We Were Soldiers Once…and Young is a nonfiction book co-written by American journalist Joseph L. Galloway and retired lieutenant general Harold G. Moore. The book centers on Moore's recollection of the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, particularly the experiences of the First and Second Battalions of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. It was one of the first significant battles during the Vietnam War.
The book is noted for its vivid description of the battle and other related skirmishes and events. Galloway was the only reporter present at the battle and experienced firsthand what ensued at Ia Drang Valley. The title is also a hint at the narrative progression of the timeline. In the beginning, the soldiers of the battalions resembled a group of young men who had hardly experienced any form of violence. They were serious about their duties but also playful, and they didn't imagine they would experience any significantly intense fighting.
However, a mere few hours later, their disposition and situation changed dramatically. Another battalion in the general area was immediately decimated by the North Vietnamese forces. The opposing combatants hit the Americans hard, fast, and with precision. The book interviewed North Vietnamese fighters who were active in the battle and possibly could have killed Moore's comrades. This gives a multidimensional perspective on the battle and on the nature of war in general. The harrowing and gruesome experiences of the young soldiers vividly illustrates the reality of war.
The book provided a contrast to the political rhetoric and tension in America at the time. In the United States, the public had a caricatured and incomplete idea of the Vietnam War and saw it in a political light. However, the description of the battle and the soldiers' experience in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young—along with other books like Dispatches by Michael Herr—showed that politics, rhetoric, and philosophy went out the window when the bombs and bullets began raining on the soldiers.
Ultimately, the book captures an event that proved to be a pivotal moment in American history and in the personal histories of those who participated in the battle. The book shows the scars that veterans will forever bear, as well as the national collective scars that the war inflicted on both the US and Vietnam.
We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, is a major contribution to the literature of the Vietnam War. It recounts the fighting in the Ia Drang Valley in November, 1965, that marked the first major engagement between American and North Vietnamese troops. Moore and Galloway argue that the battle of Ia Drang established a pattern for the conflict that would persist until American troops withdrew from Vietnam. These men write with authority. Moore commanded the battalion of the Seventh Cavalry that initially engaged the North Vietnamese in the battle, and Joseph Galloway was the first American journalist to arrive on the scene, sharing in the dangers of combat. Their narrative of the battle is crisp and fast-paced. Their informed military judgments deserve respectful attention, but this book is much more than a standard military history and reaches well beyond the analysis of an important battle.
Moore and Galloway built their account out of the recollections of survivors of the Ia Drang fighting. Their blow-by-blow description of the battle is always told from the perspective of the men engaged. This brings a powerful immediacy to their work. It also makes We Were Soldiers Once…and Young a wrenching collective memoir of the American servicemen who saw the face of battle many years ago in the Ia Drang Valley. The book recaptures these men’s experience of combat and the ways that it changed them. It exposes as few books do the...
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