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Steel My Soldiers' Hearts: The In-Country Transformation of U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam Hardcover – May 2002

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Hardcover, May 2002
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Rugged Land Books; 1 edition (May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590710029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590710029
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.4 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,384,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The Philadelphia Inquirer" [Hackworth is] perhaps the best military leader this country has had since Patton. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

David H. Hackworth (Col., U.S. Army, Ret.) spent almost five years of combat duty in Vietnam, as well as twenty-five years in the service of our nation's defense. His previous two nonfiction books, "About Face" (available from Touchstone) and "Hazardous Duty, " and his novel, "The Price of Honor, ""The Price of Honor, " were national bestsellers. Eilhys England produces feature films and writes with her partner and husband, David Hackworth. They live in Connecticut and Australia. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fenelon on 26 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
One of the most fascinating chapters in Hackworth's autobiography "About Face" described his rebuilding of a deadbeat conscript infantry batallion (4/39) into the "Hardcore" - a unit that he trained to fight guerrillas in a guerrilla style. This book expands greatly on that chapter, describing his methods, philosophy and operations in detail. The odd detail here and there clashes with "About Face" but on the whole this is a fascinating account.
Hackworth writes crisply and clearly about combat and the military, knows and clearly loves turning raw troops into hardened veterans and conveys the aimlessness of much US policy in Vietnam.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "danielxxxxxxxxx" on 11 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Hackworth leads the reader through the guts and all story of the Veitnam war. At first I was slightly put off by the overly miltary and masculine writing. After reflection however, I was able to read beneath the words and understand the meaning behind Hackworth's words. The battles, training, hiring and firing and his disputes with seniors all demonstrated the practical steps he took to turn round the culturn of his batallion, and towards the end of the book (I'm not sure if it was my better understanding or the writing) all became obvious.
This is an excellent book, and the analogies of Generals helicoptering in and never really understanding the issues faced by soldiers hit home with my business experience. The other key message toward the end of the book, is that a motivated workforce, as opposed to big ticket strategic solutions, win the day.
The book needs real reflection time to understanding the meaning of actions, but is one of the most relevent business management and leadership books I have read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 96 reviews
160 of 164 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read for all Americans 28 April 2002
By byron e.holley,md - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I feel very qualified to review this book as I lived quite a bit of it serving as Col.Hackworth's Battalion Surgeon in Vietnam.Most of the battles occurred on my watch and I was involved in trying to save the casualties,friendly and enemy. Fortunately, under Hack's leadership our KIA's and WIA's plummeted to record low numbers and many of my infantry brothers feel, as I do, that we are alive today because of his shrewd understanding of the battlefield and how to approach it in a SMART way. Our previous CO clearly lacked the experience and knack for getting it done without lots of unnecessary casualties. Hack's prior tours in Korea and Vietnam were all building blocks which he stacked up in a very creative way to out-G the G (Guerilla). Being aware of lots of details about our combat operations, I was quite amazed at the amount of information Hack and Eilhys gathered over the past 4 years. I am now able to hear directly from the chopper pilots who flew us in and out of battle and to hear straight from the grunts like Tom Aiken who saw his life flash in front of him when he almost tripped a wired booby trap. This classic book, much in the way Hal Moore's We Were Soldiers Once did, looks deep into the memory banks of those of us who were there.What emerges is a captivating book which I believe will be a handbook for all future military operations fought on the ground. It is my privilege to have served under such a brilliant military leader and under a man who loved his men and his country in such a passionate manner. Pick it up and you won't be able to put it down. Byron E.Holley, MD, Battalion Surgeon, 4/39th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, USARV
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Vietnam the way it "should have been fought" 22 Jun. 2002
By "wildcatt268" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the first Hackworth book I have read; sorry I waited so long. Could not put it down once I started. I like his colloquial style of prose (whether his or his wife's, the result on paper was excellent), and the terminology and language rang true to in my memory. He nontheless took great pains to define terminology and explain essentials to the uninitiated, so anyone can and should read and understand this work. It was a narrative, but carried many strategic and tactical lessons in the midst of it. It was a combat saga, but the political and bureaucratic people and actions that adversely effected our war effort at every level in Vietnam received their due. Vietnam combat "lessons learned" did not have to be "relearned" at the expense of more lives under Hackworth's command. While he "led from the front" whenever possible, he also had the correct management/command style in letting his subordinate commanders--company,platoon,squad and fireteam--lead and be responsible at their own respective level and develop along the way. If only other field commanders had led (or been allowed to lead) infantry and combined arms in this manner in Vietnam, we would have "out-G'd the G" (as Hack puts it). His criticism of our military's strategy, innovation, imagination and tactics (or lack thereof) are well justified and have been expensively documented in our blood. Hackworth's emphasis on economy of force, stealth, surprise and violent initiation of action and counteraction (applied accurately and at the right time) were the only way to successfully conduct a war that had no geographic objectives, no ground to hold for any length of time. Attrition tactics can always be questioned, but it is unquestionably better to be well on the "winning" side of the kill ratio. These tactics and success were the hallmark of our Lurp/Ranger operations, particularly after we moved from a primarily reconnaisance role to one of interdiction and ambush--4/39th just applied it on a larger scale. On the ground, for the foot soldier, none of the principals have changed (and have little changed from the time of Sun Tzu). If we fail to understand them and apply them, American lives will again be wasted in future conflicts--whatever the venue or size.
