We Were Soldiers Once... And Young


by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway
$25.00; 412 pages

This book made the war in Vietnam present again, 45 years later. The best account I have ever read of a battle from the point of view of the men who fought it, backed up with some of the larger details that give context. Moore didn't say as much as he could have, but if you know a bit about the history of the Vietnam War you can fill in the gaps with what he does say. Many of the things the military does today are based on lessons learned from this battle, and others like it.

One of the blurbers described this book as eye-stinging. I can't think of a better word for my emotional reaction. The citizen soldiers who fought at LZ X-Ray and LZ Albany displayed incredible courage and grit. I was struck by the difference between this book and books of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military that fights in the sandbox today is very different than that of the Vietnam War. Many of today's shooters are professionals, career military men who provide structure to an all-volunteer force that is increasingly disengaged with wider society.

Moore's men were a combination of conscripts and volunteers, but they were the best of citizen soldiers, non-professionals who shouldered a tough job for a short time in solidarity with their countrymen. One of the best parts of the book is Moore and Galloway's homage "Where have all the young men gone?". They tracked down as many of the men who fought at Ia Drang as possible, and told their stories after the battle. These were men from every walk of life, so the impact of their lives and deaths was diffused throughout society. This was the last great hurrah of the citizen soldier, and he fought damn well.

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