Operation Apache Snow Begins

Operation Apache Snow was a military operation of the Vietnam War in the A Shau Valley.

The A Shau Valley was an important corridor for moving supplies into South Vietnam and used as staging area for attacks. Previous sweeps of the valley in Operation Delaware and Operation Dewey Canyon had not been able to keep the North Vietnamese Army from operating in the valley.

Apache Snow was planned as an operation involving ten battalions. The initial assault force consisted of troops from the 101st Airborne Division, the 187th, 501st, and 506th Infantry Division, and the 1st ARVN Division. The plan was to block escape routes into Laos and assault enemy formations and strongholds.

The main objective became Hill 937, the resulting battle known as the Battle of Hamburger Hill. After ten days of fighting and at the cost of heavy losses, US forces managed to capture the hill, only to abandon it two weeks later.

Operation Apache Snow continued until 7 June with only little enemy contact. It failed to deny access to the valley to North Vietnamese forces. The valley continued to be used as staging area for attacks in northern South Vietnam.

The operation began with a heliborne assault along the Laotian border and then a sweep back to the east. First contact with the enemy was made by a rifle company from the 101st Airborne on the slopes of Hill 937, known to the Vietnamese as Ap Bia Mountain. Entrenched in prepared fighting positions, the North Vietnamese 29th Regiment repulsed the initial American assault and on May 14 beat back another attempt by the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry. An intense battle raged for the next 10 days and the mountain came under heavy Allied air strikes, artillery barrages, and 10 infantry assaults. On May 20, Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais, commanding general of the 101st, sent in two additional U.S. airborne battalions and a South Vietnamese battalion as reinforcements. The communist stronghold was finally captured in the 11th attack, when the American and South Vietnamese soldiers fought their way up to the summit of the mountain. In the face of the four-battalion attack, the North Vietnamese retreated to sanctuary areas in Laos.