We Were Soldiers - Based on the book We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (ret.) and journalist Joseph Galloway, the movie We Were Soldiers reminds us that the Vietnam War produced many heroes.
I was so moved by this film. Mel Gibson's performance felt right on, as did the performances of all the cast. My feelings were confirmed by a few who should know (read the reviews below).
We Were Soldiers is a gritty film about close range and hand-to-hand combat between U.S. soldiers and the Vietcong. Many refer to this battle as the true beginning of the Vietnam War, the point when the U.S. revealed its commitment. But this story is about the U.S. men who fought and died at Ia Drang, the women that supported them, and the incredible leader of the 1st. Cav.'s 7th Battalion, Lt. Col. Harold Moore.
Lt. Col. Harold Moore is presented as an honorable, scholarly soldier who did not agree with the Army's (?) decision to send his men into Ia Drang, but who went just the same. It's about a leader's commitment to his men and the loyalty that instills, especially when the odds are abysmal.
|We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnamy
|We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson
Viewers comments on Amazon about book and movie
A 1st Cav. Vietnam Vet Comments on "We Were Soldiers", March 9, 2002 Reviewer: Gary F. Taylor "GFT" (Biloxi, MS USA) (TOP 100 REVIEWER)
I live with a Vietnam Vet who served in the late 1960s with 1st Cav. Medivac. During service he earned two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. Since WE WERE SOLDIERS concerns the 1st Cav., Randy wanted to see it. I reluctantly agreed; I am not partial to war films and I dislike Mel Gibson, and Randy is very hard on Vietnam War films. He dismisses PLATOON as a Hollywood 8x10 glossy; says APOCALYPSE NOW is an interesting movie that captures the paranoia, but all the technical details are wrong; and describes DEER HUNTER as excellent in its depiction of the strangeness of coming home but so full of plot holes that he can hardly endure it. And about one and all he says: "It wasn't like that."
He was silent through the film, and when we left the theatre I asked what he thought. He said, "They finally got it. That's what it was like. All the details are right. The actors were just like the men I knew. They looked like that and they talked like that. And the army wives too, they really were like that, at least every one I ever knew." The he was silent for a long time. At last he said, "You remember the scene where the guy tries to pick up a burn victim by the legs and all the skin slides off? Something like that happened to me once. It was at a helicopter crash. I went to pick him up and all the skin just slid right off. It looked just like that, too. I've never told any one about it."
In most respects WE WERE SOLDIERS is a war movie plain and simple. There are several moments when the film relates the war to the politics and social movements that swirled about it, and the near destruction of the 1st. Cav.'s 7th Battalion at Ia Drang clearly arises from the top brass' foolish decision to send the 7th into an obvious ambush--but the film is not so much interested in what was going on at home or at the army's top as it is in what was actually occurring on the ground. And in this it is extremely meticulous, detailed, and often horrifically successful. Neither Randy nor I--nor any one in the theatre I could see--was bored by or dismissive of the film. It grabs you and it grabs you hard, and I can easily say that it is one of the finest war movies I have ever seen, far superior to the likes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which seems quite tame in comparison.
Perhaps the single most impressive thing about the film is that it never casts its characters in a heroic light; they are simply soldiers who have been sent to do a job, and they do it knowing the risks, and they do it well in spite of the odds. Mel Gibson, although I generally despise him as both an actor and a human being, is very, very good as commanding officer Hal Moore, and he is equaled by Sam Elliot, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, and every other actor on the battlefield. The supporting female cast, seen early in the film and in shorter scenes showing the home front as the battle rages, is also particularly fine, with Julie Moore able to convey in glance what most actresses could not communicate in five pages of dialogue. The script, direction, cinematography, and special effects are sharp, fast, and possess a "you are there" quality that is very powerful. ''' Randy did have a criticism.''' "I don't think there would be time for casualty telegrams to actually get home while the battle was going on," he said. "After all, it only lasted three days." I myself had a criticism; there were points in the film when I found the use of a very modernistic, new-agey piece of music to be intrusive and out of place. And we both felt that a scene near the end of the movie, when a Vietnamese commander comments on the battle, to be improbable and faintly absurd. But these are nit-picky quibbles. WE WERE SOLDIERS is a damn fine movie. I'll give Randy, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the last word: "It may not be 'the' Vietnam movie. I don't think there could ever be 'the' Vietnam movie. But they get everything right. That's how it looked and sounded, and that's what I saw, and this is the best movie about Vietnam I've ever seen."
