Picking Up The Torch
By Eilhys England Hackworth
My valiant, wonderful husband, Colonel David (Hack) Hackworth, one of America’s greatest heroes and most valor-decorated soldiers, died in my arms two years ago this May. During the last weeks we shared, he thought not a wit about himself; and his love for me burned so brightly I still feel surrounded by that awesome warmth. But he worried too about the frontline troops he spent his life protecting and particularly about Soldiers For The Truth, the foundation we started together. So I promised Hack I’d pick up the torch and keep Soldiers For The Truth viable – and continue our commitment to get the kids out at the tip of the spear the best leadership, training and equipment.
URGENT Hacks Wife / Partner Eilhys Needs Help With Hack Stories
Hack was working on a book about "Leadership" when he died. To honor his request to finish the book, his widow Eilhys wants to hear from those of you able to share anecdotes about Leadership involving your personal experience with Hackhow his leadership affected you and/or the situation. And how life-lessons you learned from Hack affected and/or changed your life. Eilhys would also welcome any anecdotes about Hack for their archives.
Hacks Leadership - A Model for Others
By Carlos Rivera
This profile of the late Col. David Hackworth appears in the book, Leadership: Past, Present & Future, written by Carlos M. Rivera that was published by Power Publications, Inc. in March 2005, less than two months before Hack's death. Rivera writes that his book "talks about the four values that a true leader has: courage, perseverance, communication skills and teamwork." Other leaders profiled in the book include George Washington, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President John F. Kennedy and the late Pope John Paul II.
Final Honors for Hack at Arlington
The U.S. Army on Tuesday, May 31, 2005, honored the late Col. David H. Hackworth USA (Ret.) during a funeral ceremony with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. These are selected photos from the event, with new photographs added.
Hack's Arlington National Cemetery Coordinates
Arlington National Cemetery is open to the public at 8 a.m. 365 days a year. From April 1 to Sept. 30 the cemetery closes at 7 p.m.; the other six months it closes at 5 p.m. View Full Map (HTML) | View Full Map (PDF)
Soldiers and Friends Remember Hack
Im responding here, cause Col. David H. Hackworth's passing caught me by surprise. He had made a big impact on me. I was one of the few soldiers left from the 4/39 Infantry Battalion when Hack came on board in 1969. It was in the dry season in Vietnam, and Charlie likes to get ready for his spring offensive by avoiding contact.
A Real American Hero
Eight Purple Hearts. Ten Silver Stars. Twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. And now a virtual shoe-in for the Medal of Honor. You name the honor, Colonel David Hackworth got it. And Monday, his buddies, his soldiers and his admirers gathered in an Arlington Cemetery chapel to pay homage and remember this most decorated of American soldiers. Full Story with Video
A Final Farewell
By Ed Offley
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY It is my privilege to inform you that Hack is back on permanent duty. Col. David Haskell Hackworth USA (Ret.) has joined several hundred thousand of his fellow soldiers guarding the hallowed ground of Arlington after a Memorial Service at nearby Fort Myer this morning. More than 600 former comrades, fellow soldiers and friends gathered in the soaring Fort Myer Memorial Chapel to shed tears of sorrow over his passing, to hear some of his favorite songs and psalms, and to laugh and betimes listen in awed silence as fellow veterans and journalism colleagues recounted his bravery, his audacity, his integrity and his perennial smile. Full Story
David. H. Hackworth, 1930-2005
Washington, D.C., May 5, 2005 Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, ground-pounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.
Col. Hackworth spent more than half a century on the countrys hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military-Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as Perfumed Princes.
He preferred the combat style of World War II and Korean War heroes like James Gavin and Matthew Ridgeway and, during Vietnam, of Hank The Gunfighter Emerson and Hal Moore. General Moore, the co-author of We Were Soldiers Once and Young, called him the Patton of Vietnam, and Gen. Creighton Abrams, the last American commander in that disastrous war, described him as the best battalion commander I ever saw in the United States Army.
Col. Hackworths battlefield exploits put him on the line of American military heroes squarely next to Sgt. Alvin York and Audie Murphy. The novelist Ward Just, who knew him for forty years, described him as the genuine article, a soldiers soldier, a connoisseur of combat. At 14, as World War II was sputtering out, he lied about his age to join the Merchant Marine, and at 15 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Over the next 26 years he spent fully seven in combat. He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Armys second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and eight Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his eight Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantrymans Badge.
