Former Commander Remembers Hamburger Hill
May 16, 2014
Colonel (Ret.) Bob Harkins, joined the Army after receiving his commission from Ohio State University in June 1965. Shortly after, Harkins deployed to the Republic of Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.
After serving his first tour, Harkins returned to Vietnam with the 101st's 3rd Brigade as a company commander with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment "Iron Rakkasans."
"We didn't stay places," he said. "We moved around quite a bit."
One of the places Harkins found himself was the A Shau Valley. The valley had traditionally been used as an infiltration route into the Republic of Vietnam by the North Vietnamese forces. It was from the A Shau Valley that the North Vietnamese Army launched the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Harkins, with the rest of the brigade launched Operation Apache Snow to sweep the A Shau Valley of enemy forces.
On May 11, the Rakkasans attacked entrenched enemy forces at Dong Ap Bia better known as Hamburger Hill.
Eventually the Rakkasans along with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 506th Inf. Reg. "Currahees" and their Army of the Republic of Vietnam allies took the hill after ten days of fighting.
After U.S. forces took Hamburger Hill, it ceased to have any military significance, Harkins explained.
"Like today's military, we did not make the decision, or choose the fight, or choose the time to engage in combat," he said. "Many Vietnam vets were drafted into the Army. We were proud Americans that wanted to do our part to make the world safer."
Following his return from Vietnam in December 1969, Harkins continued his military service as a battalion commander for 3rd Bn., 32nd Inf., 7th Light Inf. Div., and went on to develop training products for the U.S. Army infantry in the 1980's.
During the Gulf War, Harkins was a brigade commander, synchronizing the famous "end run", a flanking maneuver of more than 250,000 soldiers spread over several hundred miles, who moved deep into Iraqi territory from the Saudi Arabian border behind the Iraqi forces.
Harkins retired in 1993 and went on to complete a master's degree from Auburn University and a doctorate degree in education from the University of Pittsburg.
He is currently the Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Security for the University of Texas at Austin.