A hill in the Hiep Duc Valley of South Vietnam became the site of a ferocious battle between an estimated four hundred men of the North Vietnamese Army and eighteen Americans, sixteen Marines and two Navy corpsmen.
That hill was known to the American military as Hill 488, and to the Vietnamese, it was known as Nui Vu Hill. By the end of 18 June 1966, the hill took on a different name…“Howard’s Hill.”
Eighteen men of Charlie Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division snaked their way to Hill 488 in the on 13 June 1966, to observe and report information concerning the large presence of two divisions of NVA soldiers and to call fire missions of artillery and air support on small elements.
As the men began to call fire missions over a period of two days, the North Vietnamese began to realize that they were being watched. The enemy determined that the men of First Recon had taken residence on Nui Vu Hill and they began an assault. The NVA crept slowly up the incline under the cover of darkness.
An American Marine spotted what looked to be a bush, realized they were being attacked, and opened fire. The battle began to rage at 2300 (11 pm) on 15 June 1966.
The Marines that occupied Hill 488 were defending a hilltop that was 25 feet at the widest point. Over time, the perimeter of the Marines slowly began to shrink due to those killed in action or wounded that were unable to fight.
The stress of being surrounded with only a few able-bodied men to fight became frustrating for the men that wanted to finish the fight and return to friendly lines.
The men began to fight back psychologicaly.
During one lull in fighting all the men began to laugh uproariously to let the enemy know that they had plenty of fight left. Later after the battle, some captured NVA enemy troops stated that the laughing of the unit had a devastating psychological impact on them.
As the night dragged on for the unit, their ammunition began to run low with each shot.
Gunny Jimmie E. Howard, leader of the recon team, knew that the men must conserve ammunition and instructed his men to throw rocks, which in the darkness seemed like grenades to the enemy.
The Vietnamese would move quickly from the thrown rock and the Marines would find their targets.
By morning, the Vietnamese withdrew and an American rescue force was able to break through to rescue the Marines.
In the end, only eight individual bullets remained. Six of the eighteen were killed in action. Each of the twelve remaining was wounded and only three could walk under their own power.
Gunny Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson because of his brave leadership and courage while the men were surrounded.
First Platoon of Charlie Company, First Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division, became the most highly decorated unit of its size.
Gunny Howard passed away on 12 November 1993 at his home in San Diego and was was buried in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
REST IN PEACE MARINE!