10 Questions for General Hal Moore
An exclusive interview with the hero of the Vietnam War’s 1965 Battle of the Ia Drang Valley and co-author of We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.
1. ACG: Why did you and Joe Galloway decide to write We were Soldiers Once … and Young?
GEN. MOORE: It goes back to the battlefield. Joe, a journalist, came into the [Ia Drang/LZ X-ray] action on the first night and stayed with us for the rest of the fight. He wrote a hell of a story, which came out in the Columbus Ledger Inquirer on the day after we pulled out of LZ X-ray. Just before we left, we stood looking at each other … and the tears were coming down our cheeks. I told Joe, “I want you to go back to Saigon and tell the American people what great Soldiers these are. Tell them what a great job they did and what a great Army we have.”
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(left) Moore stands in a South Vietnamese field in December 1965. He believes Vietnam is a better place today because of U.S. actions there. Image Credit: COURTESY, HAL MOORE (right) Moore commanded the troops of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment as they fought off a vastly superior North Vietnamese force in the Ia Drang Valley. Image Credit: COURTESY, HAL MOORE
2. ACG : Why do you think the book is so popular?
GEN. MOORE: Because of the detailed research, the extensive interviews with the troopers, and the quotations in the book. If one looks at the chapter notes alone, they convey the amount of research we did. On the weekend it was published, it was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times book review section. We knew then it was going to be big, and we quickly received calls from producers who wanted to make it into a movie.
3. ACG : Did the film accurately capture the battle’s horror?
GEN. MOORE: The movie version was very accurate. For example, it captured the fact that Soldiers in battle fight, kill and die for one another. It also properly recorded the respect that I had for the capabilities of the enemy we fought against.
However, the film failed to capture the factual account of the telegrams arriving home dealing with the deaths of our troopers. At the time, the Army did not have a system set up like it has now, and the telegrams were being delivered by taxicab drivers. My wife, Julie, found out and raised hell with the Fort Benning post commander. From then on, Julie followed the taxicab to the home and was on the scene when the widow got the message. Soon, the Army devised a system to have the telegrams delivered by a chaplain and another officer in uniform – that was all because of Julie.
Moore poses in front of the "termite hill" at LZ X-ray during a 1997 visit. This location, now completely overgrown, is where he set up his command post during the battle 32 years earlier. Image Credit: COURTESY, HAL MOORE
4. ACG : What were your emotions when you first saw the film?
GEN. MOORE: The first time we saw the movie, we were quite moved. The motion picture was extremely well done. It really captured the essence of battle, especially the scenes dealing with everything that was happening at the command post. That really happened, and it was accurately depicted.
5. ACG : What did it mean to have actors like Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott tell your story on film?
GEN. MOORE: Mel did a great job. My daughters tell me that when he was talking in the movie, they could shut their eyes and hear me. Sam Elliott also did a beautiful job playing Sergeant Major Basil Plumley – he should have received an Oscar.
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