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We Were Once Soldiers… And Young

WE WERE ONCE SOLDIERS… AND YOUNG is an epic, mind-blowing account of the Infantry combat as expressed in detailed comments from the men who were involved in the Vietnam War, with specific emphasis on the account and perspective of the commander, Lt. Col Hal Moore and the reporting skills of Joseph L Galloway a renowned war journalist. It was published in 1992 to show the impact of the First and second battalions of the 7th infantry whose Leader was Lt Col Hal Moore in the historic battle of Ia Drang Valley. There were voices for and against the war in the United States; some wanted the war, others detested it.

There are both socio-economic reasons for both sides but the decision was made, a war was declared by the US on the soil and nation of the Vietnam especially against the communist forces. It was time to get the troops ready, initiate strategies for victory and march on with confidence that the enemy forces would succumb. There were horrors as expected in wars, and acts of bravery the hallmark of victory. Both sides felt they could win and the war ensued. It is important to mention that the confidence that gave the Vietnamese soldiers succor to engage in war came after their victory in securing South Vietnam from their military occupants.

They used their number, the tactics of ground movement and the calculated speed of decision to break down the caprices of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. (ARVN) This victory prompted their thought of victory over the US forces in 1965. Besides, the French also had problems fighting them. AMERICA’S AIR CALVARY In lieu of the challenge ahead, the Americans developed the ‘Air Calvary’ to drop troops from helicopters where the enemy camp is concentrated. The ground battle would then be supported by missiles and air raids. This was the method adopted and implemented during the war.

Whether it was successful or not, we have reports to confirm today! And in November 1965 about 450men of 1st battalion of the 7th Infantry were dropped in Ia Drang Valley, the place of the horrendous war which is recorded to be the first major encounter between the Vietnamese soldiers and their invading American counterparts. Soon after delivery, these men were surrounded by bitter and fearless thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers [they numbered over 2,000] ready to kill and maim any American soldier. In fact, the reports of previous killings pushed forth their confidence. And the battle was in no withheld.

MOORE’S LEADERSHIP AT LZ X-RAY Moore details his account of the war, as he led the 1st battalion to immense victory. He shows how tactics could work against numbers and how intelligence decisions could outweigh bravery. The communist soldiers did not hesitate to invade and destroy the American troop believing in their number and fearlessness; they believed they were fighting a just cause, protecting South Vietnam from invaders. The ground troops of the American side were adequately supported by the air raids on enemy forces and well-supplied with ammunitions unlike their counterparts who worked solely from the ground.

Both sides were skilful in battle but victory swerved to the side of the Americans. With such a small number but with immense back-up, havoc was wrecked on the Vietnamese soldiers who fought relentlessly with the last drop of blood they had. In no time, about a week, the battle was concluded: the Americans had won. No a story of ‘no vanquished no victor’ because here, the victor at the Landing Zone X-ray was settled under the leadership of Gen. Moore. It was not without for two sides, men were slaughtered and others permanently injured.

The story of the book was not just the personal adventure of one man but also of others. While Moore could give a good of the battle at Landing Zone X-ray because he was the commander, others also gave their accounts via interviews conducted for the men who fought on both sides. The book gives both inspiring of brave soldiers on one hand and devastating accounts of others on the other hand. It captured personal experiences of Moore and the interviews of American and Vietnamese soldiers. It shows the bravery of the fighting troops, their patriotic acts and their devotion to the cause for which they fought.

GATHERING FROM EXPERIENCES From these accounts, we are aware of the pre-war news, reports, politics and military preparations. We also know the fight at landing zone X-ray. However, landing zone X-ray was not the only landing zone that was part of the Air Calvary approach of the Americans. There was also landing zone Albany, the other clearing located on the same Ia Drang valley. Although it was victory for the first, same could not be said of the second. Both sides fought under fire with bravery but one could see in this interesting account the brutality of humans when faced with an enemy.

HORROR AT ALBANY While the troop was landing on Albany, there were already under siege. The Vietnamese soldiers committed to communist values were ready to die for father-land. They laid ambush on the second troop, the second battalion of the 7th infantry. Moore detailed the account of others as he was absent from this scene. The battle at Albany suffered massive US casualty because there was serious leadership problem. The decisions were slow and not forceful. The communication with higher forces was insufficient and so the needed assistance was grossly inadequate.

