Comments from Grunts:
spoke to you by telephone when you were being interveiwed on a radio
program the afternoon of December 30, 2002. I was attempting to
thank you for saving my life twice in Viet Nam.
My name is Robert Cotton. In 1968, I was trained in your "Always
Alert, Stay Alive" battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington. Knowing
that you and other officers and NCOs that were in charge of our
training were veterans of Viet Nam, I felt confident that I was
being well trained for the war that I knew I was going to participate
I arrived in Viet Nam in early December, 1968. I was assigned to
Company B, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry. I saw my first combat tha
day I joined my unit. I was a rifleman in the third squad of the
third platoon. A week later I was carrying an M-60 machinegun. That
job lasted three weeks. For the next three weeks, I humped an M-79.
Then Lt. Knapp saw I had my stuff together and had been well trained
so he ask me to walk point for a full company operation. I knew
that sooner or later I would have to take my turn on point so I
figured it might as well be sooner. While I was on point we never
got into any booby traps or walked into any ambushes. The longer
I walked point the more the guys wanted me on point. I guess they
thought I was a good luck charm. I stayed on the point for six weeks.
I got off the point by volunteering to carry the radio for the platoon
leader. All during this time I was beginning to wonder if I would
get out of that hell hole alive. The entire battalion was so screwed
up and we were losing too many good men because of bad decisions
and poor leadership. I recognized this because of the good training
I had had, and just plain old common sense.
Then my prayers were answered when you took command of the battalion.
I felt then, and feel even more so today that you saved my life.
I remember well 25 March 1969. I was awarded a bronze star for valor
for helping get some of the wounded out of the battlefield. After
Sgt. Tom Smith was wounded, I was the senior RTO in the company.
The first sergeant asked me to carry the radio for the new C.O.
We had several new C.O.s before Captain DeRoos took over Battle
company. He was the last C.O. I would have in the field. In May,
the company had been out on an night ambush and we captured a V.C.
He gave us some info on some more bad guys. Choppers picked up half
the company and put them right where the enemy was assembling. The
choppers returned to pickup the rest of us and put down in a blocking
position. By this time you were up in your C&C ship. As we landed
in a dry, plowed up rice paddy, I ran from the chopper and stepped
in a hole baddly twisting my right knee. When Captain DeRoos informed
you that I was injured you came down and picked me up. You asked
me to hang on while an air strike was delivered. Then you returned
me to Danger and I was choppered to Dong Tam. That was the second
time you saved my life. THANK YOU! I am very proud that I got to
say thank you to you on national radio.
Just finished reading your latest book "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts"
for the third time. I'm a former Ranger noncom and worked in various
leadership positions including: mortar section leader, rifle squad
leader, and rifle platoon sergeant. I served in the 2nd and 3rd ranger
Battalions as well as two tours as an instructor at the Army's Ranger
School. I was discharged from the Army in 1987 after blowing my left
A while back you made a book signing appearance here in Columbus,
Georgia. I knew of your visit in advance, having heard about it on
a local radio talk show. That day, while I was home for lunch, I told
my wife, Laura, that you would be in town later in the day. Both she
and I read your columns on a fairly regular basis and enjoy them,
as well as your appearances on FOX News, very much. Laura Encouraged
me to attend the signing and get your John Hancock on a copy of "Steel
. . .", which I had expressed an intrest in purchasing. I responded
that I would be working late that evening and probably wouldn't have
a chance to do so. To my surprise, and great delight, upon my arrival
at home that evening, she presented me with a brand, spanking, new
copy of "Steel . . ." with your signature on the title page.
My wife described you as a "real nice guy" and a "gentleman."
You also graciously agreed to pose for a couple of pictures with my
10 and 12 year old sons. For that, and for your polite demeanor, I
As for your book: It is quite simply, one of the most important books
on modern warfare ever written. It's lessons are so profound and valuable
that, were I still on active duty, I would make it required reading
for every man in my platoon. Including, and especially, the Lieutenant.
