Defending America
David Hackworth
3 June 1997


On May 16th I was nuked by CBS's David Martin. He was working a story pegged to the first anniversary of Admiral Boorda's suicide, designed to portray me as guilty of wearing awards I wasn't authorized. Just like Boorda.

Some of you saw that twisted story which was taped and then cut to support Martin's agenda, while many more of you were barraged by the first wave of copycat media fallout that accompanied it.

Fortunately, Dana Priest of the Washington Post, asked me for my side of the story, and the Post's accurate headline, "Hackworth Says Army Gave Him Two Awards By Mistake", says it all.

And thank God there's been a second wave of stories from truth tellers like radio and tv giant Don Imus, all defending me as I have, for better or worse, always tried to defend America.

Martin's spin was I "wore" two medals I had never been awarded - a Ranger Tab and a second Distinguished Flying Cross.

Over a 25 year career in the Army I earned over 90 combat awards including two Distinguished Service Crosses, nine Silver Stars and eight Bronze Stars.

I have never worn or claimed an award the Army didn't issue me. And what would I gain from jacking them up by two?

In 1973, in my pain over Vietnam, I gave all of my medals to a bunch of kids and helped spearhead a campaign against nuclear armament that led to my receiving my most cherished award aside from my eight Purple Hearts, the United Nations Peace Medal.

In 1988, at General John Howard's request, the Army reissued my awards along with a letter of transmittal listing them. Last year, in response to requests, I published that list on my web site.

Several weeks ago Terry Roderick, an expert on the Ranger tab ­ the tab is a skill qualification badge, and to call it a medal as CBS did is like confusing a surgeon for a barber -- convinced me that members of the 27th Raiders, my old unit in Korea, were not entitled to the tab, even though Colonel George Sloan had awarded it to us in 1951 for behind the lines operations, and even though the Army itself had authorized my tab since 1968 and reissued it in 1988. Nor did my brief service with the 8th Ranger Company when I was officially assigned to the 25th Recon qualify me to wear the tab.

As Dana Priest wrote in her Washington Post article, Roderick "discovered that the Army had given me the right to wear the Ranger tab inappropriately. . ." The facts here are that the Army put the tab on my records in 1968 for Korean combat service and 1 proudly wore the tab until I hung up my soldier suit.

My immediate response to Roderick's study was not only to remove the tab from the list on my web site, but also to verify that list against my actual citations.

When I discovered another possible Army error with regard to a second Distinguished Flying Cross, I promptly removed that award as well pending a final Army ruling, even though General Howard says that Warrant Officer Thayer, who had put my 1988 award package together, was the Army's top award expert and such " a stickler for details" there's a good chance that Thayer was right in the first place.

The bottom line is that I never wore or claimed an award that wasn't authorized by the Pentagon and the tab and second DFC were removed from my web page by me one week before Martin started his story.

As to Admiral Boorda, on that fateful day last year I fully expected him to say that yes, he had at one time worn several valor awards in error, but when the mistake had been pointed out to him, he had removed them. As indeed he had. For Newsweek, the story would have fizzled like a dime sparkler.

Instead, I was shocked by his suicide and not a day goes by that I don't regret it - but no more then I regret the lives of all the brave soldiers who died because of my battle decisions in Korea and Vietnam.

So I live with that and do what I can to stop more dying.