A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABCs Issue and Answers to say Vietnam is a bad war ... it cant be won. We need to get out. He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.
With almost five years in-country, Col. Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War. After the interview, he retired from the Army and moved to Australia.
He was perhaps the finest soldier of his generation, observed the novelist and war correspondent Nicholas Proffit, who described Col. Hackworths combat autobiography, About Face, a national best-seller, as a passionate cry from the heart of a man who never stopped loving the Army, even when it stopped loving him back.
Having risen from private by way of a battlefield commission in Korea, where he became the Armys youngest captain, to Vietnam, where he served as its youngest bird colonel, he never stood on rank.
From the beginning his life was a soldiers story. He was born on Armistice Day, now Veterans Day, in 1930. His parents both died before he was a year old and the Army ultimately stood in for the family he never had. His grandmother, who rescued him from an orphanage, raised him on tales of the American Revolution and the Old West and the ethos of the Great Depression. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he got his first military training shining shoes at a base in Santa Monica, where the soldiers, adopting him as mascot, had a tailor cut him a pint-sized uniform. At age 10 I knew my destiny, he said. Nothing would be better than to be a soldier.
He always credited his success in battle to the training he received from the tough school of non-coms who won World War II, hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hard-fighting sergeants who drilled into him the basics of an infantrymans life: sweat in training cut down on blood shed in battle; there was nothing wrong with being out all night so long as you were present for roll call at 5 a.m., on your feet and in shape to run five miles before breakfast in combat boots.
In Korea, where he won his first Silver Star and Purple Heart before he was old enough to vote, he started his combat career in what he later called a kill a commie for mommie frame of mind. He was among the first volunteers for Korea and later for Vietnam, where he perfected his skill. He understood the atmosphere of violence, Ward Just observed. That meant he knew how to keep his head, to think in dangers midst. In battle the worst thing is paralysis. He mastered his own fear and learned how to kill. He led by example, and his men followed.
Just met him in the ruins of a base camp in the Central Highlands in 1966, where he was a major commanding a battalion of the 101st Airborne. He was compact, with forearms the size of hams. His uniform was filthy and his use of obscenity was truly inventive. What struck the journalist most forcefully was his enthusiasm, his magnetism, his exuberance, his invincible cheerfulness.
To young officers in Vietnam and long afterwards, he presented an unforgettable profile in courage. "Everyone called him Hack, recalled Dennis Foley, a military historian and novelist who first saw him in action with the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry in 1965. He was referred to by his radio call sign of Steel Six. He was tough, demanding and boyish all at the same time, stocky with a slightly leathered complexion. His light hair and deep tan made it hard for us to tell how old he was. He wore jungle fatigue trousers, shower shoes, a green T-shirt and a Rolex watch. In the corner of his mouth was a large and foul smelling cigar. As we entered the tent, he was bent over a field table looking at a map overlay and drinking a bottle of San Miguel beer.
With Gen. S.L.A. Slam Marshall, he surveyed the wars early mayhem and compiled the Armys experience into The Vietnam Primer, a bible on a style of unconventional counter-guerrilla tactics he called out gee-ing the G. His finest moment came when he applied these tactics, taking the hopeless 4/39 Infantry Battalion in the Mekong Delta, turning it into the legendary Hardcore Battalion. The men of the demoralized outfit saw him at first as a crazy lifer out to get them killed. For a time they even put a price on his head and waited for the first grunt to frag him.
Within 10 weeks, the fiery young combat leader had so transformed the 4/39 that it was routing main force enemy units. He led from the front, at one point getting out on the strut of a helicopter, landing on top of an enemy position and hauling to safety the point elements of a company pinned down and facing certain death. Thirty years later, the grateful enlisted men and young officers of the 4/39, now grown old, are still urging the Pentagon to award him the Medal of Honor for this action. So far, the Army has refused.
On leaving the Army, Col. Hackworth retired to a farm on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane. He became a business entrepreneur, making a small fortune in real estate, then expanding a highly popular restaurant called Scaramouche. As a leading spokesman for Australias anti-nuclear movement he was presented the United Nations Medal for Peace.