I can't even begin to summarize the importance of the principles presented
in "Steel . . ." as they are to be found on virtually every
page. A single reading simply isn't enough for a soldier to mine the
wealth of useful information contained within. Congratulations for
your outstanding effort.
Finally, your assessment of the importance of good, well trained officer
leadership at the company level and below is right on target. Fire
for effect! I've simply never been able to understand how the Army
can continue to cling to a system which places immature, inexperienced
and unprepared young officers in command of troops who are more experienced
and better qualified than they are and who's lives are endangered
by he very fact of their position. It hurts my head to even think
about it. Even in elite units, like the Rangers, platoon leaders and
company commanders are relatively inexperienced compared to the career
NCOs that they lead. Many of them simply show up for a couple of years
and then move on to the regular army never to return again. Enlisted
Rangers, on the other hand, often spend their entire careers as Rangers
laboring under a succession of young, eager, albeit unqualified, officers
who imagine that they know what they're doing. Eventually, as always,
someone dies as a result.
Your critique of the disaster in Mogadishu, Somalia was dead on too.
Believe it or not, a couple of weeks prior to the battle, I predicted
exactly what would happen. We were watching an account of one of Task
Force Ranger's fast rope operations on CNN, and I said: "I don't
like this" My wife responded: "What don't you like about
it?" I said: "This is about the fourth, or fifth account
of one of these raids that I've seen on the news and they seem to
be using the same tactics over and over again." In fact that
is exactly what they were doing. I then explained to my wife that
even though third world fighters are relatively unsophisticated, compared
to us, they aren't stupid and they're pretty good at using what they
have to maximum effect, and if you continue to do things the same
way time and time again, eventually, the bad guys will figure it out
and bushwack you. I then said: "I hope they have some serious
contingency plans if things don't go exactly right." Well, they
didn't. After reading "Blackhawk Down", I was stunned. How
could this happen? In Ranger school, we taught students that you have
a contingency plan for EVERY conceivable eventuality, if possible.
How could general and field grade officers hang our boys out to dry
like that? Friends died there that day, and I cried over the television
images of their bodies being dragged through the streets like so much
garbage. Lord help us.
Hack, you may be a voice shouting in the wilderness, but you just
keep right on hollerin'. Maybe someone will hear. Thanks and God Bless
I am a company grade officer on the threshold of senior leadership
and the duties of a field grade officer. I want to thank you for
your book SMSH, especially the Afterward. COL. Hackworth you are
still right on target about junior officers and their training.
Your book brought to light some real hard facts about poor leadership
that makes it frustrating to watch what is currently happening to
our officer education and officer corps in general. Especially,
promoting lieutenants to captains too soon and then cutting back
hands-on education for distance learning.
You have inspired me to continue to fight to train soldiers and
leaders to win, stay alive, and accomplish our assigned tasks. It
continues to surprise me how the Army continues to look the other
way and get rid of the soldiers (officers and NCOs) who try to maintain
our operational readiness and integrity.
SEAN W. BARNES
Thank you. Having just finished reading your book, I was struck
by the impact it had on me. I enjoyed every page where you brought
to life what I can only imagine. Your comments on leadership were
on time and on target. For me, you made it crystal clear what must
be done to be sucessful and what can happen if you are not prepared.
I resigned my commission as a Captain of Marines in 1994 as I was
fed up with the garrison mentality and a sense that we werent focused
or allowed to focus on what our real mission was. I regret not having
a Battalion Commander with half your qualities (guts!). As I seemed
to have encountered to many Col. Hunts and not not enought Col.
Hackworths!! I guess in the grand scheme of things, my loss for
leaving an organization that I miss dearly. But, never one to wade
in self pity, I picked up my pack and moved forward into the maze
of the civilian world.
I give your book a hefty compliment as I typically do not respond
to military writings or commentary.
With great respect and admiration, and appreciation for signing
my copy at a mall in Va.Beach
I always knew that you were the Best battalion commander in Vietnam.
