The Crouching Beast

A United States Army Lieutenant’s Account of the Battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969


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About the Book

As a first lieutenant in Bravo Company of the Third Battalion, 187th Infantry, Frank Boccia led a platoon in two intense battles in the Vietnamese mountains in April and May 1969: Dong Ngai and the grinding, 11-day battle of Dong Ap Bia—the Mountain of the Crouching Beast, in Vietnamese, or Hamburger Hill as it is popularly known. The Rakkasans, the 3/187th, are the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States Army, and two of those decorations were awarded for these two battles. This vivid account of the author’s first seven months in Vietnam gives special attention to the events at Dong Ap Bia, following the ­hard-­hit 3/187th hour by hour through its repeated assaults on the mountain, against an unseen enemy in an ideal defensive position. It also corrects several errors that have persisted in histories and official reports of the battle. Beyond describing his own experiences and reactions, the author writes, “I want to convey the real face of war, both its mindless carnage and its nobility of spirit. Above all, I want to convey what happened to both the casual reader and the military historian and make them aware of the extraordinary spirit of the men of First Platoon, Bravo Company. They were ordinary men doing extraordinary things.”

About the Author(s)

The late Frank Boccia lived in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Bibliographic Details

Frank Boccia

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 472
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, glossary, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7439-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1308-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vii
Preface  1
Author’s Note  5
1. The Mountains of Viet Nam  9
2. Firebase Helen  20
3. The First Patrol  33
4. Mud Is the Universal Constant  48
5. The Poor Guys in Korea  60
6. The Tiger Dines  67
7. Black Jack  74
8. Firebase Barbara  84
9. Firebase Brick  95
10. Firebase Rakkasan: Abbot’s Tale  106
11. March Madness  116
12. Dickson’s Shining Moment  126
13. Father Haney’s Lament  133
14. Dennis Helms, Bravo One Six Romeo  141
15. The Banana Tree  149
16. The Rao Trang  159
17. Zeus Frowns  171
18. The Crater  178
19. Death Dance of the Ghost Riders  189
20. Welcome to the 6th NVA Regimental HQ  206
21. The Body Bags  222
22. Rescued by the Gnome  233
23. Black Jack’s Seminar  242
24. Firebase Airborne  257
25. Sergeant Samuel Wright RA  267
26. Palace Guard  276
27. The Broken Strap  287
28. The Ordeal of Bravo Four Six  296
29. The Clearing  308
30. The Book of Myles Westman  325
31. Feeling Our Way  338
32. Sanguis Agni  350
33. Logan’s Run  365
34. The Bamboo Corridor  376
35. Charlie’s Ridge  387
36. Fratricide  401
37. The Number Seventeen  413
38. The Stain  422
39. The Storm  434
40. The Naked Beast  447
Epilogue  451
Glossary  455
Index  459

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “story of the 101st Airborne’s struggle to capture what became known as Hamburger Hill. Forty chapters of small observations, exact conversations, clear insights, action, consequences, and emotions…. Some have likened what happened there to the carnage of on Iwo Jima. A unique feature of Boccia’s book is his uncanny accuracy recreating locations, reconstructed conversations, the weather, the sounds, and personalities of the troopers who slogged up Hamburger Hill…. His short descriptions of the men he served with are both spot-on and finely crafted.”—The VVA Veteran
  • “Boccia shares his experiences and observations as a first lieutenant during his first seven months in the Vietnam War. The author describes the casualty-filled 11-day Hamburger Hill battle vividly, with the intent of portraying his view of war for both general readers and military historians”—Reference & Research Book News