We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young: IA Drang - the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam

( 57 )

Overview

Each year, the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps selects one book that he believes is both relevant and timeless for reading by all Marines. The Commandant's choice for 1993 was We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young.
In November 1965, some 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days ...
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Overview

Each year, the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps selects one book that he believes is both relevant and timeless for reading by all Marines. The Commandant's choice for 1993 was We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young.
In November 1965, some 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was chopped to pieces. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War.
How these men persevered--sacrificed themselves for their comrades and never gave up--makes a vivid portrait of war at its most inspiring and devastating. General Moore and Joseph Galloway, the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting, have interviewed hundreds of men who fought there, including the North Vietnamese commanders. This devastating account rises above the specific ordeal it chronicles to present a picture of men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have found unimaginable only a few hours earlier. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man's most heroic and horrendous endeavor.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In November 1965, America's involvement in the Vietnam War was just beginning. When 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, commanded by Lt. General Harold "Hal" Moore, were dropped into a clearing in the Ia Drang Valley, they were immediately surrounded by more than 2,000 North Vietnamese troops. Another battalion was to take part in an intense battle less than two and a half miles away. The fighting would become some of the fiercest of the entire war. General Moore and journalist Joseph Galloway (the only journalist at the scene) recount the bravery displayed at Ia Drang.
From the Publisher
“A GUT-WRENCHING ACCOUNT OF WHAT WAR IS REALLY ALL ABOUT, which should be ‘must’ reading for all Americans, especially those who have been led to believe that war is some kind of Nintendo game.”
–GENERAL H. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF

“Hal Moore and Joe Galloway have captured the terror and exhilaration, the comradeship and self-sacrifice, the brutality and compassion that are the dark heart of war.”
–NEIL SHEEHAN, author of A Bright Shining Lie

“A powerful and epic story . . . This is the best account of infantry combat I have ever read, and the most significant book to come out of the Vietnam War.”
–COLONEL DAVID HACKWORTH, author of the bestseller About Face

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Wall Street Journal
Between experiencing combat and reading about it lies a vast chasm. But this book makes you almost smell it.
New York Times Book Review
There are stories here that freeze the blood....The men who fought at Ia Drang could have no finer memorial than this one.
David Halberstam
A stunning achievement, a book that is not merely a book,but rather a monument to all the young men who were in thela Drang in those fateful November days—paper and words withthe permanence of marble. I read it and thought of The Red Badge of Courage, the highest compliment I can think of.
David Hackworth
A powerful and epic story . . . raw, gutty, and eye-stinging. This is the best account of infantry combat I have ever read, and the most significant book to come out of the Vietnam War.
New York Times Book Review
There are stories here that freeze the blood....The men who fought at Ia Drang could have no finer memorial than this one.
Wall Street Journal
Between experiencing combat and reading about it lies a vast chasm. But this book makes you almost smell it.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf
We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young is a great book of militaryhistory, written the way military history should be written. It is agut-wrenching account of what war is really about, which shouldbe 'must' reading for all Americans, especially those who havebeen led to believe that war is some kind of Nintendo game.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
On Nov. 14, 1965, the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. Moore and accompanied by UPI reporter Galloway, helicoptered into Vietnam's remote Ia Drang Valley and found itself surrounded by a numerically superior force of North Vietnamese regulars. Moore and Galloway here offer a detailed account, based on interviews with participants and on their own recollections, of what happened during the four-day battle. Much more than a conventional battle study, the book is a frank record of the emotional reactions of the GIs to the terror and horror of this violent and bloody encounter. Both sides claimed victory, the U.S. calling it a validation of the newly developed doctrine of airmobile warfare. Supplemented with maps, the memoir is a vivid re-creation of the first major ground battle of the Vietnam War.
Library Journal
Ia Drang, in November 1965, was the first major battle fought by U.S. troops in Vietnam. It was also one of the fiercest. As a lieutenant colonel, Moore commanded the battalion that initiated the fighting. War correspondent Galloway accompanied Moore's troopers from start to finish. We Were Soldiers Once movingly depicts Ia Drang through the eyes of junior officers and enlisted men of the 1st Cavalry Division and their North Vietnamese opponents. The authors convincingly present Ia Drang as an archetype of a self-defeating U.S. strategy that emphasized wearing down a determined and skillful enemy on the battlefield. The result was an unacceptably high level of American losses for the results achieved. One of this book's most telling episodes is its depiction of an army so unprepared to deal with casualties that some telegrams notifying families of a son or husband killed at Ia Drang were delivered by Yellow Cab! Recommended for all collections.-- D.E. Showalter, U.S. Air Force Acad., Colorado Springs
Roland Green
This extraordinary account of the two major engagements in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965 is one of the year's best books about the Vietnam War. Written by one of the battalion commanders in the battle and a journalist who witnessed it, the book draws comprehensively on both published sources and survivors' accounts. The result provides a portrait of the U.S. Army at the opening of the Vietnam War as well as gripping accounts of infantry combat that exceed in emotional impact the majority of war novels. Additional dimension is added through the contributions of the widows and orphans of some of the battle's dead. It is impossible to imagine any significant Vietnam collection's being without this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679411581
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 137,805
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.49 (h) x 1.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold G. Moore was born in Kentucky and is a West Point graduate, a master parachutist, and an Army aviator. He commanded two infantry companies in the Korean War and was a battalion and brigade commander in Vietnam. He retired from the Army in 1977 with thirty-two years' service and then was executive vice president of a Colorado ski resort for four years before founding a computer software company. An avid outdoorsman, Moore and his wife, Julie, divide their time between homes in Auburn, Alabama, and Crested Butte, Colorado.
Joseph L. Galloway is a native Texan. At seventeen he was a reporter on a daily newspaper, at nineteen a bureau chief for United Press International. He spent fifteen years as a foreign and war correspondent based in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Singapore, and the Soviet Union. Now a senior writer with U.S. News & World Report, he covered the Gulf War and coauthored Triumph Without Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War. Galloway lives with his wife, Theresa, and sons, Lee and Joshua, on a farm in northern Virginia.
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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watch'd
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars...
-Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One, Act II, Scene 3

