FNC's Oliver North sat down with FOX Fan Central to preview this weekend's show — The Real Story of Hamburger Hill:
FOX FAN: In the filming of this episode, you and the "War Stories" crew made an arduous trip to the top of Hamburger Hill. What was that journey like, and what did you think about along the way?
OLIVER NORTH: It was very hot! In all of our “War Stories” productions, we try to go to the scene of the battle at the same time of year that the engagement occurred. For example, we taped the recently-aired episode on the Hurtgen forest at the same time of year that the battle was fought during World War II. In that case, it was miserably cold and wet. In this case, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit — and we were soaked with our own sweat.
I had forgotten just how hot, humid and steep the A Shau valley rainforest really is. The whole experience was a vivid lesson that being in good shape at 62 is considerably different than being in great shape at 25! Thankfully, this time we weren't wearing flak jackets and helmets — and most importantly — no one was shooting at us!
What did I think about? This was my third trip back to Vietnam since serving there as a rifle platoon commander and company XO in the 1960's. Despite the passage of nearly four decades, it hasn't gotten any easier to revisit the places where I once led and lost young Marines.
Being there inevitably intensifies memories of people and events that might otherwise be dimmed by the passage of time. Walking over that terrain was a stark reminder of the courage, endurance and fortitude demonstrated by the young Americans with whom I was blessed to serve in that long-ago war. The troops I cover and document in Iraq and Afghanistan are no different.
FOX FAN: You talk to veterans from both sides of the war for this episode. What were the similarities and differences in the way they remembered the battle for Hamburger Hill?
OLIVER NORTH: The North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong soldiers who agreed to talk with us on-camera seem to bear no animus against us — and that appears to be fairly universal throughout Vietnam. Whether they were bombed up north or abandoned down south, the Vietnamese people demonstrate great warmth and affection for Americans.
It is also apparent that their soldiers were very well indoctrinated. Though most of them were draftees — like many of ours — they knew what they were fighting for.
Few of their maps even showed that there was a border or "demilitarized zone" dividing North and South Vietnam. They were fighting to unify their country — and they were fighting to win — no matter how long it took. We were fighting a defensive war — trying not to lose.
FOX FAN: What do you think helped the U.S. forces to eventually triumph at Hamburger Hill?
OLIVER NORTH: The remarkable bravery, steadfast endurance and individual initiative of young American soldiers all contributed to the eventual victory. The 101st Airborne troopers who took Hamburger Hill persevered because they fought for each other. By the end of the fight it wasn't superior American technology or firepower that prevailed — it was, to put it bluntly: guts. This is a real chronicle of courage.
FOX FAN: What will viewers see in this weekend's special edition of War Stories?
OLIVER NORTH: Though the fight for Hamburger Hill was easily one of the most contentious battles of the Vietnam War — it has always been widely misunderstood. Why was this mountaintop so important? Why was it so vigorously defended by the North Vietnamese army? Why was it so bloody? Why did we go out to seize a piece of terrain we didn't intend to keep? Why did Senator Ted Kennedy say what he did about it? We get the answers to all these questions.
As we always do on war stories, we went behind the obvious to talk with the eyewitness participants. We went back to hamburger hill — becoming the first journalists to do so since the war — and walked over the terrain so we could show our viewers what it was like then and now. We have firsthand accounts from the combatants — on both sides of the fight.
At a point when comparisons are being made between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, this is an important documentary for understanding the difference and knowing the truth. For those who are fans of "reality TV," this is reality TV like they have never seen it before.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the Host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel.