Remember reading about General Custer at the Little Big Horn in your high school
history class? The United States Army 7th Calvary (the direct descendant to
Custers unit) had the same thing happen to them in modern times. The battle
turned into three days of hell in Viet Nams Ia Drang valley. Originally
published in 1992, We Were Soldiers Once. . . And Young is the first
hand account of the three days of battle at Landing Zones X-ray and Albany.
November 1965 was the first time that the United States Army had used helicopters
to put large numbers of troops into combat. The 7th Cavalry had orders to fly
into the Ia Drang valley, find and fix the enemy, then pull out.
Over two thousand North Vietnamese Regulars were wai
ting for them when they
landed in a clearing not much larger than two football fields. The battle was
like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan on steroids.
The two authors, LT. Gen. Harold Moore (Ret.) and Joseph Galloway were both
on the ground during the battle. The former as the commander of the 1st Battalion
7th Cavalry, and the latter as the only reporter at the scene during the battle
have interviewed hundreds of soldiers from both sides to complete this book.
They bring the reader inside the minds of the four hundred and fifty or so young
men on the field those three days. Filled with stories of heroism and sacrifice
it becomes a memoir to the men of the 7th Cavalry and their families.
There is no deep message in this book about why the United States was right
or wrong to wage war in Southeast Asia. It is a deeply personal look at the
most intense American infantry combat of the last fifty years. The emphasis
is not on the tactics used, but on the men and how they reacted to combat. The
reader becomes emotionally connected to each soldier and is given an update
on him in the closing chapters.
We Were Soldiers Once had such an effect on me that I took a day long
detour on my way home from Baltimore to find the dead heroes of the 7th Cavalry
on The Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. Their names take up almost an entire
slab of the black granite wall. This book is an easy read and will keep you
turning pages well into the night. I would highly recommend it to anyone.