As About Face was becoming a best seller, he returned to the United States to marry Eilhys England, his one great love, who became his business and writing partner. He became a powerful voice for military reform. From 1990 to 1996, as Newsweek magazines Contributing editor for defense, he covered the first Gulf War as well as peacekeeping battles in Somalia, the Balkans, Korea and Haiti. He captured this experience in Hazardous Duty, a volume of war dispatches. Among his many awards as a journalist was the George Washington Honor Medal for excellence in communications. He also wrote a novel, Price of Honor, about the snares of Vietnam, Somalia and the Military-Industrial Complex. His last book, Steel My Soldiers Hearts, was a tribute to the men of the Hardcore Battalion.
He was a regular guest on national radio and TV shows and a regular contributor to magazines including People, Parade, Mens Journal, Self, Playboy, Maxim and Modern Maturity. His column, Defending America, has appeared weekly in newspapers across the country and on the website of Soldiers For The Truth, a rallying point for military reform. He and Ms. England have been the driving force behind the organization, which defends the interests of ordinary soldiers while upholding Hacks conviction that nuke-the-pukes solutions no longer work in an age of terror that demands a streamlined, hard-hitting force for the twenty-first century.
Hack never lost his focus, said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth. That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. Thats one hell of a legacy.
Over the final years of Col. Hackworths life, his wife Eilhys fought beside him during his gallant battle against bladder cancer, which now appears with sinister regularity among Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Blue. At one point he considered dropping their syndicated column, only to make an abrupt about face, saying, Writing with you is the only thing that keeps me alive. The last words he said to his doctor were, If I die, tell Eilhys I was grateful for every moment she bought me, every extra moment I got to spend with her. Tell her my greatest achievement is the love the two of us shared.
Col. Hackworth is survived by Ms. England, one step-daughter and two step-grandchildren, and four children and four grandchildren from two earlier marriages. At a date to be announced, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Soldiers For The Truth is now working on legal action to compel the Pentagon to recognize Agent Blue alongside the better known Agent Orange as a killer and to help veterans exposed to it during the Vietnam War. Memorial contributions can be sent to Soldiers For The Truth by mail to, P.O. Box 54365, Irvine, California, 92619-4365.
By Randolph T. Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - There are two groups of people who "support the troops" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are the people who stick the now-ubitquitous ribbon magnets on their SUVs and talk about backing our soldiers while staying a safe distance away from the fight.
And then there are the people who work to make sure that our soldiers are well-trained, well-equipped and well-led - people unafraid to tell the truth, no matter who gets upset about it.
We lost a great man in the latter group with the death of Col. David Hackworth, a champion of the common soldier who died of cancer at age 74 on May 4.
Hackworth was a man who could be mentioned in the same breath as Alvin York and Audie Murphy, except that Hackworth's battlefield exploits took place in dozens of battles in two wars. He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times. In seven years of combat in Korea and Vietnam, he won the Army's second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, twice, along with 10 Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts.
In short, he was a warrior of the first order. When he spoke out on shoddy training and equipment in his weekly "Defending America" columns, he had credibility gained from successfully leading units into combat.
When he attacked the "ticket punching" mentality of officers who put career advancement ahead of soldiering, he spoke from the hard personal experience of watching the Army's leadership disintegrate into careerism. In Hackworth's world, there were two types of people - "studs" and "perfumed princes." A stud was someone who knew his job and did it well, someone who was fearless, resourceful and utterly reliable when things got tough. Perfumed princes was Hackworth's epithet for officers who had their eyes on becoming generals and rarely got their hands dirty doing actual soldiering.
When he questioned the strategy of the Bush administration's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the criticism was coming from a man who literally wrote the books ("The Vietnam Primer" and "Steel My Soldiers Hearts") on guerrilla warfare. In a time when billions of dollars are being shoveled into buying weapons that are unneeded and unworkable on a battlefield, Hackworth knew - again, from years in combat experience - that every battle from Lexington and Concord to the Sunni Triangle is won or lost by the man with the rifle - the infantryman.
That was why, of all the awards bestowed upon Hackworth, he was proudest of his Combat Infantryman Badge. There's only one way to get one: serve in a front-line infantry unit for 90 days under fire and survive.
Hackworth knew the key to surviving in combat was good training. He learned the trade from the World War II sergeants who fought across Europe and stayed in the Army after the war was won. These were the toughest of the tough and they passed on what they had learned to the next generation of soldiers.
