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Not a hill worth dying for

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 23, 2009 at 18:32

In Reply to: Not a hill worth dying for posted by Joe on October 23, 2009 at 16:55:

: : : Not a hill worth dying for. What is the origin of this phrase?

: : The phrase has become very popular as a metaphorical question not related to hills. However, in military history hills have always been important, and an entrenched force on a hile is always a difficult foe. So it is possible that many, many commanders have asked themselves, "Is taking this hill worth the many casualties our army will take?" Among famous American battles involving hills were the Battle of Bunker Hill, the battle for Cemetery Ridge, the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, and perhaps most germanely, the battle of "Hamburger Hill" in Vietnam, which may be the source of the current popularity of the phrase.

: : "In the case of Hamburger Hill, many military leaders doubted whether it was worth the 70 dead and over 400 injured soldiers that resulted!"

: : (Quoted from:) [Dead link removed - ed]

: : The disparity between the cost in lives and the strategic value of the terrain conquered doesn't even come close to many other battles in history, e.g., the Siege of Verdun, by the Germans, in World War I. Estimates of the casualties vary from a low of a quarter million dead in battle and a half million wounded, to nearly a million casualties on each side.

: : But Verdun, to both sides, was a strategic position (although not a hill) worth fighting for. "Hamburger Hill" was probably not, and if it did not inspire the phrase, it was certainly an appropriate subject for it.

: : Of course, there are many thoughtful people for whom no hill is ever worth dying for, especially in war.

: : I can't give you a definitive answer to your question, but I hope my speculation has been useful.
: : SS

: Pork Chop Hill: the American fighting man in action, Korea, Spring, 1953ý
: Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall - History -

: Pork Chop Hill was not the hill's real name, of course. But it was this book and the Gregory Peck film that popularized the hill not worth anything. The film devotes much time to the discussion of what the hill is worth: nothing until one American died taking and holding it.
: It is a great film, I was in the same unit 31st Infantry, the "Polar Bears" later.

: Ted Kennedy dubbed the battle of Dong Ap Bai "Hamburger Hill" in Congressional
: Testimony. Few battles of the Vietnam War better illustrated that futility than "Hamburger
: Hill," Hill 937 or the battle for Dong Ap Bia in May 1969. Also popularized by a film.

: Both were captured held then just abandoned, sort of took the symbolism of the absurd to new levels as there were no "goals". The men of the 101st Airborne Division were tossed as we said
: it "into a meat grinder", hence the term that Senator Kennedy made famous.

: So these are the historical sources about a hill not worth anything. We (101sters) seldom use the term but call it Ap Bia or Hill 937 (937 meters high), despite all this we (Americans) still had to take a few more useless hills before the war ended. The "A Shau" valley was still a meat grinder
: in 1971 and the term was still recalled. In most all previous wars territory was the goal, liberation
: the hope of the allies, but there was one hill in Italy in 1943-44 that made headlines "Monte Cassino" monastery. The Germans ground up British, Indian, Polish and American troops at will until it was bombed and then they still held for a while. Today one cannot help but be moved by the Memorials and that so many crosses and markers cover the area in cemeteries for each National group. That was a waste, the Germans were never in the monastery until after it was destroyed. But unlike Hamburger Hill, Rome was liberated. Joe

:Joe, I would like some clarification on Monte Cassiona. True, the Germans never invaded the actual monastery (or so I think I read), but the hillside, a very strategic location, was heavily fortified and heavily defended. It was not a "hill not worth dying for." The campaign up the Italian peninsual had more than the normal number of charges of incompetence on the part of the American generals, especially of Mark Clark.