Local Vietnam veteran shares incredible story of survival from the war

TULSA, Okla. — Ray Hildreth has been teaching martial arts in Tulsa for nearly 30 years.

Ray mastered karate before learning Kung Fu. His dedication to martial arts started with the need to defend himself after a near-death experience in Vietnam.

Ray landed in Vietnam on March 25, 1966. As a Marine and trained sniper, Ray’s squad did reconnaissance to gain information on enemy positions. The squad’s mission was not to engage with the enemy, but to be the eyes and ears of the operation.

During one late night mission, 18 men climbed a hill that the Vietnamese called “Nui Vu.” This hill was 488 meters high, or around 1,600 feet high. So, the Marines called it Hill 488.

During the mission, one of Ray’s squad members noticed that the North Vietnamese army had snuck up on them. He described it as a shadow, until he realized it was the enemy.

“It wasn’t a shadow. So, he raised his gun and fired twice.”

That’s when the enemy troops ambushed the Marines. In Ray’s book, Hill 488, he wrote, “the monsters of our imaginations had become real. And they were coming for us.”

Ray says the situation looked hopeless, but “they fought back out of sheer guts and determination.”

One of the Vietnamese soldiers spoke clear english. He said, “Marines, you die in one hour!” They believed more Vietnamese soldiers were on the way. But, instead of being intimidated, the Marines outsmarted their enemy.

“Our platoon sergeant said to laugh at them, and we did,” said Ray. They laughed in the faces of the enemy. Ray believes their laughter made the Vietnamese soldiers believe that American reinforcements were on the way. So, they retreated.

Six Marines were killed in the battle. Ray didn’t realize until later that he was grazed by a bullet.

Ray returned home and received the Silver Star Medal. He still had two years left to serve, and he was convinced he would return to Vietnam. So, he started learning karate. However, he never returned to war.

Now, 55 years later, Ray teaches his students to honor his country.