This story is about time and memories. The time was 1965, a different kind of year, a watershed year when one era was ending in America and another was beginning. We felt it then, in the many ways our lives changed so suddenly, so dramatically, and looking back on it from a quarter-century gone we are left in no doubt. It was the year America decided to directly intervene in the Byzantine affairs of obscure and distant Vietnam. It was the year we went to war. In the broad, traditional sense, that "we" who went to war was all of us, all Americans, though in truth at that time the larger majority had little knowledge of, less interest in, and no great concern with what was beginning so far away.

So this story is about the smaller, more tightly focused "we" of that sentence: the first American combat troops, who boarded World War II-era troopships, sailed to that little-known place, and fought the first major battle of a conflict that would drag on for ten long years and come as near to destroying America as it did to destroying Vietnam.

The Ia Drang campaign was to the Vietnam War what the terrible Spanish Civil War of the 1930s was to World War II: a dress rehearsal; the place where new tactics, techniques, and weapons were tested, perfected, and validated. In the Ia Drang, both sides claimed victory and both sides drew lessons, some of them dangerously deceptive, which echoed and resonated throughout the decade of bloody fighting and bitter sacrifice that was to come.

This is about what we did, what we saw, what we suffered in a thirty-four-day campaign in the Ia Drang Valley of the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in November 1965, when we were young and confident and patriotic and our countrymen knew little and cared less about our sacrifices.

Another war story, you say? Not exactly, for on the more important levels this is a love story, told in our own words and by our own actions. We were the children of the 1950s and we went where we were sent because we loved our country. We were draftees, most of us, but we were proud of the opportunity to serve that country just as our fathers had served in World War II and our older brothers in Korea. We were members of an elite, experimental combat division trained in the new art of airmobile warfare at the behest of President John F. Kennedy.

