Hill 875 got its name from the height of its highest point above sea level in meters, peaking at approximately 2,700 feet above sea level. Hill 875 is about 8 kilometers from the Cambodian border and sat astride a major exit of the Ho Chi Minh Trail system into South Vietnam.
On November 19, 1967, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, was given the mission of securing Hill 875, estimated to be defended by a company of NVA regular troops fresh off the Ho Chi Minh Trail. What followed was one of the fiercest battles of the entire Vietnam War.
The NVA force that occupied Hill 875 was not a company, but rather two regiments. When A Company, 2/503rd, began their movement up the hill they came under withering fire from automatic weapons, mortars, and B-40 rockets. The NVA were firing from concealed positions constructed in March of 1967. By November the fast growing jungle had hidden all traces of the log-covered bunkers. Other NVA forces occupied nearby hilltops and were able to support the NVA on Hill 875 with mortar and artillery fire. As it became apparent that A/2/503 was badly outnumbered, the other companies of 2/503 were committed to the fight. However, the men of 2/503 had to stand alone for the rest of 19 November and through the night that followed.
On 20 November, three companies of the 4th Bn, 503rd Infantry, were inserted to reinforce the 2/503 and a battalion of the 12th Infantry was placed as a blocking force at the base of the hill to prevent NVA reinforcement or withdrawal. Toward the crest of the hill close-quarter hand-to-hand combat was interspersed with withdrawals to allow air and artillery strikes on the hilltop fortifications. The battle continued amidst the carnage wrought by bombs and artillery fire, but the hilltop could not be taken on the 21st. On the 22nd the 503rd's troops withdrew slightly to provide a 100-meter buffer zone, allowing further air and artillery strikes on the NVA positions. During the lull in the ground fighting the 503rd evacuated its dead and wounded, replenished and reorganized, and prepared for a push on the 23rd.
At 11 AM, 23 November, the two battalions of the 503rd began a two-pronged assault on the hilltop. The NVA on the surrounding hills placed mortar and artillery fire on their own positions on Hill 875, hoping to break up the US assault while counting on the fortifications to protect the NVA soldiers. The NVA effort failed and the paratroopers took the peak in a 30-minute assault. By 1430 the 1st Bn, 12th Infantry, reached the peak, having advanced up the southwestern slope to reach the summit. The combined US force cleared Hill 875 of North Vietnamese troops.
As day's end approached, the 503rd turned Hill 875 over to the 1/12 soldiers and began to count their losses.
Although one unofficial account of the fighting says "The 2nd and 4th Battalions of the 503rd Infantry suffered 33 Missing in Action, 158 Killed in Action and 411 evacuated wounded while fighting for Hill 875" the casualty page associated with that account lists 123 men. The Virtual Wall can identify 125 men who died in connection with the battle for Hill 875; of these, four could not be brought home for burial. The bodies of SGT Donald Iandoli, SP4 Jack L. Croxdale, PFC Benjamin D. De Herrera, and PFC David R. Reynolds have not been repatriated.
The following men are known to have died in the fighting on Hill 875. Those with memorials on The Virtual Wall are marked by links to their memorial pages:
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Last updated on 03/06/2005