This is a must read for military leaders and, just as importantly, for the civilians who lead them or have impact on their operations.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A No BS View From The Front Seat 1 Sept. 2002
By David A. Pearsall - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've heard several comments made about about 'Steel My Soldiers Hearts' saying that Hackworth deals a whole lot with self- aggrandization. My answer is that from my perspective, he deserves every bit of praise and honor possible for writing a very truthful book about how the fighting in Vietnam SHOULD have been conducted.
As a combat veteran of Vietnam, I was most taken with his very truthful and accurate description of the many 'perfumed princes' whose goals were ultimately skewed and self-serving. Many commanders in Vietnam were more concerned about climbing the ladder and 'punching tickets' for future promotions than the welfare of the soldiers who served under them. Give Hackworth the highest of credit for two things: molding a tactically sound fighting force and caring enough about those serving under him that American lives lost were kept to a bare minimum as compared to lives lost by the enemy.
For any conflicts that this country may face in the future, the tactical leadership of this country should take a page from Hackworth's accomplishments and study it hard. Sadly, it appears as though the lessons learned in Vietnam have not made an adequate enough impression upon our current leaders.
A wonderful book written by perhaps one of America's last true warriors.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
A terrific Look At Life On The Ground In Vietnam! 21 May 2002
By Barron Laycock - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Colonel David Hackworth's writing since reading his hilarious putdown of hapless, happy warrior Oliver North in a Playboy article entitled "Drugstore Marine". This book handily illustrates why he is held with such regard by his peers, and demonstrates once again that Hackworth is a guy that calls them as he sees them. In "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts", Hackworth recalls his own combat experiences in the darkest days of Vietnam, taking over command of one of the worst units then "in-country". Sent there in an effort by the brass to either prove his newfangled theories of insurgent warfare or shut up, Hackworth attempts to give his theories a fair chance of proving themselves.
However, the job would not be an easy one to accomplish. The troops, demoralized, undisciplined, and literally out of control, were experiencing some of the highest casualty rates in the conflict, and needed drastic intervention to turn them around. Their ability to seek out and successfully engage the enemy was dismal, and they foundered when circumstance suddenly changed, requiring a change in tactics. In the space of a few months, Hackworth wrought a radical transformation, and the statistics of the unit proved it. But to reach his objective of turning the troops around, Hackworth had to take some drastic action, such as firing most of the senior officers and tightening the screws on the troops until they finally heeled.
The results were impressive, and the casualty rates and most other statistics became much more positive. Hackworth had made his point and illustrated the utility of his rather unconventional ideas regarding small unit tactics in Vietnam. This is an entertaining and informative book, and, as usual, Hackworth, who never misses an opportunity to take potshots at conventional military wisdom and the political posturing of the upper echelons of the military, holds forth on his own views here. He also gives us a lot of the gritty details of life out in the bush, from firefights to helicopter landings, from clearing mine fields to avoiding sniper fire from the VC. One finishes the book feeling as though he had trooped along with the unit through the swamps and wetlands of the Mekong Delta, where, twenty clicks out, an enemy patrol is sifting through the brush. This is an entertaining and worthwhile book. Enjoy!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
More Than A War Story. 18 May 2002
By Malcolm Y. Quon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
COL Hackworth's focus on soldiering, even keeping the story line at grunt level, is entertaining and thought provoking on the necessity of good leadership. If you can read in-between the colorful writing of COL Hackworth, you will see the influence of his time in Vietnam with BG S.L. Marshall as an analyst of armed conflict. His applications of Observe, Orient, Decide & Act (OODA) loop cycle reduction to get inside of the decision matrix of his enemy is still relevant today in Afghanistan as it was in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The transformation of 4/39 INF from soft core to Hardcore is worth company level officers and NCO's a read. It relevancy today is that for now and the foreseeable wars to come; it will be fought at the company level with the focus on small unit tactics and training.
COL Hackworth's notability as a writer with a public image sometimes "taints" his deep analytical ability and his true heart to train and lead soldiers. Forget about his public image, his colorful phrases, and his so-called "rhetoric" . . . the book in its raw essence has value to help prepare our soldier's for the type of war we will face. Many of men have written about combat for fame or fortune but few have chosen to pass on wisdom. This book is not another war story.
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