The Battle for Hill 3234 was a small, bitterly-contested mountain fight that was a near-run thing, yet part of one of the most successful operations of the Soviet-Afghan War-Operation Magistral. As part of Operation Magistral the 9th Company of the 345th Guards Airborne Regiment took and held a mountain outnumbered 39 to 250 by Mujahideen. The story has gained iconic status in Russian and inspired the popular movie and computer game 9th Company. The movie is great entertainment, but hardly accurate.
The Real Story.
In November 1987, the Soviet 40th Army under General Boris Gromov began Operation Magistral to open the road from Gardez to Khost near the Pakistani border. Khost had been cut off for months by mujahideen led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and had to be resupplied by air
Soviet commanders wanted to secure the entire section of the road from Gardez to Khost. One of the most important points was the nameless hill designated by its height of 3234m, which was assigned to the 9th company of the 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment led by Colonel Valery Vostrotin. The 39 man company landed on the hilltop on January 7, 1988, tasked with creating and holding a hilltop strong point from which to observe and control a long section of the road beneath and thus secure it for the safe passage of convoys.
Shortly after landing, the airborne troopers, who were well trained and experienced in Afghan conditions, started to take up positions which covered both the road and the uphill passages. Just as they had dug in, the mujahideen began their attack at 1530 hrs. First they fired with all possible weapons including recoilless guns and RPG. After a few salvos, Soviet artillery replied and silenced some of the Mujahideen's guns, with the commander of the first platoon, Lt. Viktor Gagarin, directing fire via a radio. When rebel fire slackened, it was clear that this was the beginning of an infantry assault.
The airborne troopers were attacked by a coordinated and well-armed force of between 200 and 250 mujahideen. Attacks were made from two directions, indicating that the assailants may have been assisted by rebels trained in Pakistan. During the ensuing battle, the Soviet unit was in constant communication with headquarters and received everything the leadership of 40th Army had to offer in terms of artillery support, ammunition, reinforcements, and helicopter evacuation of the wounded.
The first attack at 1530 on January 7 was followed by eleven more attacks until just before dawn on January 8, when the mujahideen retreated after suffering severe casualties leaving Hill 3234 in the hands of the Soviet paratroopers. The exhausted and mostly wounded Soviets were nearly out of ammunition but continued to occupy the hill until the last convoy passed through the road below.
The Soviet forces sustained 6 men out of 39 killed and 28 wounded. Two of the soldiers killed, Vyacheslav Alexandrovich Alexandrov and Andrey Alexandrovich Melnikov, were posthumously awarded the golden star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. All of the paratroopers in this battle were given the Order of the Red Banner and Order of the Red Star.
According to the Soviet estimates, the Mujahideen lost over 200 men. The Mujahideen wore black uniforms with rectangular black-yellow-red stripes. It was claimed by at least two sources that the Mujahideen were actually members of the Special Services Group, a commando unit of the Pakistan Army.
Movie Video Game