Hill 488

Hill 488 was just another landmark in the jungles of Vietnam. For the 18 men of Charlie Company, it was a last stand. This is the stirring combat memoir written by Ray Hildreth, one of the unit’s survivors.

On June 13, 1966, men of the 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division were stationed on Hill 488. Before the week was over, they would fight the battle that would make them the most highly decorated small unit in the entire history of the U.S. military, winning a Congressional Medal of Honor, four Navy Crosses, thirteen Silver Stars, and eighteen Purple Hearts – some of them posthumously.

At the time, this was happening I was at HQMC Communication Center. By the time they received the mentioned medals, I was out of the Marines and unaware other then the purple hearts, the body count, and what happened afterwards. I do remember reading traffic about the Marines calling in artillery down on themselves. Then the messages say from Vietnam all the way to HQMC no, no way, impossible etc. Then later something like – You can kill hundreds of VC or let them kill us, your choice.

This true life experience should be known by every Marine. Every famous place the Marines have served this should be right in there.

Mac McDonaugh

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18 thoughts on “Hill 488”

  1. I arrived in Viet Nam a couple of weeks after the fight on Hill 488. I joined C Co. 1st Bn. 5th Marines. 1st Lt. Marshall Buckingham ” Buck ” Darling was the Company CO. Lt. Darling led C Co. up Hill 488 to pull S/Sgt Jimmy Howard and his Recon Marines off of Hill 488. I heard the stories from my fellow platoon members of what took place on Hill 488. I have read the book, and recognized the names of those Marines I served with. Lt. Darling retired a Colonel in the Marine Corps and passed away in 2004 at age 63. He was one of the best officers I served under. I will never forget him. Semper Fi Buck

    1. I serviced under Cpt. “Buck” Darling in Viet Nam, G Co. 2nd. 5th. Marines out of An Hoa in 1970. I agree with Sgt. Morris assessment of Cpt. Darling. It was often said in the rank and file that the “old man” had his “head and ass wired together” (one of the best things that can be said about a Grunt) . He knew how to survive in the bush and never took chances with our lives. I can not tell you how much I appreciate knowing what happen with him after I left. Rest in Peace my Captain. Thank you Sgt. Morris.

  2. Hey Joe, my name is Ron Roth. We were stationed at Yorktown together in 1965. I was in H&S Co.,1st Recon Do you know if Chuck Bosley is still around? He and I became friends after he came back from the hospital. We e-mailed a couple of times years ago and he was in Pittsburg. The book, Hill 488, by Hildrith and Sasser is outstanding

  3. Read Hildreths book this year and all I can say is God Bless all those Marines and Corpsmen who were there. As a former Marine, while reading the book I was vicariously placing myself there in the midst of blinding muzzle flashes and exploding grenades wondering how I would have performed. I just know that all on that hill truly upheld the traditions of the Marine Corps. Semper Fi to all my brothers. Love you all.

  4. I am truly humbled by this story, this all too small a chapter in the history of our Marine Corps. Once A Marine, always a Marine, has never meant more to us then of the reminder of those who served so well.

  5. The MOH winner was SSgt. Howard, a Korean Veteran. I had met him in the tent of Task Force Delta’s S2-S-3 Tent at Chu Lai about a month before that. I had completed my TAD to 7th Marines before the action happened and was back at Da Nang when it took place. He seem to be a great guy. They had been reporting on enemy movements and calling in strikes for a few days until the enemy located them. Because of bad weather a relief force couldn’t get to them for a time. They even threw rocks at the enemy as they were low on ammo. I believe most were wounded at least twice. This is the very best example of why we have the proud History and Traditions we do in our Beloved Corps.

  6. Was with 1/5 6/65 – 11/66. Comm Platoon. Lt Buck Darling was well known in the Bn. The rescue was called Operation Sparrow Hawk west of Tam Ky.

  7. I am so very, very proud of Gunny Howard and his men. And just as proud of Lt. Darling and his men. I served with M 3/7 and we were on Tien Dao Hill south of Chu Lai when our brother Marines fought so bravely against a much larger and overwhelming No. Vietnam force. 5th Marines went up Hill 488 to battle the enemy and retrieve the Recon Marines. Our 3rd pltn was dispatched to help reinforce the 5th Marine lines. My squad was sent on tank patrol and as squad leader I rode on the lead tank which hit a land mine, leaving me with minor wounds. I wish I could have been on hill 488. However, I will always feel connected to Gy Howard, Lt. Darling and all the other brave Marines of Hill 488. Semper Fi!

  8. I served with 1st Recon in 67 and had the honor to meet some of the men from Hill 488 then in late 68 meet Gunny Howard in Memphis. Semipermanent Fi to all.

  9. First I would like to say you guys done a hell of a job in Vietnam, and say thank you. I was in 3rd Mar Division Charlie Co motor transport Okinawa Japan in 1974 and heard drifting tells about the 3rd Mar Division was nearly taken out and I see it is for real can I get more information. And again thank you guys that went out before me,Brothers

  10. I was in 1st recon at Chu lai at this time we was saddle up in front of med station waiting for helo to land to drop us in 23 psalm was read, when they was pull off of hill 488 was very close to going in. was very proud of my time with marines. I have told this story many times over the years HM4 FMF Doc Huck

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