Purple Heart Hill

Site X-Ray Security 

by U.S. Army Combat Artist Frank M. Thomas (LTC)

Original 11" x 15" Graphite Drawing
Found in the Collection of Major Fred Edens (US Army Retired) Johnson City, Tennessee

    Operational requirements on occasion required the Rangers to be used in less than glamorous missions. And thus it was that they found themselves providing security for a communications relay site. Site X-Ray, located on a jungle covered mountain top in Vietnam's coastal range, was extremely vital to the success of a large operation being conducted further inland. It was also completely surrounded by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and cut off from ground supply. The Ranger unit's mission was to hold the position at any costs, and they did.

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This artist's friend, Retired Army Major Fred Edens, of Johnson City, Tennessee, was one of those young enlisted soldiers assigned to the platoon holding a tight perimeter around the site. He was wounded, his first time, at that location, but not before his friend, another Tennesseean also at that site, was seriously wounded. His buddy, not having received a letter from his girlfriend in some time, would rush the mail bag each time the re-supply chopper would arrive with a load of ammo, water and rations.

Mail was top priority for any GI. Finally the letter came. The young Ranger excitedly tore open the envelope and leaned back against a rock to read it. Down the mountainside, in the trees, an NVA sniper spotted the white letter, took careful aim and fired his weapon.

This artist's rendering of the scene shows the soldier being stabilized by medics as the "dust off" chopper arrives to evacuate him. The HU-1H helicopter had earlier attempted to land, but enemy ground fire prevented it. After a Cobra helicopter gun ship worked the area over, the aircraft was able to touch down. The last thing Fred did for his friend before the "dust off" left was to fold up the letter, place it in his gear, and get it on that chopper. That letter had a sniper's bullet hole through it. Because of the numbers of men who died or were wounded defending that position, Site X-Ray came to be known as Purple heart Hill.


Laser Art Print Offering: 

  (NOTE: only nine (9) prints remaining) 

11" x 15" (signed by artist - ready to frame)......................$35.00