You were also one the biggest SOB's I ever had the misfortune of
running into while I served in the Army. However, I felt a lot better
(actually, safer, is the correct word), when the dodo was flying
and you were near by.
I was really lucky. When I got to Vietnam, 34 years ago today (Nixon
was elected President), I was assigned to Charlie Co., along with
41 other guys. Seven of us made it to Hawaii, nine months later.
Six of the lucky seven had purple hearts and one, Angelo Tropeano,
was never wounded.
I survived because I was surrounded by some of the greatest grunts
in the war, Captain DeRoos, Captian Meyers and my platoon Sargent,
Onisk. These guys had their shit together and helped me keep mine
It was quite and experience, I did everything from run a small squad,
play company sniper with a starlite scope on my M16, drive the jeep
and carry the radio for the Co's, DeRoos and Meyers. When I got
to Hawaii, I ended up driving a Col. around and hitting the surf
almost every other day.
My picture is in your latest book, "Claymore company explodes
over visit from HIGH CHAPARRAL starlets", I'm the guy in the
forefront on the farthest left looking over my shoulder at the young
I am glad that things appear to have gone well for you. Thank you
for helping keep me alive. I salute you again.
ps. The next time the guys get together I would like to join in
the reunion. Please let me know when and where. Thanks again.
Just finished Steel My Soldiers Hearts
I took this book on a vacation cruise and could not put it down.
I had tears in my eyes from many of the situations that the Hardcore
experienced. I also felt the rising up of the group. It gave me
goose bumps. I am in great appreciation for what you and those brave
men did and the suffering that was experienced. The lessons that
you preach and abide by can be use in many situations in life, not
just the battlefield. God Bless you and all the Brave Men of Hardcore.
.. Keep promoting your techniques on how to
engage our new enemies.
PS: Looking forward to reading more of your work.
about half way through and find the authenticity gripping. It is
very true to my own experience.
But one other aspect that's equally riveting (but somewhat uncomfortable)
are the vignettes on Col. Hunt.
After I graduated from college in 1967, I spent many weekends at
the McLean, Va. home of the parents of a very good friend. Then
LTC.. Hunt and his family lived just across the street and I got
to know the family quite well. Mrs. (Mary) Hunt and the kids were
just terrific people. He struck me as being somewhat difficult and
overbearing but I never thought much about it until I started reading
I lost touch with the Hunts after the spring of 1968 when the draft
board finally caught up with me but I would hear indirectly through
the years that (Col) Hunt had punched all the right tickets and
had moved on to flag rank. Know he got at least two stars but then
I lost contact entirely.
Back to "authenticity", I went to Infantry OCS and shipped
out in Nov. 1969 to the Fourth Division in AnKhe/Pleiku. I was a
rifle platoon leader for six months before being badly injured in
the Cambodian incursion. Our combat readiness, morale, competence
of field grade officers, and mindlessness of tactics were as you
described them in the Ninth.
Having to lead men in combat under the circumstances we faced in
'69-70 was a draining and demoralizing experience. What comes across
so grippingly in your book is the miasma of corruption that war
had degenerated into. It had become a ticket-punching charade for
Regular Army field grades where they could embellish their curricula
at the expense of meat-grinding the working class teenagers entrusted
to their charge. As an officer, even as a junior company grade,
I felt involuntarily complicit in that corruption. It is that rather
than my injury, the many surgeries or the discomfort of combat that
I still see as the defining attributes of that conflict.
I too called patrols in on my radio when I deemed circumstances
warranted it. Until I read your book, that's always stayed as a
And what got me about the events surrounding Col Hunt was that they
depicted so much of what I had seen or inferred; but the men I disdained
were people whose personal histories weren't known to me. I did
not hate the North Vietnamese; but I did despise my superiors.
At any rate, I have enjoyed your columns and your television appearances
over the years. Agree on almost every "public policy"
position I've heard you take.
Take good care; I am so happy today's Army (or at least the Airborne
Divisions and the Ranger battalions) is a very different place.
All the best.
3rd. Bt. 8th Inf. 4th Infantry Div. 1969-70.
