In the history of military warfare, there are thousands of memorable battles that illustrate the incredible courage and determination of the human spirit, especially when faced with overwhelming odds. One such example is the Vietnam War’s Battle of Hill 488 and the brave men of Team 2, a Marine Recon platoon that subsequently became the war’s most decorated unit.
Beginning on June 13, 1966, the 18-man patrol was tasked with monitoring enemy activity/movement from their position atop Hill 488, located west of Chu Lai Marine base. Spotting enemy activity almost immediately, Team 2, led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie Howard, called in strikes from a nearby artillery battalion. On the 14th, certain that his platoon had been detected by the enemy and would inevitably be targeted, Howard nonetheless requested they be allowed to maintain their position for an additional day. Late that night, an estimated 200-250 enemy assaulted the hilltop, supported by mortar fire which effectively pinned Team 2 on a rocky knoll. In near-total darkness, the enemy staged numerous all-out attacks, only to be repelled time and again by the brave Marines.
Around midnight, amid fierce, non-stop firefights, Howard radio-requested for close air support and (hopefully) extraction, but once the support arrived, they weren’t able to pinpoint their targets. Nearly out of ammo, and with everyone wounded at least once, Howard and his men utilized whatever resource available, including AK47’s stripped from enemy casualties, even hurling rocks at their assailants. Eventually, flares from a C-47 aircraft illuminated the hill enough for targeted airstrikes, giving Team 2 temporary relief, but the enemies’ sheer numbers continued to threaten to overwhelm their fragile stronghold.
As the battle raged through the night, Sgt. Howard, although wounded with a gunshot in his back, somehow managed to crawl from position-to-position among his men, bravely urging and encouraging them, all the while exposing himself to enemy fire.
On the morning of June 16th, helicopters were able to land at the base of Hill 488, and Marines methodically made their way towards the summit, eliminating the remaining enemy. At the top, Marines counted 42 enemy casualties in the immediate vicinity of Team 2’s position. As for the unimaginably brave soldiers, all suffered injuries (several multiple), and six were killed.
For their uncommon valor and courage, all 18 members of Team 2 were honored by their country. Sgt. Howard, in addition to being awarded the Medal of Honor, was also honored by having a missile destroyer, the USS Howard, named for him.