America has lost a hero.
Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, the legendary commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam, whose bravery on the battlefield inspired the movie ‘We Were Soldiers’ has passed away.
“He served his country with distinction and valor for over 32 years during the wars in Korea and Vietnam where he was immortalized,” the Army said in a powerful statement.
Moore was 94.
After being accepted to West Point in 1942, Moore served in the Korean War and commanded a heavy mortar company. He became a professor at West Point after the war, educating a young Norman Schwarzkopf who commanded U.S. forces in the Gulf War. As the conflict in Vietnam escalated, Moore was put in charge of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, a regiment once commanded by George Custer.
Moore became a legend for his “first on, last off” approach to battlefield leadership. That leadership was much needed when, on their first deployment, Moore found his regiment surrounded on all sides by the enemy, outnumbered 10-1.
The military site Stripes.com retells Moore’s incredible heroics under fire:
On Nov. 14, 1965, soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, loaded onto helicopters and flew to a remote patch of ground in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam’s central highlands. Within an hour, they came under attack for the first time by North Vietnamese regulars, launching a four-day battle that killed hundreds of Americans, perhaps more than 1,000 Vietnamese and changed the course of the Vietnam War.
Lacking confidence in the South Vietnamese, Gen. William C. Westmoreland ordered the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, which had been in country about a month, to pursue the enemy, using newly minted airmobile tactics. Moore and his 450-man 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, flew into Landing Zone X-Ray at the base of the Chu Pong Mountain west of Plei Me and miles from the Cambodian border. U.S. intelligence knew that North Vietnamese regulars — probably a single regiment — were in the area. Shortly after landing, a U.S. patrol captured an unarmed North Vietnamese deserter who told them that three regiments, roughly an entire division, were hiding in the nearby mountain.
About 40 minutes later, North Vietnamese launched their attack, hiding in the tall elephant grass and in stands of trees. A U.S. platoon was lured into a trap and surrounded, holding off repeated North Vietnamese attacks despite the death of the platoon leader and several non-commissioned officers.
After two days of intense North Vietnamese attacks and mounting casualties, Moore radioed the code word “Broken Arrow,” calling for all available aircraft to rescue an American unit about to be overrun. The airstrike broke the North Vietnamese siege and enabled reinforcements to reach the LZ.
Fighting was so intense that a battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hal Moore, reported finding a dead American “with his hands at the throat” of a dead North Vietnamese soldier. Three U.S. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery during the battle.
Moore was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service on the battlefield.
Moore went on to continue to serve in Army leadership stations around the world until retiring in 1977.
He retold the story of the La Drang Valley siege in his book “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” which became the movie “We Were Soldiers” starring Mel Gibson.
Gibson and Moore remained friends long after the movie.
Here is a video of Moore’s last salute:
RIP, American Hero.