Their credo was simple - the harder you trained for combat, the less likely you were to die when the bullets were real. Good, hard training, combined with total discipline and accountability, produced skilled, fearless soldiers.
In the words of Steve Prazenka, the platoon sergeant who trained Hackworth: "If you learn it right, you'll do it right the rest of your life. If you learn it wrong, you'll do it wrong and spend the rest of your life trying to learn to do it right."
Hackworth readily embraced this, and carried it with him for the rest of his career. No unit Hackworth commanded was ever lacking in training and discipline and he did whatever it took to get his troops ready to fight.
Good training is the foundation of good leadership. The rest can be found in the principles of another man who deeply influenced Hackworth, Col. Glover Johns. Hackworth loved to quote Johns' basic philosophy of soldiering:
These are the traits of good leaders in any field. Sadly, the people who live up to them are few and far between. But when you find a person who has these qualities, you will follow them gladly and with pride.
Few things got Hackworth madder than seeing grunts get the short end of the stick. That is why he devoted his energies in the last two decades of his life to making sure soldiers got what they needed and the phonies who sent them off on dubious missions were called out and held accountable.
Hackworth will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on May 31. His legacy is the group "Soldiers For The Truth," , a group devoted to military reform that has become the main conduit for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to tell people back home the real story of what's happening at the front. His 1989 autobiography, "About Face," will be read for years to come by all who are seeking the nuts and bolts of leadership. And most of all, his example of speaking out in favor of common sense when it comes to defending the nation will be remembered by all who know the difference between saying you support the troops and actually doing so.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.
On the Passing of Hack, Eilhys wanted to share this tribute written by one of Hack's dear friends...
An American Hero's Soul Left Its No Longer Useful Body Today
By Kevin Gor
I say this because as Chief Bronson (a friend and fellow warrior) pointed out to me, Col. Hackworth just isn't someone you ever think could die and of course he hasn't. His exploits, deeds, good works and lessons learned will be with us always. He will live in our hearts and minds. His spirit will live in everyone who believes in this country and the men and women who are willing to risk all to defend it and each other. It is said, "Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission." From the time he was 14 years old, David Hackworth knew what his mission was, to protect this country and those who put themselves in harm's way to defend it. For over 60 years he never wavered from his mission. When thinking of Col. Hackworth, it is quite natural for thoughts and comparisons with other great military leaders and warriors to come to mind. As I think of him now, it is a description of Crazy Horse by Black Elk that I think of the most, "He was brave and good and wise. He never wanted anything but to save his people and he fought only when they came to kill us and our country. They could not kill him in battle."
I was fortunate enough to know Hack as both a warrior and a person. His garlic shrimp was something I'm going to miss. When we weren't talking about the business of the country, we talked about his favorite topic, his wife Eilhys, or just E to all of us. She's kind of a cross between a Den Mother, Drill Sergeant, CEO, Inspiration, Spiritual Advisor, Object of Desire and Super Care Giver all wrapped into one. People use words like, "soul-mate", "best friend", "love of my life" all the time, but for the two of them, they weren't words but truths and he loved to talk about her. The story about the guerilla operation he conducted to win her over is a true battlefield classic for covert operations. He heavily depended on her for everything and enjoyed poking fun at himself for being so dependent. I remember a couple of years ago when she was in a car accident and injured her back. He called and told me (as he watched her painfully limp into the house, barely able to walk) all he could think to himself was, "Who's going to take care of me?" But he also depended on her because he could and she never let him down. Between the two of them, they were going to "out G the C!" They were going to out guerilla the cancer and find a way to beat it and damn if E didn't find a way!
Unfortunately, Hack's body, after all it had been through, just couldn't keep up and shut down. As has always been the case, E was with him at the time and he left in peace knowing she was there. Going forward, things will be more difficult than I can imagine for E and hard on all of those whose lives he touched. For them, I close with an old warrior's wish hoping it provides some comfort and guidance because I know it is what Hack would want: "When I am dead, cry for me a little. Think of me sometimes, but not too much. It is not good for you to dwell too long. Think of me now and again as I was in life, at some moment which is pleasant to recall, but not for long. Leave me in peace as I shall leave you, too, in peace."
Soldiers For The Truth
New York Times
The Seattle Times
Joe Scarborough - Scarborough Country