Moore used this account to explore how leadership in war can influence victory, comparing the two different scenes at LZ X-ray and LZ Albany. He was particularly critical of the moves by the Americans on the other side of the divide. The battle recorded grave casualty; there was a collision in the woods. Both troops ran in to each other. Those accounts were horrible as men were slaughtered by weapons of war. In fact, one of the divisions of the second battalion was brutalized killed by the fearless Vietnamese soldiers.

Americans taught they could win after winning at LZ X-ray but events did not follow mathematics and logic. Incomplete military intelligence and ill-decision caused the troop deployment to South Vietnam under control of the North Vietnamese Army siege. The Vietnamese were ready to fight till the end, and they did losing a greater percentage of their men. Soon both parties realized there were at par in the war: It was a draw! Some men adopted the Escape and Evasion tactic at the brink of death. AFTERMATH OF THE WAR Thereafter it was time for political decisions.

Both governments have lost in the battle. The Americans who never wanted the battle had a cause to shout. The Vietnamese soldiers continued their dominion and eventually the whole nation became a communist state. This shows that America lost because her aim was to prevent communism but this effort by means of war proved destructive and abortive. Analysis of Moore showed from secret memos written by Secretary McNamara that America’s victory was not sure yet the war went on. The devastating account of the two nations was recounted. Families had lost their illustrious sons and men.

Breadwinners of families had died in a way that yielded no positive result as communism eventually swept over Vietnam. Mothers, daughters and children recount their grief, and the after of the war. It was not a nice experience at all. Those losses can not be regained. THE POLITICS OF THE WAR The latter part of the book draws attention t underlying themes of war; one of them is Political power. That was root cause of the Vietnam War. America wanted to break the cycle of communism and it used precious lives and lots of money to pursue a failed course despite popular opposition.

The war was politically motivated war, as the Vietnamese were more particularly using their defense for their nation to assert the authority of communist values. It was an experiment for both parties: America with air Calvary and Vietnamese with the successful use of ground troop and number. Guess who suffered at the end: the grassroot people, not the rebels nor the elites. This makes the book a good reference when issues of war are being debated or when decisions are to be reached concerning. This is where other root causes such as regional dominance, economic extension, and hierarchical heritage surface!

‘FIRST THINGS’ The account of the war had a number of first things: The Battle at Ia Drang was the first major engagement of US forces against the Vietnamese People’s Army. A battle what lasted a week within two clearings: Landing Zone X-Ray and Landing Zone Albany. It was also the First airmobile troop deployment. THE PICTURE The account of war in the book clearly shows the face of war: the intelligence, tactics, leadership, loyalty, the strength of team work and the disastrous effects of ill-decisions. It also brings out the theme of politics in deciding war.

It is a good book for those who want to have a feeling of war, or desire to study it as part of man’s survival strategy. It also shows the horror of war and the bravery of soldiers, the brutality of man and perseverance in the pursuit of an apparently just cause. UNDERSTANDING Understanding is better achieved if you are in the military background. For those who do not know military register, it would be difficult for them to understand and appreciate the details of the book. It uses military technical terms in explaining the events. THE NEGATIVES As good as the book may be, it was not well edited and the formatting was poor.

This affects the appreciation of participants’ account and causes confusion of personalities. The personal accounts were relatively well-located but not arranged to make understanding easy. This is an area for improvement. Pictures would also glamour to the accounts. THE WHOLE ACCOUNT This account has put into a number of parts: The fight on Landing Zone X-Ray; The Fight on Landing Zone Albany; and the aftermath of the battles for the two governments and on the families of those who died or were seriously wounded during the war or whose lands were damaged. In the 1st part, Moore gives an account of his input as commander in LZ X-ray.

In the second, others’ account of the moments at Albany was stated; his criticism on tactics adopted, leadership inadequacies, tactic delay, indecision, poor planning, insufficient communication. There was a draw fight until the collision in the woods with horrendous results, then the escape and evasion by some men. The 3rd part the political decisions thereafter. CONCLUSION The book is an interesting account of not just a man but others who were part of the war; the terrors and misfortunes of war, the socio-economic and political dimensions of international wars, and the impact of war on the nation.

It is a text that would forever teach the importance of sincere analysis before decision making. One can not underestimate nor exaggerate its value in today international politics especially n the face of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars still criticized by many Americans. Both authors have done a good job, with obvious areas for improvements.


LT. GEN. Harold G. Moore (RET. ) and Joseph L. Galloway We Were Soldiers Once… And Young

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