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We Were Soldiers Once…

We Were Soldiers Once… And Young is an illustrative work by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret. ) Joseph L. Galloway about the Vietnam War. It was first published in 1992. It takes into account the role and struggle of the American army during the Vietnam War in general and in the Battle of Ia Drang in particular. Book highlights the achievements of 1st and 2nd battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment. It provides a first hand account of the battlefield with power illustrations of the engagement.

Both writers were directly involved in the battle as Harold Moore was the commander of the 1st Battalion whereas Galloway was the only news-reporter who covered the minute details of the battle. Additionally, writer does not rely on their memories only but also relied on the interviews of survived army personnel from both sides i. e. United States Army and Viet Cong. The account is moving as it takes into consideration the pathos and miseries of the soldiers.

Beside the plain narration of the battle field events in details and producing spine-chilling effect, he also analyzes the whole saga and tries to locate certain issue and patterns that can be helpful for other soldiers. His objective is not didactic and his methodology of narration is not educational, he only goes on to put the lessons learnt from battlefield into plain words. General Moore also considers various elements that paved the way for the American army. Gen.

Moore consider the leadership as the most effective and necessary tool that helped American to retaliate with minimum causalities and augmented the courage and bravery of his soldiers for 34 days. Moore narrates that although he trained equipped his fellow soldiers with the techniques of guerilla warfare but due certain policies and constraints, when he ventured for the battlefield, he was left out with inexperienced soldiers as experienced and trained were sent to other fronts one after the other. Book displays how Moore encourages his inexperienced soldiers.

In the absence of proper training, his leadership abilities kept on moving his soldiers psychologically and emotionally. He capitalized on their ideas and energies instead of experience. He applied the rules and policies flexibly. He said to his soldiers that all decision-making would not make by him only and his soldiers should do whatever they feel necessary according to the situation. Decentralization of power and decision making helped in survival in the tough times and in achieving the ultimate objective of success.

Beside his leadership qualities as army-man, the book also manifests his humane and caring nature as a human being. Galloway describes certain events that are manifestation of Moore’s care for his soldiers. This care does not originate from any professional or planned necessity but it seems that it was his habitual formation. Instead of sitting in a backend base and commanding his soldiers, he helicoptered and went to Ia Drang himself and led from the front.

This care does not end with the battle or the war but afterwards he went to the families of his deceased soldiers and stayed with for quite some time. Another manifestation of Moore’s care for his soldier is inclusion of the names of almost all the 470 soldiers to whom he commanded. Another thematic expression that book illustrate is the futile and worthless brutality. Moore’s does not brood over the philosophical aspects of war and its terror but narrates in plain words the pathos and miseries associated with war.

Moore is of the view that being professional soldiers, it was his duty to show aggression against the enemies but decision-makers must consider the horrific consequences of war. He does not directly relate this theme but narration of events is marked with his indifference toward war. But he writes in the prologue that there was resentment on the part of American nation toward the Vietnam War but this anger was also directed toward soldiers. They were fighting for their nation as directed by the Johnson administration.

He also eulogizes the efforts of the Vietnamese who fought for their motherland, their families and for their ideals. He demonstrates that Vietnamese has clear and passionate objective whereas American soldiers were performing their professional duties. These clear objectives created team dynamics among VietCong guerillas. Although they were highly motivated but it was technological advancement of Americans who also helped them in the carnage beside Moore’s leadership. He describes in details the troopers who landed among the Viet Cong soldiers with the help of UH-1 Iroquois helicopters.

Primarily two authors contributed toward the compilation of the book but there are hundreds of contributions as well. Moore and Galloway did not rely on the secondary sources but have contacted the survived soldiers to take their version of the story and have inculcated that in the main frame skillfully. Furthermore, they have contacted the wives of the deceased to get the correspondence they had with their wives. It provides graphical portrayal as well the psychological insights into the minds of the soldiers.

To augment the powerful narration, authors also provide 16 pages of pictures portraying battle scenes, soldiers and dead ones. It creates a gloomy but powerful effect and help reader to visualize the situations. Despite various inconsistencies in the expression, it is a commanding book that leaves unforgettable impressions about Ia Drang battlefield in the mind of the reader.

Work Cited

Moore, H. G. & Galloway, J. L. 1992. We were soldiers once -and young : Ia Drang, the battle that changed the war in Vietnam. New York: Random House.

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