L/CPL Robert J. Slattery, Det #206, "SCUTTLEBUTT NEWS", Jul 2022 - #7
Hill 689 Khe Sanh

Hill 689 Khe Sanh

July of 1968 marked our third and final month for Alpha Co. 1/1 on Hill 861 in Khe Sanh. We had been on the Hill since late April early May. From the time we got on the Hill until we left we had not had a change of clothes or a shower. We had been running patrols and defending the Hill from the day we got there and now had orders to leave the Hill and destroy our bunkers and trench line before we left. Around noon we boarded choppers and left the Hill for Quang Tri and some much need rest, change of clothes and a shower. Spirits were high until we felt the chopper turning and were told we were headed back because Delta Co's Hill 689 had lost a patrol and were under attack by the enemy. We landed on an adjacent Hill to 689 and set up a perimeter and were to told to provide cover fire for Delta Co. We could see movement on 689 but could not determine if it was Marines or the enemy. I was laying down with my M60 along with my A-gunner and firing at what I was told was the enemy. I saw them running away due my cover fire and was thankful that I was not shooting at Marines. After about 10 minutes an enemy mortar round landed behind me as I was firing and about two minutes later a round landed in front of me. I was still firing when I realized "holy shit, they have me zeroed in and the next round was going to land right on top of me and my A-Gunner".

I yelled to my A-Gunner "Guns up, let's get outta here" and grabbed the barrel and butt of my gun and started running up the hill, and as I looked back a mortar round hit the spot that we were laying in. If we had stayed there I would not be writing about thisd today. We were lucky that I realized the threat and got the hell outta there. We stayed on the adjacent Hill for most of the day and got orders to move onto Hill 689. The sun was going down by now and we knew we were in for shit not having daylight to help determine who was who. We got onto 689 and immediately came under fire from the enemy. We worked our way deeper onto the Hill and came to a trench line and as we did we were approached by figures that were dressed like and looked like Marines. We found out the hard way that they were the enemy when they opened fire on us. We found out that the enemy had put on Marine utilities and were speaking English to confuse and surprise us, so Lt. Smith told us to speak in complete sentences when communicating so that we would not be confused as enemy. It worked. Every time we saw someone we tried to engage them in conversation and if they did not respond in kind we knew they were not Marines and dispatched them. We worked our way thru the trenches and finally got to the summit of the Hill. We had been fighting all night and when it was approximately 0530 we were told to get on line and fix bayonets for a final assault down the other side of the Hill to clear any remaining enemy. We made our assault and by 0800 we had taken back 689.

We stayed on Hill 689 for about another week and a half and were subjected to mortars and sniper fire. Every time we got a water supply the enemy shot holes into the Water Buffaloes and denied us an adequate supply of water. We set up a system where volunteers would go down the hill to a muddy stream below and fill canteens with mud while we covered them from above. We got mud but never lost anyone. The last thing we did on 689 was to send a squad of volunteers out to retrieve the bodies of the Delta Squad that had been killed the week before. When the Squad went out to get the bodies every weapon of the hill opened up as cover fire because they went out with only a sidearm to retrieve the bodies. It took about an hour and half to get the bodies and they were Medivaced out and two days later we destroyed everything we could on Hill 689 and got on the choppers for Quang Tri. When we arrived at Quang Tri we were told to take our utilities off and they put them in a pile and burned them. They had a line of showers set up and we took turns taking showers and getting rid of three months of dirt, sweat and grime. It was probably the best shower I have ever had, we felt like we were washing Khe Sanh off our bodies but it has never left our minds. They fed us steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week and it has made me shy away for steak to this day.