Hackworth: Just finished "Steel My Soldier's Heart". For
the 1st time in many years, I was so filled with emotion and patriotism,
for once in a long time I was so proud to be an American. My son
is in the Army (35-Echo) at Fort Gordon, Ga. and when he came home
this week he said that he thought old age was catching up to me
because I would not shut up and stop talking about your book. Because
I am much bigger than him, I got my way and gave him a strat to
end review. When I finished, he picked up the book and began reading
it and I can't get him to put it down!!! If you ever in or near
S.E. Alabama or S.W Georgia I would consider it an honor to meet
you and give you my Personal Thanks for your service to our country.
God Bless and keep you and your family......Troy Police Detective
Captain (ret.) Donald Brown
just read this and thought it was one of the best books on what true
leadership is all about and why leaders must lead or people get killed
unnecessarily in war. I was a Marine lieutenant in the late '80's
and early '90's who was lucky to have had two tremendous leaders that
I looked to early on in my career. I was in E 2/1, A 1/4,and then
to 1st Force Reconnaissance Co briefly ( my officer career monitor
decided I'd been in the fleet too long). I was lucky to have been
in a raider company, went to Ranger and Jump Schools, and got to do
a few small ops in the Gulf War as part of the 13th MEU(SOC). I really
had a great experience all the way around, but got out because when
I looked up (at most senior officers) I got discouraged and I knew
my time doing the things I liked was over. In the Corps, officers
are not allowed to stay in the reconnassaince community for long,
and so none of us ever get to be as good as we would like. I got the
sense from you that in today' s military, one really has to get into
a unit like the SEALS, Rangers, SF,etc. to get any decent training-
I couldn't agree more.
Most guys I knew in the Army went to Ranger School or tthe Q Course
just to get away from regular Army life. Your book is amazing in how
you get a mostly draftee, inexperinced group to conduct the same type
of operations as our SF A teams have run in Afganistan and the Philippines
recently. It shows that all it takes is leadership and loyalty to
your men. My wife asks me why I read so much modern military history,
and I tell her that it's because I don't have anybody (in my generation)
to talk to about my own experience or the military in general who
knows anything. I'm 38, and I can count on one hand the guys I know
locally who have any military experience. At least during Vietnam,
people were for or against it. It just seems like the further away
we get from a real war, the more people (in and out of the military)
want to pretend that it doesn't really involve training to kill and
killing. Thanks for your service to those men in your charge in 1969-
alot more came home because of it. Semper Fidelis,
I have gotten a lot of feedback from friends and aquaintances since
your book came out, you might say they now have a greater appreciation
of the soldiers performance in combat (particuarly Viet Nam). You
have done so much to give the Viet Nam veteran something to be proud
of, not just some drug addicted reputation that other articles and
films have depicted. You deserve the (Medal Of Honor) for this, if
nothing else. Those of us who know you, can appreciate the anguish
and torment you went thru in order to do your job, fighting both your
superiors and the VC. From reading your web sight comment's, I can
see that others now understand this too. Thanks for everything. Enjoy
the reunion in New Orleans. Give em Hell.
I just finished Steel My Soldier's Hearts. More than a war story,
it's a great depiction of the value of leadership and the consequences
of a lack of leadership. It's amazing how someone who stands for something
and really gives a s... about his people can have everybody performing
beyond what they think are their capabilities. It also showed that
in the Military, like sports, business, or any human endeavor, that
everybody gets excited about playing on the winning team!
1. Have you ever taken steps to offer training seminars to the Army
and/or Marines on the lessons learned and described in the Vietnam
Primer (and lessons learned from your experiences afterward)? I realize
that your presence might not be welcomed by all of the top echelon
of the Army, but I think that even the "perfumed princes"
you describe in About Face, would take counsel from the devil himself--if
they thought it could be prevent the waste of Vietnam. Even officers
like Ira Hunt must have the same nightmares (about the decisions they
made) that every combat commander has. Although they may never be
honest enough with themselves or others to admit to them, they could
see your training as a way of offering penance for their mistakes
and arrogance in Vietnam.
