To honor fallen comrades, a journalist and a soldier return to Vietnam battlefields more than 30 years later.
Following publication of their bestselling account of 1965’s horrific clash between the U.S. Army and the NVA in Ia Drang Valley (We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, 1992), Moore, the battalion commander, and Galloway, the only journalist covering the battle, made a half-dozen trips to Vietnam looking “to walk the old battlefields and put some of our ghosts to rest.” Wisely eschewing talk of “closure” and seeking instead to better understand what had happened, they pointedly searched out anyone with firsthand knowledge, including old enemies. Notwithstanding multiple bureaucratic roadblocks, they sat down with the two senior commanders who had fought against them. They also met many Vietnamese veterans who had taken part in the battle, interviewed Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap, the military architect of Vietnam’s victories over France and America, walked the legendary Dienbienphu battleground (where the French suffered 2,242 killed and 6,463 wounded) and even spent a night on their own storied battlefield. Moore’s voice carries the narrative and his depiction of this evening, including the tiger roars, meteor showers and tears shed recalling events decades old, proves unforgettable. Despite some awkwardness (“You killed my best friend,” one Vietnamese colonel realizes after speaking with an American machine gunner), the authors are struck by the sympathy and understanding offered by their Vietnamese counterparts, by the common experience that separates soldiers, even those once enemies, from all civilians, and by how the countryside has already absorbed and obscured the scars and detritus of war. Chapters on leadership and a salute to another distinguished Ia Drang fighter, though of some interest, would have better been relegated to an appendix, a section that includes moving tributes to Moore’s beloved wife and to Rick Rescorla, another Ia Drang vet who later died on 9/11 leading thousands safely out of the Twin Towers.
A worthy and wise successor to one of the best books ever about combat in Vietnam.