Hal Moore, Army General Memorialized in Book and Film ‘We Were Soldiers’, Dies at 94

Actor Mel Gibson and Lutenant General Hal Moore arrive at the premiere of the movie “We Were Soldiers” February 25, 2002 in Westwood, CA. (Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Getty Images)

Hal Moore, an Army lieutenant general whose leadership in one of the earliest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War saved scores of lives and was memorialized in the book “We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young” and in a film adaptation starring Mel Gibson, died Feb. 10 at his home in Auburn, Ala. He was 94.

In a Facebook post, his family said that Gen. Moore suffered a stroke last week but did not provide additional details.

Gen. Moore’s military career spanned three wars and multiple continents, beginning with a posting in Japan during the American occupation after World War II and a stint at Fort Benning, Ga., where he tested parachutes and parachuting equipment on more than 130 test jumps. At least one jump resulted in his being dragged along the ground by an airplane.

Sporting a bulldog face and a Southern accent acquired from a childhood in small-town Kentucky, he developed a reputation as an exceptional combat leader during the Korean War and in the early stages of the Vietnam War — no more so than in the Battle of Ia Drang, the first major engagement between American and North Vietnamese forces.

The battle began Nov. 14, 1965, shortly after Gen. Moore, then a lieutenant colonel, stepped off a Huey helicopter and onto a football-field-sized clearing in South Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley. He and the 457 men under his command were there to track North Vietnamese Army units and search for a possible enemy base.

They soon found themselves opposed by more than 3,000 North Vietnamese troops who had been hidden in mountainous terrain alongside the clearing. The American forces’ position, reporters and military historians later wrote, was not unlike that of George Custer, whose troops were surprised, surrounded and slaughtered at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

In the days before the attack, Gen. Moore’s troops sometimes referred to their blond-haired commander as “Yellow Hair” — Custer’s nickname. Sizing up the situation at Landing Zone X-Ray, as the Ia Drang clearing was called, Gen. Moore set about avoiding the fate of his predecessor.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Harrison Smith