The battle took place on Dong Ap Bia (Ap Bia Mountain, Vietnamese: Đồi A Bia) in the rugged, jungle-shrouded mountains of South Vietnam, 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from the Laotian border. The entire mountain is a rugged, uninviting wilderness blanketed in double- and triple-canopy jungle, dense thickets of bamboo, and waist-high elephant grass. The American soldiers who fought there dubbed it "Hamburger Hill", suggesting that those who fought on the hill were "chewed up like a hamburger" in joking reference to the Battle of Pork Chop Hill during the Korean Wa.
Colonel Conmy characterized the operation as a reconnaissance in force. His plan called for the five battalions to "combat assault" into the valley by helicopter on May 10, 1969, and to search their assigned sectors for PAVN troops and supplies. The overall plan of attack called for the Marines and the 3/5th Cavalry to reconnaissance in force toward the Laotian border while the ARVN units cut the highway through the base of the valley. The 501st infantry and the 506th infantry were to destroy the enemy in their own operating areas and block escape routes into Laos. If a battalion made heavy contact with the North Vietnamese, Conmy would reinforce it by helicopter with one of the other units. In theory, the 101st could reposition its forces quickly enough to keep the PAVN from massing against any one unit, while a U.S. battalion discovering a North Vietnamese unit would fix it in place until a reinforcing battalion could lift in to cut off its retreat and destroy it. The U.S. and ARVN units participating in Apache Snow knew, based on existing intelligence information and previous experience in the A Shau, that the operation was likely to encounter serious resistance from PAVN. Beyond that, however, they had little intelligence as to the actual strength and dispositions of PAVN units. Masters of camouflage, the North Vietnamese completely concealed their bases from aerial surveillance....
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