Just before we shipped out to Vietnam the Army handed us the colors of the historic 1st Cavalry Division and we all proudly sewed on the big yellow-and-black shoulder patches with the horsehead silhouette. We went to war because our country asked us to go, because our new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered us to go, but more importantly because we saw it as our duty to go. That is one kind of love.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Going to War
1. Heat of Battle 9
2. The Roots of Conflict 16
3. Boots and Saddles 44
4. The Land and the Enemy 58
X-Ray
5. Into the Valley 73
6. The Battle Begins 86
7. Closing with the Enemy 101
8. The Storm of Battle 121
9. Brave Aviators 139
10. Fix Bayonets! 156
11. Night Falls 174
12. A Dawn Attack 188
13. Friendly Fire 205
14. Rescuing the Lost Platoon 221
15. Night Fighters 235
16. Policing the Battlefield 249
17. It Ain't Over Till It's Over 262
Albany
18. A Walk in the Sun 277
19. Hell in a Very Small Place 296
20. Death in the Tall Grass 321
21. Escape and Evade 344
22. Night without End 356
23. The Sergeant and the Ghost 375
Aftermath
24. Mentioned in Dispatches 391
25. "The Secretary of the Army Regrets..." 413
26. Reflections and Perceptions 434
Epilogue 444
Appendix Where Have All the Young Men Gone? 447
Acknowledgments 471
Interviews and Statements 476
Chapter Notes 480
Selected Bibliography 513
Index 519
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First Chapter

Prologue


In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watch'd
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars...
-Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One, Act II, Scene 3

This story is about time and memories. The time was 1965, a different kind of year, a watershed year when one era was ending in America and another was beginning. We felt it then, in the many ways our lives changed so suddenly, so dramatically, and looking back on it from a quarter-century gone we are left in no doubt. It was the year America decided to directly intervene in the Byzantine affairs of obscure and distant Vietnam. It was the year we went to war. In the broad, traditional sense, that "we" who went to war was all of us, all Americans, though in truth at that time the larger majority had little knowledge of, less interest in, and no great concern with what was beginning so far away.

So this story is about the smaller, more tightly focused "we" of that sentence: the first American combat troops, who boarded World War II-era troopships, sailed to that little-known place, and fought the first major battle of a conflict that would drag on for ten long years and come as near to destroying America as it did to destroying Vietnam.

The Ia Drang campaign was to the Vietnam War what the terrible Spanish Civil War of the 1930s was to World War II: a dress rehearsal; the place where new tactics, techniques, and weapons were tested, perfected, and validated. In the Ia Drang, both sides claimed victory and both sides drew lessons, some of them dangerously deceptive, which echoed and resonated throughout the decade of bloody fighting and bitter sacrifice that was to come.

This is aboutwhat we did, what we saw, what we suffered in a thirty-four-day campaign in the Ia Drang Valley of the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in November 1965, when we were young and confident and patriotic and our countrymen knew little and cared less about our sacrifices.

Another war story, you say? Not exactly, for on the more important levels this is a love story, told in our own words and by our own actions. We were the children of the 1950s and we went where we were sent because we loved our country. We were draftees, most of us, but we were proud of the opportunity to serve that country just as our fathers had served in World War II and our older brothers in Korea. We were members of an elite, experimental combat division trained in the new art of airmobile warfare at the behest of President John F. Kennedy.

Just before we shipped out to Vietnam the Army handed us the colors of the historic 1st Cavalry Division and we all proudly sewed on the big yellow-and-black shoulder patches with the horsehead silhouette. We went to war because our country asked us to go, because our new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered us to go, but more importantly because we saw it as our duty to go. That is one kind of love.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 57 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2005

    The Families left behind

    The book was one of the most moving stories I've ever read. What struck me was the footnotes at the end of the book with remarks of the families who were left behind. The lives lost were sobering because of all that they represented. One in particular: an officer who was being medevaced out of the valley was getting on the copter when he gave up his seat to a more seriously injured soldier. Subsequently that officer was shot in the back and mortally wounded. He left a wife and infant daughter. At another website I saw an interview with that daughter and she talked to the soldier that her father made room for. She led her whole life wondering about that person. When she met him she said he was a wonderful person and that she would never forget meeting him. All the people who survived Ia Drang, and their families, are members of a very original brotherhood. I respect all of them and their families. They were outstanding people. I read the book twice and treasure it as one of the best reads in my life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2005

    Go Get It !

