Hazardous Duty

Hazardous Duty

by David H Hackworth


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The author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller About Face, Colonel David H. Hackworth is one of America's most decorated soldiers, having served at the end of World War II, and in Korea and Vietnam. Retired from the military since 1971, he has completed second tour of battlefield duty — this time as a war correspondent — accompanying our nation's fighting men and women to the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Somalia, Korea and Haiti. What he learned of high-level military incompetence, futility and corruption in the heat and fury of Desert Storm — and in the desperation of the Balkans and Mogadishu — is shocking, frightening and infuriating...and it must be told.

Hazardous Duty is a necessary wake-up call for military reform — a no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled exposé that calls America's top political and military leaders to account for selling out duty, honor and country. It is riveting, real-life adventure of courageous warriors on the world's new battlefields — and of their systematic betrayal by the weakness of an increasingly wasteful and inept high command. It offers essential solutions to problems that must be addressed if our nation is to remain the foremost military power in a volatile and ever-changing world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380727421
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/01/1997
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 282,198
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

David H. Hackworth first enlisted in the United States Army at age 15. He served in the military for 25 years, rising to the rank of Colonel. He writes real-life thrillers. He divides his time between New York and Montana. Tom Matthews lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Sag Harbor, New York.

Read an Excerpt


After Vietnam, I needed a place to lick my wounds, to think, to start the healing. I needed to save myself. All the things that had made me love the Army and my country were mangled. By the time I left I wanted to nuke the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House. I felt like lining up LBJ, Richard Nixon, Maxwell Taylor, and William Westmoreland against a stone wall and shooting them. General West moreland, of course, felt more or less the same way about me.

I moved to Australia in 1972, to the Uki Valley near the base of Mount Warning in Queensland. A creek ran through the valley and there was a dirt track that dead-ended in a box canyon running up the tree-covered slopes of Mount Chowan. The spot still looked the way nature created it millions of years ago—rugged forest, unchanged by man or his machines. Under the double canopy of trees it was quiet, cool, musky, like the good side of Vietnam's rugged highlands. In the dark shadows of that rain forest, I finally found peace and I went there as often as I could. As the sun was going down, I'd sit on a high rocky perch commanding the valley and shut out everything except the noises of the jungle and the last brilliant light of the sunset.

Then one day I met a farmer on the road who said the land at the back of the Uki Valley was for sale. I chased down the owner, we agreed on a price, and in thirty days this pocket of rain forest was mine. It was autumn and the weather was perfect. I bought a small tent and some gear and camped out. The evenings were warm and the sky cloudless, the stars glittering like diamonds in the zodiac far above me. I set up camp by a creek that emptied into a pond with a small sandy beachshaded by tall trees and tropical ferns. I cooked over an open fire, "inhaled" a little dope, slept under the stars, and dreamed of Eilhys.

During my first months by the pond, I got rid of everything that reminded me of the Army. First I sent my five-thousand-volume library of military books to the Australian Infantry School. Then I methodically burned, buried, or gave away all the trophies and souvenirs I had been keeping for my T-love-me wall. I got rid of all things Army except one set of fatigues, a pair of jump boots, my Ranger patrol cap, and a footlocker full of notebooks, maps, and documents recording a soldier's life.

That left my decorations.

One day a schoolteacher and his class of twelve-year-olds were camped by the creek. I liked them. They were out for adventure and I had given them the run of the place. When the kids learned I had been a Yankee soldier, they wanted to hear war stories and see my medals. I didn't much feel like telling the stories, but I could see the medals blew their minds. Several of the kids asked if they might have one. I thought I'd go them one better. I organized an "Awards Ceremony" and told them all to turn out at first light.

When the sun came up the next morning, I walked down the dirt track by the creek through the fog. Long yellow beams of light filtered down on the encampment where the pretend soldiers stood in formation: three rows of ten, all soldier straight, like rows of corn in a soft mist, a platoon of troops standing tall at reveille formation.

I looked and for just a second I might as well have been in Italy, Korea, or Vietnam. I had to remind myself that I was not back in the Army, that I was just playing a game, that I meant to give the kids a kick.

It had rained the night before. The only noises were the rush of the creek and the sucking of my boots lifting out of the mud. I was bareheaded. No steel pot. I wore my camouflage fatigues, though I had ripped off all patches, badges, and insignias of rank.

One of the kids stood in front of the formation. He was the acting commander. When I walked up, he saluted and sounded off.

"Sir," he said. "The soldiers to be decorated are present."

Down the ranks of honor I went, awarding each hero several medals: a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart to one boy, a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross to another, a Cross of Gallantry and Bronze Star for valor to a third, and so on through the rows. I told each warrior how proud his country was of his sacrifice and heroism. Solemnly, I shook each valiant hand.

After I gave the last medal to the last brave soldier, I hesitated for some reason. As I turned the Silver Star I had just pinned to his chest around in my fingertips, I saw an inscription that read: SGT. DAVID HACKWORTH, KOREA: FEB. 1951.

My baptism by fire and blood in hell's inferno.

Suddenly I could feel the freezing cold and the hot flow of adrenaline surging through my body. For just an instant I was back on a frozen battlefield among the dead, wounded, and dying. I could hear the roar of olive-drab Sherman tanks with their fronts painted like dragon's mouths. Red bloodstains spread across the pure hospital white of the ice-covered rice paddies where my 3rd Platoon of Company G had been clobbered. Broken bodies lay smashed on the frozen ground.

Lieutenant Phil Gilchrist's platoon was charging a snow-covered knoll to relieve pressure on what was left of my platoon. We'd jumped off that morning with forty guys. Now, four hours later, we were down to eight. The North Koreans were fighting to hold their ground. As Gilchrist's ridge exploded, a platoon-size enemy force rushed from a dike to his rear. I waded into them. It was hand-to hand combat, rifles and submachine guns barking and chattering, bayonets slashing and sticking, grenades exploding, men flying to pieces like rag dolls caught in a lawn mower.

I could smell the cordite and see the ugly black smoke of explosions and the red flashes of fire. Up on the ridge, Gilchrist could see that he was being flanked. I could hear him give the command to withdraw. Then Sergeant Phillips said to him, "Don't worry about the gooks on the dike, Lieutenant, Hack is keeping them down."

Gilchrist scrambled down the hill a ways to see what was going on. "Sure 'nuff, Hack," he wrote me in a letter. "There you were—shot in the head—with your blood frozen on your face before it could clot, keeping the enemy on the far side of the dike from raising up and firing at us. Hey, Hack, did I ever tell you that the whole 1st Platoon was grateful. That was above and beyond the 'call of duty.' "

The Silver Star lay there on my fingertips. Then, as quickly as the vision had appeared, it vanished. I saluted the boy soldiers. Then I turned and walked up the road through the fog with no more medals, hoping for no more memories of war, of lost and shattered brothers, the killing and the waste and the futility of it all. When I got back, I took off my fatigues and burned them.

Copyright ) 1997 by Colonel David H. Hackworth

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Hazardous Duty 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't always agree with the Col. but you have to respect his view. The stories are told with a realism that makes you feel like your there, very well written and informative about the 'behind the scenes battles' that go on.