Thursday 19 April 2018

Vietnam hero portrayed in We Were Soldiers dies at 94

Lt Gen Hal Moore pictured in 2004 (AP)
Lt Gen Hal Moore pictured in 2004 (AP)

Lieutenant General Harold "Hal" Moore, the hero played by Mel Gibson in the film We Were Soldiers, who saved most of his men in the first major battle between the US and North Vietnamese armies, has died.

Joseph Galloway, who co-authored the book We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young, with Moore, said Moore, 94, his friend of 51 years, died in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Alabama, on Friday, two days before his 95th birthday.

"There's something missing on this Earth now," Mr Galloway said.

"We've lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend.

"They don't make them like him any more."

Moore was best known for his actions at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

His actions were later reflected in the movie We Were Soldiers.

The book tells what happened to virtually every trooper involved in the 34-day campaign and the climactic four-day battle in which 234 Americans died at landing zones X-Ray and Albany in November 1965.

Mr Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was "without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action".

"Those of us who survived Landing Zone X-Ray survived because of his brilliance of command," he said.

"I think every one of us thought we were going to die at that place except Hal Moore.

"He was certain we were going to win that fight and he was right."

Mr Galloway and Moore wrote a second book, We Are Soldiers Still, which he said grew out of a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam 25 years later.

"We went back and walked those old battlefields. At the end of the day, Hal Moore and Colonel Nguyen Huu An, the North Vietnamese commander, stood in a circle in the clearing and prayed for the souls of every man who died on both sides," Mr Galloway said.

He said the two shared an "instant brotherhood that grew out of combat".

"When we were discussing the book contract with a lawyer/agent, he asked to see the contract between me and Hal Moore," he said.

"And Hal Moore said, 'I don't think you understand. This isn't just a matter of money. We have trusted each other with our lives in battle and we have no contract before that'.

"I absolutely agreed."

On a Facebook page managed by Moore's family, relatives said he died on the birthday of his wife Julia, who died in 2004 after 55 years of marriage.

"Mom called Dad home on her day," the statement said.

"After having a stroke last week, Dad was more lethargic and had difficulty speaking, but he had always fought his way back."

Before serving in Vietnam, Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then commanded a battalion in the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning.

Born in Bardstown, Kentucky, he served in the US military for 32 years.

Mr Galloway said the family planned a religious service in Auburn on Friday and a memorial service at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning army base in Columbus, Georgia.


Press Association

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