Mission Command Analysis: Hamburger Hill Battle

Subject: History
Pages: 5
Words: 1212
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Master


The military commander plays a crucial role in combat since he is responsible for making the right decisions promptly, as well as under intense pressure. The wrong and ill-timed decisions lead to severe outcomes, including human casualties, and might affect national strategic objectives. Therefore, commanders must adhere to the core principles of mission command, which facilitates effectiveness and success when delegating responsibilities to subordinates and distributing appropriate resources to meet the assigned tasks. The seven principles of mission command serve as the framework for a sufficient commander’s performance. They include “competence, mutual trust, shared understanding, commander’s intent, mission orders, disciplined initiative, and risk acceptance.”

Summary of the Events Leading to the Battle

The Battle of Hamburger Hill had a significant meaning in terms of general perspective on the Vietnamese War. Despite the American victory and Honeycutt’s view of the heroic performance, the critics were less approbatory of the military leadership’s performance due to irresponsible losses. The events that occurred are considered the most complex and disputable events of the Vietnam conflict. The primary task was to satisfy both the military and the American public. Consequently, the political circles were concerned about putting an end to War as the policy of public appeasement, as well as achieving victory as the military target. As a result, the U.S. military established a new strategy, which was based on searching and destroying missions, meaning that the troops were focused on investigating the area in order to detect an enemy. Such a tactic resulted in the 187th Infantry’s attack on Dong Ap Bia Mountain, which was later called Hamburger Hill.

The enemy was observed on the ridge numbered 937 by American Army maps and was detected as the 29th North Vietnamese regiment. The arms fire over the Hill 937 started on May 10 and was actively bombarding until May 14. LTC Honeycutt immediately responded to the firearms of the Vietnamese enemy. Three companies of the 187th Airborne began planned maneuvers up the mountain hill. The southern side of the hill was assaulted by the 1/506th Airborne led by Lt. Roger Leasure. A complete attack started after four days of the uphill struggle, and since then, the hill was called the Hamburger Hill because the U.S. attackers were ground up by enemy protectors. On May 20, the hill was taken by the American Army. Operation Apache Snow was the code name for the joint operation of the U.S. Army and a South Vietnamese infantry regiment against North Vietnamese activities in the A Shau Valley.

Analysis of Mission Command Principles

Lieutenant Honeycutt left a significant mark on the course of American history. The analysis of the basic principles of the mission command help to identify that some of them were successfully applied during the Hamburger Hill battle. To be more specific, the commander’s leadership and competence are the essential components of successful combat. LTC Honeycutt led the American army to the victory on Hamburger Hill due to a professional combination of the art of command and the science of control. The U.S. troops addressed many challenges during the fight, including enemy territory, severe weather conditions, and skilled opponents in unforeseen numbers. Nevertheless, they did not undermine the commander’s determination and impetus to take the lead of his combat group.

The 3rd Battalion/187th Infantry Regiment had an explicit trust in their commander. Honeycutt led the U.S. to victory during the War in Vietnam when he made his company to be the one that managed to take the vital hill after two abortive attempts of the previous companies (Risk acceptance.). The commander formed coherent teams under the spirit of trust due to aggressive performance and a common successful experience. The commander assigned each of the companies with a clear division of tasks and responsibilities as the battle group was placed in the operating zone (Mission orders). Thus, they were well informed about the shared mission and the centerline of the battle.

Weldon Honeycutt also achieved a shared understanding of individual and cooperative teamwork with his company commanders, as well as the soldiers. The commander of the battalion, Rakkasans, also provided a clear intent through leading by example. Honeycutt injured his back and leg during the battle; however, he still managed to manifest strong courage to fight when he flew to the battalion surgeon and was back to the war zone shortly afterward. The commander tended to take risks regularly as he flew over the fighting field to investigate his operating companies. The most crucial and risky decision was made when Ltc Honeycutt decided to attack the hill alone on May 16 and refused to await the 1/506 group.

Description of the Battle’s Outcome

The LTC Honeycutt’s capacity to appropriately utilize Mission Command resulted in the victory of the American troops at Dong Ap Bia. Honeycutt led three companies of the 187th and is widely known as an aggressive officer who was called a Blackjack. He joined the army in 1946 and joined the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. Honeycutt took his battalion into the battle at Hamburger Hill, which was considered as one of the bloodiest engagements of the Vietnam War. Based on combat reports, the goals of the operation were successfully implemented by the U.S. forces. The Hamburger Hill battle took the lives of 48 Americans and nearly 600 North Vietnamese. However, it was considered a controversial aspect of the American Army history by many reporters. Together with some soldiers on the hill, they all doubted the tactical relevance of the combat and the application of regular tactics instead of modern airstrike technology.

Significance of this Analysis

The core principles of mission command can be perceived as the foundation for the efficient commander’s military performance. This paper analyzed how LTC Honeycutt managed to appropriately implement the Mission Command’s principles, which resulted in the victory of the American troops at Dong Ap Bia. Lieutenant Colonel Weldon F. Honeycutt led three companies of the 187th and is widely known as an aggressive officer who was called a Blackjack. He joined the army in 1946 and joined the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. Honeycutt took his battalion into the battle at Hamburger Hill, which was considered one of the most gruesome historical events during the Vietnam War.

The core principles of the mission command and its philosophical basis within military strategy enabled to proper examine the commander’s performance and combat power in the Hamburger Hill battle during the Vietnam War. This analysis promotes a better understanding and assessment of the events and mission, as well as the tactics that helped LTC Honeycutt to lead his battalion and the United States to victory.


The Hamburger Hill battle is crucial within the course of the Vietnam War since it might serve as a model for the current commanders to assist in successful operations. It is vital to adhere to the fundamental aspects of the mission command, such as command and control, and learn to demonstrate tremendous skills in combining them along with seven key principles. The commanders must be exemplary leaders who allocate clear and concise tasks, as well as a mission to their subordinates and companies. Setting precise objectives and the purpose of military intervention is the key to the successful outcomes of warfare.


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