Forgetting them, the real service you would be providing would be
to the junior officers and the enlisted--who are going to be doing
the actual fighting! If the lessons you learned the hard way could
be given them before they learn the same thing OJT at the cost of
men's lives, you would also benefit the fathers, mothers, wives, et
al who just might have their loved ones come home standing vs. wrapped
in an American flag.
In corporate America, people like Covey, Byam, Robbins, etc. hold
seminars for corporate executives that are wildly popular and implemented
(often) with great success. However, in business, the most serious
consequence of a f-up is that people lose their jobs or that no bonus
is paid that year. No one loses their life! What you would offer is
infinitely more important--particularly now, when my sense is that
we're going to be faced with a very similar type of conflict in the
near future. You could offer the course at Benning, Ft. Knox (70 tons
of metal still won't protect you from a screw-up), etc. and also at
the service academies. My guess is that you'd be a great hit with
the very people who need your experience the most!
2. Alternatively--re-release the Vietnam Primer! The only copies available
are used and are on back-order (as of today, I'm the 65th person on
the waiting list for a used copy on Amazon). If it's as good as I
think it is, then maybe the DOD could buy 40,000 or so copies and
make sure that every officer and NCO reads a copy (along with Sun
Tzu) before he/she is allowed to leave the friendly confines.
OK, all for now. I can only hope that when it's my son's turn to serve
in the military, that the Vietnam Primer and its lessons are held
in the same regard as Sun Tzu's.
Keep them coming, Hack!
P.S. Doing an internet search on "Ira A. Hunt, Jr." I found
that by 1974 (only 5 years after your experience with the Hardcore),
he had been promoted to the rank of Major General!! This is almost
unbelievable--3 grades in 5 years during a drawdown Army. If ever
there was a poster child for why we did not win the Vietnam War, it
would be him!
Gary J. Smith
Thank you & your fellow soldiers for allowing me & my family
to live in freedom!..SMSH is the BOOK which should be required reading
for incoming college freshman...I don't believe in getting a man's
signature/autograph, but, I would be honored to have you sign my copy
of SMSH...Will you ever come down to Miami?...As soon as my son becomes
of age, SMSH will be required reading...In the meantime, I raise a
toast to you and your fellow soldiers around the world.
My name is Bruce Campbell Mitchell. I used to be an infantry officer
in the South African Army (Now on reserve status), and now serve as
a SPC in the US Army.
I recently read STEEL MY SOLDIERS HEARTS. An excellent book, simply
Your book is riveting, as I read it I could picture the events unfold
in my mind.
Having conducted more unconventional than conventional operations
while in the South African Army, I drool when I read books written
by experienced leaders such as yourself.
I also read your column (Sound off) in Soldier of Fortune Magazine.
I like what you write because you speak the gospel truth, and I believe
your knowledge and "teachings" will be of great value to
me as a soldier regardless of where I choose to serve. You are a mountain
of information, an experienced commander with much wisdom to share.
I think that the Art of War by Tsun Tsu should be a mandatory course
of study for any institution producing officers. Strange how the teachings
of a general recorded way back in the mists of time could still be
so applicable to leaders today.
In my opinion the incompetence of junior officers, and a great many
NCO's that I have encountered while serving in the US Army is down
right scary. So much so, that it is the prime reason that I will not
pursue a career in the US Army. This is a sad, sad thing for the Army
of a Super Power. Secondly, it is my opinion that the US Army personnel
generally suffer from low moral and general apathy, (Because most
soldiers I come across tell me that they wanted a different MOS than
the one they were assigned, or that they are "in for the college
money"). Matching the man to the job should in my opinion be
more that getting the right numbers for each MOS, soldier job satisfaction
will surely help keep more soldiers in for longer.
Sir, Keep up the good work, and I wish you well for the future.
I've just finished reading your most recent book...."Steel My
Soilders' Hearts". I served in Viet Nam from 68-70, and this
is the first time I've read a high ranking Officers view on Viet Nam.
