Patrick Diehl, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, enlisted in the Army after graduating in 1968 from Kenston High School.
He was a sniper and paratrooper serving with 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry attached to the 101st Airborne Division in the Quang Tin Province. In May of 1969, as part of “Operation Lamar Plain”, (which included the controversial battle of Hamburger Hill), PFC Diehl’s company was part of a large joint, ground and air, assault against a heavily fortified enemy, embedded on Hill 187.
A first-person account describes the action as follows:
Charlie Company, held in reserve, was ordered to assault the hill late that afternoon. (May 21) The third platoon stood up on line, shoulder-to-shoulder, and before the command to charge could be given, the enemy opened fire.
Immediately, second platoon was ordered into the fight and the two platoons charged across a rice paddy toward the hill. Several men fell wounded in the paddy, and more at the base of the hill as from above, the enemy fired mortar, machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenades. As the men leaped over a stone wall and began to advance up the hill, the first platoon and company CP also came under attack.
The enemy tried to encircle them. Murderous fire brought down several more of Charlie Company’s men. But using grenades and fire and maneuver, they reached a second stone wall. Then they were fired on from every direction. Enemy soldiers wearing grass and tree limbs as camouflage rose up from spider holes and trenches and charged from behind. The fighting became very close, often hand-to-hand. There were many acts of personal courage.
After taking out several enemy bunkers with light anti-tank weapons and spraying rifle and machine-gun fire into the trees where enemy soldiers had tied themselves with ropes, the 101st moved further up the hill toward a third stone wall, behind which there was a continuous line of spider holes interconnected by tunnels.
To the left and right, behind the wall, were bunker and tunnel complexes. Each time a bunker was taken out, more enemy soldiers crawled through the connecting tunnels and trenches, pulled their dead away, and replaced them in the firing positions.
The beleaguered soldiers finally fought their way to the top of the hill and destroyed the last of the enemy bunkers. They were exhausted, nearly out of ammo and water, and without radio contact with the CP. The two platoon leaders made the decision to recover their wounded and withdraw from the hill.
(The after-action report states 12 US soldiers were killed and 46 more wounded during the day long battle.)
PFC Diehl, aged 19, was one of the fatalities. His body was returned to the states and laid to rest in Restland cemetery, located in Bainbridge, Ohio. He was survived by his parents, a twin brother and a younger brother and sister.
He was posthumously promoted to the rank of corporal due to valor in the field.