Hal Moore: A Soldier Once... And Always


Hal Moore by Mike Guardia  Hal Moore, one of the most admired American combat leaders of the last 50 years, has until now been best known to the public for being portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie 'We Were Soldiers.' In this first-ever, fully illustrated biography, we finally learn the full story of one of America's true military heroes.

A 1945 graduate of West Point, Moore’s first combats occurred during the Korean War, where he fought in the battles of Old Baldy, T-Bone, and Pork Chop Hill. At the beginning of the Vietnam War, Moore commanded the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry in the first full-fledged battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese regulars. Drastically outnumbered and nearly overrun, Moore led from the front, and though losing 79 soldiers, accounted for 1,200 of the enemy before the Communists withdrew. This Battle of Ia Drang pioneered the use of “air mobile infantry”—delivering troops into battle via helicopter—which became the staple of U.S. operations for the remainder of the war. He later wrote of his experiences in the best-selling book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young.

Following his tour in Vietnam, he assumed command of the 7th Infantry Division, forward-stationed in South Korea, and in 1971, he took command of the Army Training Center at Fort Ord, California. In this capacity, he oversaw the US Army’s transition from a conscript-based to an all-volunteer force. He retired as a Lieutenant General in 1977.


     A fascinating story about a man who always wanted to be in the military. Hal Moore is the leader of 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry, and was featured in the movie “We Were Soldiers”. Mel Gibson was portraying Hal Moore.

     Now back to the book, he graduated from West Point at the end of world war two. He had different jobs until he was sent to Japan, then Korea broke out. Transferred into another outfit after about six months he started seeing his first combat. Again each time leaving one unit to another one either for promotion or a higher up liked his leadership, training and organizing a unit. Finally as Korea was slowing down he was brought back to the states for more training.

     During this time he got married and got another promotion. He was now back at West Point, Vietnam was still not happening yet, but he put in for a new air unit with helicopters. Having been with the 82nd and the 173rd airborne units he saw this as another way to bring troops into an area quickly.

     Now a few years go by and now Vietnam is becoming a real place of interest. After a training exercise watch by VIP’s he is transferred to the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry. Actually they are putting the 7th back into active status so he feels something is up. His sergeant major is a man who made all 4 combat jumps with the 82nd in WWII and fought in Korea.

     It is now 65 and by March the Marines have landed in Da Nang. Training is being stepped up but he is losing men at the same time due to policies of the Army and the White House. In the summer of 65 they are shipped over. He continues to train but continues to lose men and the replacements are slow to get there. His troop size should have been 767, they were at 679 plus some were still out with malaria.                                

     On Nov 14 of 65 began the battle of IA Dang,   build up was noticed from the air and troops were sent in. The first troops were attacked as soon as the helicopters left. Hearing this from camp he order everyone all of his 1st Battalion to depart. The second group of soldiers were to support the first that were under fire. Not hearing any at the time the over anxious young LT. lead his men into a trap, he and the two top NCO’s were killed almost at once leaving a 21 year old SSgt to stay with the platoon. They became the lost platoon, took almost two days before they could be recused. More men were arriving including Moore, the Sgt. Major and the rest of the Battalion. SSgt. Savage, from the lost platoon was calling direct fire artillery but was still being attacked. As the Battalion spread out to cover all areas of the attack they still could reach any of the first troops that had landed.

     The second day started out as bad as the first more attacks but each one was pushed backed. Still with direct fire support fire they could not each SSgt Savage. By now men had been flown out, either wounded or had died. And though the movie showed that the families lived on base they did not. Once deployed they had 30 days to leave base, find new housing. The part where cab drivers would deliver casualty notifications. His wife seeing this did come up with a way to handle it within the unit wife’s.

     Now on the third day the 2nd Battalion came in with reinforcements’ and drove back the enemy and was able to get to the lost platoon. There was no bayonet charge up the hill that was Hollywood. Beginning the morning of the third day the NVA made one last charge and failed. At the end the enemy lost 1215 we had 85 killed 121 wounded. SSGT Savage made it through two horrible nights. The platoon went in 29 came out 9 dead 13 wounded. Moore said this was his worst day for he knew everyone and been with them for 18 months. But it was a win, they did not give ground the NVA left and every battle that was fought we won.

     He speaks, about that how we won each battle even the Tet offensive, just that like the Tet it was portrayed in the media back in the states as a lose. He speaks of not being able to follow the enemy to Laos and Cambodia, which was where there supplies were coming from. Tying the hands of a fighting force you are not portraying confidence. He felt from the top Johnson and McNamara, were the reason that every time they made progress they would be pushed back.

     In the book you will read about trips he made back to Vietnam with some of the men from his unit. They met with some of the men they fought against that day. A final closer for that day. His wife passed away a few years ago and you not only had generals and other ranking people. But wives from some of the men lost from that battle came to give their respects. He said she made him a better person. He retired a 3 star general.

     One final note, if you see a copy of the movie the soldier on the cover is Lt. Cyril “Rick” Recorla. He perished tragically in the World Trade center attack of Sep 2001. A lot more information and a great book. I got this from net- galley

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