Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 555
We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young is a nonfiction work, so technically the individuals discussed are not characters. However, the authors vividly depict a number of real people in their historical study of the US role in the Vietnam War. The authors themselves are two of the main characters.
Although they concentrate on a single 1965 battle in the Ia Drang Valley, Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway also situate that particular engagement within US policy of the time and within a broader historical perspective. They briefly profile key American officials, notably President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, in terms of their positions and influence on the war’s direction. While a handful of Vietnamese individuals are mentioned, the majority of the people discussed are military personnel, especially those who served with Harold Moore and some who helped craft the policy that led to this battle.
Harold G. Moore, Jr. was a retired US Army Lieutenant General when he co-authored the book. Beginning in 1957, Moore had worked in the Pentagon research and development office on the Airmobility Concept. During the Ia Drang battle, his rank was Lieutenant Colonel. Moore led the Seventh Cavalry, 1st Battalion in their engagement with the North Vietnamese army, which greatly outnumbered the US forces. Moore was present during the entire four-day battle.
Joseph L. Galloway, a career journalist, has served as Vietnam Bureau Chief for United Press International. In 1965, he was the only reporter covering the Ia Drang Battle; he was then a UPI correspondent. He was also directly involved, helping to rescue a wounded soldier. Galloway later received a national award for his US News article on the Ia Drang battles.
Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), who became president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, was the president who committed increasingly larger number of troops to the Vietnam conflict. Robert McNamara, as Secretary of Defense under LBJ, was a principal architect of American military policy, including the escalation of the war following the early engagements such as Ia Drang. Moore and Galloway are critical of both men’s decisions and of the war-related policies overall.
Brigadier General Harry Kinnard was commander of the Eleventh Air Assault Division, assembled in Georgia in 1963 to test the Airmobility concept. General Kinnard had been a World War II Airborne hero at the Battle of the Bulge. He was instrumental in getting Hal Moore appointed to this unit in 1964. The following year, this division was renamed First Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Brigadier General Richard Knowles was second in command of the Eleventh Air Assault Division. He was a World War II and Korean War veteran. In the First Cavalry, Knowles was assistant commander for operations and the principal field supervisor.
Ho Chi Minh was the President of North Vietnam. Working with Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap, he developed the country’s military policy during the war. The official North Vietnamese Army forces coordinated efforts with the Viet Cong, less formally affiliated or guerrilla fighters.
Brigadier General Chu Huy Man was the North Vietnamese People’s Army commander during the Ia Drang battle. After overseeing the Viet Cong operations in South Vietnam, he was named to coordinate the B-3 Front.
Nguyen Huu An of the North Vietnamese People’s Army was a Lieutenant Colonel in the B-3 Front. He contributed his recollections to the book.