    This book was outstanding it took a very large ordeal and shrunk it to the story of the 1st battalion, 7th cavalry. And the personal accounts that these people had in the Ia Drang valley in Vietnam. This was one of the most significant events in America¿s history. There were some 450 men in this battalion; they were immediately surrounded by some 2000 Vietnamese soldiers that would only stop fighting when they were all dead. It told the story of the unselfishness that our American soldiers have for each other; probably one of the most touching events through out the book. These soldiers cared for each other all the way through the battle. I recommend this book to people who like attention grabbing books because this was definitely one of them. Also if you like learning about Americas history this is the book for you it hits many points and makes you question what we did and why did we do it. I personally don¿t like to read but this book was well worth it and I did not want to put it down once I started reading it. So I do highly recommend this to everyone it¿s a great read full of action and now I want to go rent the movie to see all the action that I visualized while reading. So don¿t sit there and read anymore of this and go get the book what are you waiting for? Go get it now¿

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2004

    enter the valley with hal moore and remember forever !

    if you enjoyed the movie, you will be fasinated with this read.i had never seen the movie before reading the book and have to say i was thankful for it.as this personal and heroic story unfolds you become completely captivated with the larger than life characters, who truely are our american heros.i was left with so many vivid accounts and historical facts. i often find myself referencing back to the book to find a piticular paragragh which i cant get out of my thoughts... highly recommended for anyone who is fond of history.after seeing hal moore being interviewed on a news program i had to get his story--- fasinating

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2004

    The best war story I've ever read

    I borrowed the book from a friend more than 10 years ago, watched the movie when it was released, then bought my own hardcover, and surfed the web for all related articles. If that's not an indication of the power of this story, what is? However, it is just now becoming clear that the American government and its military are ready to waste American lives just to experiment on the ways to 'improve' warfare and test it's men and equipment in the guise of freedom and honor. How interesting but at the same time, how sad!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    An outstanding depiction of the first battle of the Vietnam War

    As a Vietnam Veteran (Air Force) I highly recommend this book. Although a factual account of the Ia Drang battle, it reads like a fiction novel. It was mandatory reading for Marine Corps officers in the year it was published - it should be mandatory reading for EVERY member of the military and every politician who governs the conduct of war. General Moore aptly points out the inneptitudes and uncaring attitudes of President Lyndon Johnson, his SecDef Robert McNammara, and his chief Military Advisor General William Westmoreland. Those individual in concert directed the conduct of this war in all the wrong ways. Ater the Ia Drang battle Johnson computed the kill ratio and determined that at a 10:1 ratio we would just outlast the Vietnamese. He insisted on maintaining neutrality with Cambodia allowing the NVA to pick the time and place of their battles knowing they could retreat into Cambodia without American Forces pursuing to finish the battles (as in the battle of Ia Drang). He insisted on a one year rotation for the troops in Vietnam which resulted in a lack experience in conducting the war. All of these decisions doomed us to failure in this war; a war which resulted in the loss of 58000 American lives and 3,000,000 Vietnamese lives. The movie which covers only the LZ Xray portion of the battle was quite faithful to the book. I highly recommend the movie as an adjunct to the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2002

    A must read book

    This is one of the best books I have read about the Viet Nam war yet. You get both sides of the story. You can see that a lot of work went to this book. I like to read about U. S. history and this is one of the best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2000

    As real as one can get....outstanding

    As I was reading this book i felt like i was right there in the battle. The real life accounts as told by the soldiers who were there made this a truly remarkable book.I have read about 7 books about vietnam and found this one the best.Very easy to read...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    please read with a box of tissues and an open mind.

    I saw the movie with Mel Gibson as H.A. Moore, it was a movie I know I'll never forget in my life. It was so brutally honest and true it had to be real. i still cry for the lost from the Viet Nam (War)How could our government and population treat our own so dirty?
    Anyway I had to read this book and found one of my hometown boys that died in this war. My husband is reading it now and he is changed after reading it.
    It is highly regarded by me and mine.

    T.A. Moore

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    The rest of the story

    If you have seen the movie We Were Soldiers then you need to read this book. The movie only told half of the story. The story of the men who fought and who lost their lives on the way to LZ Albany is on that should be heard.

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  • Posted October 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Lt. Colonel Herald Moore's "We Were Soldiers . . . and Young!