225 of 230 people found the following review helpful: Company Commander at X-Ray, March 20, 2001 Reviewer: Ramon A. nadal (Williamsburg, VA) - See all my reviews
I commanded A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cav under LTC Hal Moore at X-Ray. I lived the battle and led two aasaults. Hal Moore's book is an accurate account of the events of those two days and reflects his love for his soldiers as well as his determination to close with the enemy. As another reviewer described the book shortly after it was published it is "the best description of small unit combat since the Red badge of Courage". Having just read 71 reviews I note that some of the reviewers criticize Moore on issues of tactical considerations. Without going into a lot of detail the Hueys did well to carry 6 soldiers at the altitude of the central highlands of Vietnam. We did not have good intelligence as to where the enemy was so the operation was planned as a reconaissance in force. Not much different than hundreds of other air assaults by both Army and Marine units during the war. The book was not written to glorify war but to demonmstrate the courage and character of the American soldier.
126 of 130 people found the following review helpful: A book about great leadership, not just about war, February 21, 2002 Reviewer: Jesse Kornbluth (New York, NY USA)
The North Vietnamese soldier that Colonel Harold Moore's men captured in the Central Highlands of Vietnam on November 14, 1965 delivered chilling news: "There are three battalions [of Vietcong] on the mountain who very much want to kill Americans but have not been able to find any." A few hours later, those Vietnamese made contact with the 7th Cavalry --- and thus began the first battle of the Vietnam War to pit Americans directly against the Vietcong.
The killing began right away. Not the killing of Vietnamese. The killing of Americans. Five died in the first few minutes. The hills were a concert of screams and explosions. Hiding behind a termite hill, Moore thought of another man who'd led the 7th Cavalry: George Armstrong Custer. Moore promised himself that he wouldn't let this battle --- Ia Drang --- repeat the sorry history of Little Bighorn.
We Were Soldiers Once...and Young is the story of how close Moore and his men came to being slaughtered like Custer's troops. The numbers are spine-chilling: In four days of fighting --- with the enemy sometimes as close as 75 feet to the American line --- 234 Americans died. In this remarkable minute-by-minute account, you get to meet these men. And more: You watch each soldier die. And you get to grieve for every single one.
The book's real subject isn't war. It's leadership. Consider the situation. Americans had been advisers in Vietnam, but they had never really engaged the enemy. Moore was career Army: West Point, Korea, advanced studies in fast-moving, guerilla warfare. In June of l965, he began training his battalion for combat in Vietnam. In August, the Army pulled all six of his newly-acquired second lieutenants out. In August, any soldiers who had 60 days or less to serve were separated from the 7th Cavalry. So when Moore and his unit sailed to Vietnam, they had already lost 100 of their most experienced men.
The difference between an under-trained unit that survives a fierce battle and one that becomes legendary in defeat is leadership. Listen to some of the ways Moore managed his troops. He told his men:
--- "Only first-place trophies will be displayed, accepted or presented in this battalion. Second place in our line of work is defeat of the unit on the battlefield, and death for the individual in combat."
--- "Decision-making will be decentralized: Push the power down. It pays off in wartime."
--- "Loyalty flows down as well."
--- "I check up on everything. I am available day or night to talk to any officer of this battalion."
Or this: Before the battle started, James Galloway (a United Press reporter who became co-author of Moore's book 25 years later) was watching Moore's soldiers shave as he boiled water for coffee one morning before the battle. Moore passed by. "We all shave in my outfit --- reporters included," he snapped. Galloway immediately repurposed his coffee water for shaving.
And, finally, this: "In the American Civil War, it was a matter of principle that a good officer rode his horse as little as possible. There were sound reasons for this. If you are riding and your soldiers are marching, how can you judge how tired they are, how thirsty, how heavy their packs weigh on their shoulders?"
Moore applied this philosophy conscientiously. He flew in to Ia Drang on the first helicopter. He led his men from the front. When he saw men from another company beginning to haul one of his dead soldiers out of a foxhole with a harness, he snapped, "No you won't do that. He's one of my troopers and you will show some respect. Get two more men and carry him to the landing zone." When it was over and it was time for Moore to turn over command, he requested a full battalion formation. One soldier recalls, "We stood in formation, with some units hardly having enough men to form up. Colonel Moore spoke to us and he cried. At that moment, he could have led us back into the Ia Drang."
But it still wasn't over for Moore. His wife attended as many funerals as she could. And when he got back to the U.S., in April 1966, he visited some of the families of his lost men. One family thought his visit would last a few minutes. He stayed five hours. And he made sure he went with the family to visit the grave, and there he asked to spend some time alone there, kneeling in prayer and memory.
This story --- the story of the relationship of a man to the men he leads and the families who sent those men to be in his care --- is why you want to read this book, and read it now. If you're an executive in charge of workers or if you're a parent trying to raise your children, you above all other readers will be able to read through the ugliness and the pain and understand why Moore's men fought and died for him. ''' Should you ever be in Washington, D.C.''', the names of the soldiers killed at Ia Drang --- and there are 305 of them, in total --- can be found on the third panel to the right of the apex, Panel-3 East, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But you don't have to visit the Memorial to learn from them; thanks to Hal Moore, their deepest legacy is in the wisdom he can, in their names, pass on to you.
|We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnamy
|We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson [DVD]