Description of Terrain Included in Case File for Congressional Medal of Honor to be Awarded to Joe R. Hooper
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TERRAIN AND BUNKERS
The terrain through which Sgt Hooper was forced to maneuver during most of the day’s fighting was tremendously dense, made up for the most part of trees, thick undergrowth, and high bamboo trees, the latter reaching upwards of forty feet. Where the bamboo grew a myriad of intertwining vines blocked every hopeful passage, and the vines were thick with thorns. To move against such foilage under normal conditions would be extremely difficult, and to do so in combat while on the offensive against strong enemy bunkers would have appeared impossible. Close around every house the foilage thinned out somewhat, and there were occasional gardens of varied vegetables. Farther to the left was a growth of sugar cane and on the right side of the hard dirt path which bisected the area was rice after a certain distance. Where there was no rice there was no rice there was scrub growth. However 90% of Sgt Hooper's actions were performed within the dense woods and bamboo.
In front of the woodline ran a fairly well kept road, behind which was a trench which ran the length of the woodline, and within the trench were bunkers spread approximately every six feet. These were the first obstacles Sgt Hooper had to overcome when he crossed the stream. And running perpendicular to these lines at varying intervals were rows of bunkers extending the depth of the wood. These bunkers were made of natural materials, mostly dug into the ground with bamboo placed on top. Over this would be placed dried clay and then another layer of bamboo and still more clay. The bunkers were all connected by narrow trenches. The enemy had also fortified most of the houses in the area; these had been deserted by the local villagers when the NVA moved in. The enemy had also utilized such things as shrines to their advantage, and their overall defensive deployment was such that they could continually fall back by stages if hard pressed. This in fact they did to some extent, but Sgt Hooper's actions trapped many enemy before they could utilize this plan.
In front of the woodline no more than thirty meters was the stream. All its approaches were covered by enemy fire, and it was difficult to cross in any event. The stream was approximately thirty feet wide and in most places up to five feet deep.
On every side of the wood were open rice paddies, enabling the enemy to obtain maximum fields of fire and observation. Thus the initial approach was rendered most difficult, though not as difficult as it might have been as the ground opposite the stream fronting the woodline was slightly elevated, and while the attacking force was afforded no particular advantage by this due to the concealment of the enemy positions, the defenders were not as able as they might have been to render effective fire on the approaching forces.
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