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 comments


  • Leonard Munoz #2151891

    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!


  • Cpl Allen

    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.


  • Harold W. Weist

    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.


  • R. D. Valenti

    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.


  • DMcKee Cpl

    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.


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