    Colonel Moore's contribution to modern warfare is revolutionairy. He was a very aggressive commander in the Korean War and was selected to test a new way of waging war in the early days (for us) in the Vietnam War. He was given command of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Calvary (General Custer's "Last Stand" command in the Indian Wars) a frightening choice for testing a new strategy. He and his troops were to ride into battle on a new steed.
    Custer's men rode horses, Moore's men rode Huey Helicopters. Army Intelligence had located North Vietnamese soldiers in the Ia Drang area of northwestern Vietnam. The number of NVA soldiers was unknown when Col. Moore attacked with a battalion of 450 soldiers and was quickly surrounded by more than 2,000 NVA (North Vietnamese Army) experienced troops.
    The North Vietnamese soldiers attacked time and again and each time, the 7th Cav repulsed them with very heavy losses for the NVA. At first, the Hueys (helicopters) were able to get in with ammo and other supplies, and evacuated the wounded. All landing zones were quickly over-run by the NVA as Col. Moore canceled all incomming helicopters. All landing zones had been over-run by the NVA. The men were left in a 'do or die' predicament. Sergeant Freeman continued flying in all night long, evacuating 30 seriously wounded soldiers saving their lives.
    He also brought water, ammunition, and medical supplies saving even more lives. That pilot, Sergeant Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001 by President Bush. Sgt. Freeman's unarmed helicopter flew many missions all night long into the Ia Drang Valley as he carried out rescue missions on Nov. 14, 1965, during what was considered one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.
    This was the first use of helicopters moving to and enemy, and providing medical evacuations, directing air strikes by fighters and bombers from the air, and evacuating wounded and bringing in needed supplies. A simple statistic will clarify what was revolutionairy about troops on helicopters: In WWII, the average combat Marine spent 24 days of the year in combat. In Vietnam, the average combat soldier spent 240 days in combat - ten times the fight. That was a major reason our troops defeated the enemy in every battle in Vietnam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2006

    So much to learn

    Trully, the greatest learning experience I ever had. I don't have much knowledge about Vietnam, but what a great way to start. There is so much more to the Ia Drang battle that the movie does not show.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2004

    Tears

    I have just watch the movie. I think it has been a long time since I have cried so hard. The true story comes out after so many years. I am very pro military and I stand aside of the President....But I wonder what a world would be with no war anywhere.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2004

    stunning accounts of bravery and heroism for any history buff

    this was very interesting and took this conflict from a large scale picture to a very personel and brave account.the characters stand out in my mind as vivid as if i was actually there..........

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2004

    Great book for a great group of US heroes..

    Reading this book inspired me to make contact with several of the men and woman of the book. I have never met a greater group of people in all my years. These are truly a Band of Brothers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    If you want to know about Vietnam, read this book!

    I read everything I can on America at war. This is one of the best books I ever got my hands on. The movie helped put this book on peoples radar, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Insightful, heartbreaking, the list goes on and on.....Top books on the War btwn North Vietnam and America!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    excellent

    A recounting of a horrific battle. Tells a great story but also exeplifies honor and courage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2004

    Fascinating Story

    The story that this book tells is amazing. You can almost feel the intensity and confusion of the situation. While the story is fascinating, and I have the utmost respect for the men who fought and died there, I didn't like the way the author used quotes from so many different people in his descriptions. There were a lot of times when I had to re-read scetions just so I could tell who was talking. The need to mention the names of soldiers who died and where they were from interrupts the momentum of the imagery. That being said, I would recommend this book, certainly for anyone interested in military history (Viet Nam in particular) and anyone planning to be in a military leadership position. There are many lessons to be learned and the ways Col Moore dealt with some of the hardships are enlightening (in particular, I thought his use of White Phosphorous artillery rounds when he was out of smoke was brilliant). Good book for those involved in the military in any capacity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2003

    The Truth Revealed About Vietnam

    This book is very moving and showes the intensity of many of the battles fought in the Vietnam War. I my self have meet General Hale Moore and his wife. It shows that he is a great man because he is now friends with the general that he fought against during this battle and sent a letter to a fallen vietnamese soldiers wife to pay his condolances to them and that her husband fought well during the battle. All in all this was a very good book and I think that anyone would be happy to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    Riviting journey through the first battle of Nam.

    Who knew how the US really got into the Vietnam War? The book We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Joseph Galloway, through the eyes of Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, explains in great detail the first major battle of the Vietnam War. Lt. Moore had a large military background. He had been in the army since age 18 and fought in Korea. The military picked Lt. Moore to be in charge of their first major operation. They would be going into the Ia Drang valley, known to all military personnel as X-Ray. Lt. Moore was going to lead 300 men into battle, 60 men at a time by helicopter. Outnumbered 3000 to 300 Lt. Moore and his troops came through victorious, but with several casualties. I thought this was a great book because when you were reading you could never tell what was going to happen next. It was written with enough detail to make you feel like you were there. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2003

    Amazing!!!!!!

    I havn,t read the whole thing but it is great. Is a very respectful acount of the battle.

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