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on 19 June 2002
I first read this book about 8 years ago.
Put simply, if there is a finer book on the horrors of the Vietnam war then I have yet to read it.
Hal Moore decribes in brutal frankness the reception that awaits them when they are sent to Vietnam at the start of the war. His narrative is insightful and at points very poignant if not downright painful to read.
This book describes a time when America was just waking up to the realities of the Vietnam war through a group of men who had no way of knowing the ferocity of the reception they would recieve in the La Drang valley or the barbarity of hand to hand combat with an enemy that was prepared to go to any lengths in the defence of it's country.
This is a must have for anybody with an interest in that conflict or for that matter in that particular decade. It decribes a battalion of soldiers who although highly trained were not prepared for what they would encounter but dealt with everything that was thrown at them and managed to survive and come out the other side.
For this reason alone it is a painful but rivetting read.
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on 11 March 2002
The book is an extraordinary account of one of the first major engagements in the Ia Drang Valley at the start of the Vietnam War. But this is not a book that glorifies war - war is nothing more than the failure of political leadership and about the incredible leadership of soldiers who carry on orders knowing what the outcome maybe. It is a book that glorifies leadership, survival skills and sacrifice. Its heroes understood what they were getting into. They performed their duties courageously against a strong and equally determined enemy. Among the many virtues of the book is also the fact that it teaches us about respect and humility. For sure it is one of the best books ever written on the subject of war.
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on 26 October 2011
A friend sent me a veterans report on the 10th anniversary of 911 focusing on the role that Rescoria played in saving all but 6 of 2700 staff under his HSE care - you can see his youthful picture on the front of version of the book carrying the M16. "We were soldiers once" contains a wonderful summary of this [British] leader's influence on the battle and the people around him, but I'll leave you to discover this and give a more general comment.

"Soldiers Once" is a no description barred story of two battles between the USA and North Vietnamese. It somewhat resembles the Illiad in its descriptions of the soldiers, their ages, backgrounds, frequency (and story) of death. I cannot imagine how terrible this must have been for their relatives to read as many of these young men die screaming. It also contains perspectives from all ranks and although it is light on Vietnamese perspectives some of their commanders are included. It is a wonderful insight into a terrible conflict and I recommend it strongly.

