chambers) and they had gun ships called in.  
We will be operating by ourselves for a few days and will be on highers push (radio frequency).

(Capt. Chambers and the First Sergeant were staying with what was left of 2nd platoon.   Guys were constantly going in
and coming back out but we only had 13 men in our platoon at this point.   We called ourselves the Dirty Dozen, plus one.)

 

 

Nov. 23---- We moved off the hills and high ground this morning toward the valley.
We went down a draw and the point man found a fresh trail.  
His squad (Les Bowerman) went to check it out, saw two NVA and shot at them.
I moved the M-60 out on the ridge for security.   We thought one NVA went in a hole,
I threw a frag in and Burke (Washington) was hit in the shoulder by a piece of shrapnel
from the explosion.   Thank goodness it was not serious. While we were doing this,
the M-60 crew saw the two Dinks run out on the other side but didn’t fire
because they thought it was Nick (Abramo) and me.   We backed out and thought about
calling in artillery but shot in some M-79 grenades.   When we did this
Charlie Company was mortared again.   Saw two more NVA later.
We called in a chopper for Burke so he could go in to get a tetanus shot.

             

(That draw we went into was a spooky place.   Inside it had big rocks hidden by trees, with trails leading in and out.
I asked Captain Chambers if we could call in artillery but he said there were too many friendlys around.  
The two Dinks we saw later were about 100 meters away and below.   We shot at them with an M-79 Grenade Launcher
because we had friendlys in the valley below them and didn’t want to risk a lot of bullets going in that direction.  
Anyway, if I remember this right, the M-79 was fired and the Dink actually dodged the round as it went by and exploded past him)

 

Nov. 24---- We picked up two M-72 LAWS to blast if we see mortar flashes again.   It was a quiet night.  
We set up in some big rocks close to the trail but didn’t see anything.  
Today we started humping toward the rest of our company and made good time.
We went west of Hill 474 and set up on a hill overlooking 1st platoon.
We are set up in a good place with plenty of small trees and brush to stop the strong cold wind.  
It has been raining and cold for 5 days now, be glad when it breaks.

 

Nov. 25---- I let the guys sleep until 7:00 AM this morning.   The “Old Man” (Captain Chambers)
called and said he wanted me to secure an LZ for Higher (our Lt Colonel or Major) and gave me the location.  
I thought I knew where it was and we started humping.

When we got there I shot a resection to 474 and found out I was a whole klick (1000 meters) off.  
When we got to the correct location it was only about 400 meters west of where we started.  
I was pissed at myself but the guys were not angry at me.   We built a couple of small fires and dried off.  
After all the humping we did to secure the LZ, found out the Colonel or Major was not coming out
and humped down the long hill to the CO’s/2nd platoon   location.  
It was late when we got there and LT. Smith had holes dug and hooch poles cut for us.

 

Nov. 26---- We got a late start this morning because we got re-supply and had to pack it all up.  
Our mission today was to hump down to a blue line and we had to break brush the whole way.  
2nd Platoon had to hump back up the hill for a CA.   We went by Charlie Company on the way to the blue line
and set up early in a good place.

Got four new guys that had been with the 82 Airborne Div., good men with experience and will not have to be trained.  
Have enough men for three squads again.

(The new men from the 82nd were Robert Thacker, Maury Morris, Colgan and ?)

 

     

Nov. 27---- Wow, today is Thanksgiving Day!   We humped our asses off until 1:00 PM
to get to the LZ where 2nd Platoon is so that we can get a big turkey dinner.  
We had to come up an ass kicking hill and just as we reached the top, choppers were landing. 
1st Platoon came up right behind us.   We had mail, thunder ball and a great dinner.  
The meal consisted of turkey, shrimp, potatoes, milk, fruit, cake and even ice cream.  
The weather was even good for a change.

We got a new platoon leader for 3rd Platoon, LT Henry.   What a relief, I am glad he is here.  
I am just a platoon sergeant again!

 

Story and photos copyright Harold Hall 2006


BACK

Home | Photos | Battles & History | Current |
Rosters & Reports | Medal of Honor | Killed in Action |
Personnel Locator | Commanders | Station List | Campaigns |
Honors | Insignia & Memorabilia | 4-42 Artillery | Taps |
What's New | Editorial | Links |