The frustrations you went through, both with the military, and the
Government. I am a 100% disabled veteran, and I can remember, after
reading your book, like it was yesterday. Trudging through the mud
etc... The thing that most impressed me about your book, was your
utmost concern for your men, which in my two years in Viet Nam, I
never had the leadership that you provided your men.. I want to thank
you for such and insight from such a high ranking officer.
Sincerely, James E. Sheerin Ssgt Army/Air Force
book ive read about what vietnam was really like. I hopethat your
efforts will save the lives of the soldiers of todays army, I made
about face prime reading for my son, in 3/ranger prior to the gulf
war and he claims it was very beneficial and made it prime reading
for his men. I wish you best regards in your indeavors to continue
to help the wariors of the future. thanks and welcome home sir.
Elie US Army vietnam 1967-1968
I just finished reading Steel My Soldiers' Hearts. I think it's
a very important book. On one level, it's an inspiring story of
heroism, renewal, and sacrifice. But, to me, the book is much more
than just a great story. I believe that it contains some very valuable
lessons for today's business leaders, in two different ways: (1)
First, as a memoir of the war, it offers critical insights on the
psychology and tactics of fighting a guerilla conflict. Many of
these insights seem directly applicable to today's War on Terrorism,
a war which of course requires U.S. business excutives to play a
leadership role in helping to protect our people, property, and
information from attack. (2) Second, as a "business book",
it is filled with observations which I believe provide useful analogies
for any top executive faced with trying to turn around a floundering
enterprise. As a lifelong student of military history, I was moved
and fascinated by the exploits of the 4th Battalion. I have seen
and read quite a bit about Vietnam over the years, but never before
have I seen this sort of exceptionally thoughtful account from the
perspective of a field level commander. The book is in many ways
a testament to the courage and ingenuity of our U.S. soldiers (it
really is amazing what Americans are capable of doing in the face
of adversity!). At the same time, it also captures the futility
of the war in Vietnam in an extremely vivid way: How could we have
expected to defeat a determined enemy, whose only strategic objective
was to make us suffer, using a largely conventional approach? (Our
senior officers seem to have been unable or unwilling to make the
strategic and tactical changes necessary to beat the enemy at their
own game.) As you write in the Epilogue, the parallels between the
Viet Cong and our enemies today in the War on Terrorism are striking
? and concerning. I hope that we have learned at least a few things
from past experience! From my perspective as a Partner for one
of the world's largest management consulting firms, I found the
business turnaround analogies to be especially helpful. By transforming
the 4th Battalion from "Hopeless" to "Hardcore"
in such a short period of time, you accomplished what very few business
leaders are able to do. In 17 years as a management consultant,
I have helped many companies deal with turnaround situations. These
situations require business leaders to demonstrate an exceptionally
high level of strategic clarity, operational expertise, communication
skills, and intestinal fortitude. You certainly demonstrated all
of these traits. In addition, your experience provides a dramatic
illustration of three core principles which I believe are critical
to the success of any turnaround: Establish achievable objectives
and pursue them aggressively. Too many businesses flail around when
they are in trouble, either looking for a "magic bullet"
or essentially treading water hoping that the world will go back
to normal, instead of focusing on achieving real victories which
both build momentum and establish an overall sense of purpose. Demonstrate
that you value your people. In a crisis, making sure that people
on the ground have what they need to be successful often seems to
drop to the bottom of the leader's priority list. Leaders must show
that they care, not for the sake of being "popular" (which
often means letting people operate in an undisciplined way, and
actually could end up getting them killed/fired), but to show your
people that you respect them enough to place great value on their
safety and their success. Part of doing this is leading from the
front, even when doing so is dangerous. Always start by building
a foundation of basic skills (blocking and tackling, training ?
"the never ending list of little things"). These skills
are critical to developing a capable and resilient organization,
but are often neglected in a crisis. In combination with a clear
understanding of the organization's strategic objectives, these
capabilities allow line managers in the field to creatively and
boldly take the initiative, and at the same time be confident that
they are doing the right thing. No leader can do it all from HQ.
