“You Never Knew What To Expect”: A Rifleman At Hamburger Hill

Donald Harris


Donald Harris grew up in Viejo, California, and his Model A Ford was his pride and joy. He was drafted in 1968, and completed Basic Training at Ft. Lewis, Washington, and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, California, before shipping out to Vietnam. Arriving in country, he was assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans), and joined his unit near Cu Chi, where A Company had recently faced some tough combat. As a young Soldier, he felt that his leadership did not always tell him where he was going or what he was doing. His unit was at Eagle Beach on stand-down when they were alerted for action at Firebase Airborne, a prelude to the fight at Hamburger Hill (Dong Ap Bia). At one point, while he was at Firebase Airborne, the North Vietnamese were so close he could hear them talking. By the night of the 10th or early morning of the 11th of May, 1969, Harris assaulted the summit on Hamburger Hill three times, and he could not hear for three days after the battle. After being pulled off Hamburger Hill, his unit returned to Eagle Beach, where the tone was somber. His unit then conducted some fixed-site security missions, such as monitoring traffic crossing a bridge. After returning home from Vietnam, he returned to work in a Naval Shipyard in California, eventually becoming a supervisor. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his Vietnam War experiences, and his post-war life. He describes walking point, and being on an observation post at night. He highlights some of the confusion he felt in Vietnam, including one night when elements from C Company were coming in to their position, and his squad leaders were yelling, “Charlie’s coming in, don’t shoot,” which confused Harris because he thought Charlie was the enemy. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Courage Military Techniques Morale Camaraderie
interviewer David Siry
date 15 May 2019


name Donald Harris
service Infantry
unit A / 3-187 Infantry "Rakkasans"
service dates 1968 1970