Hill 881 North / The Hill Fights


By BAP45

The battle for Hill 881 North is a subset of the larger battle known as The Hill Fights (First Battle of Khe Sanh). The initial contact started on the 24th of April 1967 when Marines from B company, 3rd Marines were ambushed while setting up an observation post on hill 861. The 3rd Marine Regiment then proceeded to capture hill 861, 881 South and then 881 North to clear out the Viet Cong presence over looking the Khe Sanh base. The battle for 881 North it self began on May 2nd 1967 with companies E and G attacking from the south. Unfortunately most info to be found is about the first hill, 861, and then 881S, with not much at all about 881N. It is considered one single battle my most accounts so that isn’t surprising.

My friend Jesse Munoz mentioned briefly that he was at Hill 881 North. I wasn’t able to get the complete story as it still upset him to get into it. He mentioned being at Khe Sanh and the deuce and a halfs would come in pilled with bodies and they would just essentially dump them out. Wish I could have got more details of his involvement but that is a perfect example of why I never got all his stories. He could only tolerate small tidbits here and there, and I didn’t want to upset him any more than he already would be.

Now let’s take a look at the gear the leathernecks are wearing in this battle. Interestingly few marines seem to be wearing the iconic M55 flak jacket in this battle. As well there is a good mix of jungle uniforms and the older style OG-107s. Web gear is also a mix of the old and new. While the old M1941 suspenders are clearly in use it looks like as many Marines as possible have gotten a pair of the M1956. That seems to me the only non-standard USMC/782 gear being used though, as all the ammo pouches I can make out are the M1961 for the M14. The weather must have been hot also as almost everyone has sleeves rolled up. The rubber helmet bands look to be about 50/50 in use. The carrying for the poncho folded up under the haversack straps reminds me a lot the WWII carry on the poncho. At this point in the war most marines are wearing their gear in a pretty standard or by the book set up still. We have yet to see the rearranging and quasi customization that would be common the following year.

Unfortunately there are not many photos from these battles, and those that are seem to be low resolution. Most all of these ones I found are from 881N but I believe the first two black and white are 881S, the the three color are from Hill 861.

US Marines Retrieving Equipment | Location: Hill 861, South Vietnam. News  Photo - Getty Images
29 Apr 1967, Hill 861, Dak To – US Marines Retrieving Equipment
Hill 861, South Vietnam- Picture shows US Marines walking along Hill...  News Photo - Getty Images
4/29/1967-Hill 861, South Vietnam- Picture shows US Marines walking along Hill 861 in a line formation. Three Marines in the foreground are holding rocket launchers in front of them.
Hill 861

Interesting helmet bands on these guys above, can’t quite make out exactly what they are though. Look thick

Might be 881S
Might be 881S

This would be a great shot but unfortunately I can’t find a clear version so I included both crops of it to help see what’s in it.

30 Apr 1967, Vietnam — 4/30/1967-Vietnam- US Marines are shown after an 11-day battle with the Viet Cong. They are preparing to head to a nearby helicopter that is waiting to evacuate them from the area. They are shown on top of hill 881, looking over a vast landscape.

I found a decent chunk of the photos at http://www.hodierne.com/881main.htm or http://www.vietnamphotography.com/ and https://line.17qq.com/articles/npqgknpny.html has a good history of hill 861.


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