Two thoughts. Consider reading chapter 25, "The secretary of the army regrets ..." first. It gives depth to the people that die and as these are readily recognisable throughout the prose by their lack of speaking parts it would make the book that much more poignant for its early inclusion. For myself, I was unable to buy the more modern version of this book that contains shots from the movie on the front page so I reached out for a second hand version that arrived quickly, in good condition and at low cost. I know that it is being too sensitive, but I was just not able to bring into my home such a fine story with a picture of Mel Gibeson on the front.
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on 8 April 2002
Let. General Moore and Joe Galloway have provided an accurate and bloody portrayal of what happened at LZ Z-Ray and LZ Albany in the opening days of the Vietnam war.
In it, you'll discover act of heroism, bravery and courage in the line of fire such as Thomas Metsker who gave his place in the helicopter evacuating the wounded to a more seriously wounded soldier, only to see him die as he placed the injured man on the helicopter. Thomas Metsker is just one of the many men whose tale is told with remarkable clarity by the survivors.
There are poignant moments in the aftermath from the wives and children when they relate what happened to them, when they discovered their loved one would never be coming home and it was heart-warming to read about what happened to the survivors when the story ended.
When you have finished reading the book, go and see the film. It's not as accurate but still good.
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on 7 December 2004
If only once in your life you get the chance to read about a mans true spirit then grab that chance.
This is no how this is about what makes men, men. A wonderful read that shows the same battle from both sides and shows that men no matter what their colour, religion or politics are truely magnificent creatures.
It is no gung-ho tale like some stories that are put about by our SAS or others, this book is about true spirit and all of its failings. Read this and think on its words, for in here lies hope for man.
(PS, I speak from experience as a x soldier who fought in '82)
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on 21 August 2002
This is a good book if you really want to know – sometimes in quite tedious detail - what exactly went on in LZ X-Ray and LZ Albany, moment by moment, man by man.
If you want character build-up and insightful discourse on the motivations of men in extreme circumstances, look elsewhere.
In the vast majority of cases, it is the actions of the men that are detailed, not motivations or innermost thoughts. Even when the narration is handed over, first person, to the men who survived, we learn little of what made them do the extraordinarily brave things that fill page after page.
An unfortunate failing of this book is Hal Moore’s entirely understandable desire to pay tribute and respect to every man he mentions by name. In a somewhat clinical, militaristic fashion, each serviceman, in addition to his rank, has his middle initial included when first introduced. Also, if, as happens in all to many cases, that serviceman is subsequently killed or wounded, Moore insists upon repeating this gesture along with detailing his hometown and family background.
I suspect this “naming and placing” is an attempt to bring home to the reader the humanity of those who were cut down in their prime - often en masse. Unfortunately, for me, these continual roll calls serve to distract and interrupt from the hugely courageous actions of the men in question, thus diminishing that aspect of the narrative, whilst also, unfortunately, not actually making them any more real for me.
I feel I should somehow apologise for this criticism, because in so many other respects this is an excellent book. The concept of Air Mobility is briefly examined in the context of post the mass-paratroops landings of WW2, and the US experiences in Korea, and pre any other major engagements against the PAVN. The exacting operational considerations of an air-mobile engagement are also examined by Moore and prove insightful for the reader.
Moore emphasises how the “correct” use of close air and artillery-support was possible at LZ X-Ray, but not at LZ Albany. I feel he could have given more credit to the attacking commanders for identifying how to proactively overcome the threat and execute their plans accordingly. In general however, Moore does not show any jingoistic tendency to denigrate the abilities or sacrifices of the Vietnamese enemy and, if anything, a grudging admiration for their training and bravery is evident throughout the book.
In summary, this is not the easiest of reading, but it is rewarding.
Read it if you want to know more about the war in Vietnam. Or, if you want to know more about the men who fought the war in Vietnam, read a few other first-person accounts beforehand and then read it! Either way, read it.
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on 29 July 2007
This is simply one of the best military books I have ever read. In summation in November 1965, 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry (made famous by Custer at the battle of the Big Horn), under the command of Lt.Col Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was chopped to pieces. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. How these men persevered - sacrificed themselves for their comrades and never gave up - makes a vivid portrait of war at its most inspiring and devastating.

General Moore and Joseph Galloway, the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting, have interviewed hundreds of men who fought there, including the North Vietnamese commanders. This account rises above the specific ordeal it chronicles to present a picture of men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have found unimaginable only a few hours earlier. It reveals to us man's most heroic and horrendous endeavour.

In this history of one of the most violent periods of the 20th century, the author relates the personal experiences of men on the brink of death for a cause they didn't understand. The book has been adapted for film, starring, amongst others, Mel Gibson. A must read for anybody who wants to know how the heat of battle forges a bond between men in the folly of war!
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on 24 December 2012
LtCol Moore's epic account of his Battalion's trial by fire is the best of all books I've read on the Vietnam experience. I commanded an air assault Infantry company from late '67 through TET '68 in the Saigon battles. For readers without direct experience of warfare in this conflict, this veteran can assure you Hal Moore's accounts of his battle is composed in truth without exaggeration. "Garry Owen" 1/7th Cavalry heroes; you are not forgotten.
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on 1 November 2006
The book starts with the formation and training of the US Army airbourne assault units (what were the cavalry units).

The story is told from the commanders perspective and is truly enlightening.

They move onto the assault landing at Xray and then the ambush at Albany from both the American and Vietnamese perspectives. (Both claimed a victory at Albany)

The personal stories of the soldier families will break your heart.
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on 24 December 2012
After watching a brilliant and in depth programme on the Discovery Channel about the Vietnam War, I felt obligated to read up and understand the sacrifice made by all, on both sides. Lt. General Harold Moore Jr & Joseph L Galloway were there to help me on my journey. Coming from the UK and being born in late 70's I missed that era, and at schools here we learned mainly about World Wars I and II and british history - I felt it important and a despite not knowing these men personally, this book helped to understand their fears, dreams, loss, love and devotion to each other and to their country. I believe that this book should be added to every classroom around the world, we all need to learn from their sacrifices and make sure that we work collectively to try and stop future conflicts. An amazing book. Simple.
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