Perhaps you have the different list of key lessons learned, but
these certainly worked for me! Thank you again for sharing your
insights, and God bless you for what you have done and are doing
for our country.
Thought I would drop you a quick note and thank you for Steel My Soldiers
Heart. I received a copy from my oldest son for Fathers' Day. It was
an excellent read. I could identify with much of what you read as
my tour began with A Co. 3/39. We were plagued with the same lack
of leadership you spoke of in the book. This is the very reason I
volunteered for E Co 50th Lrps.
I was accepted into the Lurp unit just before you left 4/39. Bob Press
was my FSG at E Co. 75th. What a soldier, I appreciated the things
you said of him and I would concur with your assessment 100%. I had
the privilage of entertaining "Top" Press in my home this
afternoon for about 3 1/2 hours. He is still the same dynamic man
I remember 33 years ago. I count it a privilage to have soldiered
with him and his contemporaries.
D 3/3 Stay Alert Stay Alive
SGM (RET) Norm Breece
Col. David Hackworth,
I am having great difficulty wondering where and how to begin this
letter. So let me start by saying that I served in Vietnam with the
9th Division, Co.B, 4/39, between November of 1968 and July of 1969.
I was on that notorious battle field of March 25, 1969.
If nothing else, sir, please, read this letter. Please, allow me several
paragraphs of your valuable time. Well.....perhaps a bit more than
several paragraphs. I do promise that I will keep this as brief as
possible. In the event, however, that this letter does go a few paragraphs
too many, or a few paragraphs more than you have the time to read,
it may be wise for you to grab yourself a cup of coffee, a glass of
wine or maybe a beer as a precaution..
It was with great reluctance and reservation that I recently purchased
your book "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts." In fact, it was at
the behest of my wife that I eventually did buy it, for which, I now
can't thank her enough -- she always was smarter and wiser than the
man writing this letter.
After reading the book my compulsion to write to you was so overwhelming
that I wrote this letter in work. I would like to say that I remember
the pride you had instilled into us as a fight unit. You did make
us feel that we were a cut above the average soldier by turning us
into the Hardcore Recondos. And, most of us were eager to live up
to that image. I always had a respect and admiration for your unquestionable
bravery, your skill as a military tactician, and your ability as a
leader of men. It wasn't until I gathered the courage to pick up your
book and read it, did I realize that I lived a life of some grave
and fatal misconceptions for the past 34 years.
I allowed 3 decades of ignorance to be the impetus behind an anger
that has simmered in my conscience and sub-conscience mind for all
these years. It was an anger that has eaten away at me like a festering
wound that persistently refuses to heal.
For 34 years, never was I aware, sir, that the order to charge on
that infamous day didn't come from you. I will never forget getting
up and making that charge. I remember glancing to my left watching
as people fell to the ground. Though the assault lasted only seconds
I excepted what I believe was the last day of all our lives. I always
believed that we were brought out into the middle of that open field,
left out there and then eventually ordered to charge by a man who
couldn't possibly have been thinking straight. But we did as we were
Until reading this book, reliving that day resurrected an anger and
sadness that regularly needed to be quelled. And, it is for that reason
that I write you now. I can not begin to tell you how sad, ashamed
and embarrassed I am that I lived with this misconception all these
years. May God, and you, sir, forgive me for believing that we were
sacrificed by you on that day. I don't know why I didn't know, but
I was never aware of the truth!
When I arrived at the chapters about March 25th I did so with a terrible
uneasiness. At the conclusion of these chapters my reaction, between
tears, was "Oh my God! What have I done? How could I have thought
this all these years?" And, for that, sir, I apologize to you!
Although I know that what I believed in for 3 decades was of little
consequence to you, it was of great and grave consequence to me. That
simple misconception altered my life and attitude. To now know the
truth about that day, has begun to release me from years of anger
and bitterness. For that I thank you Col. Hackworth. And, I salute
In closing, I would like to say that this book has not only enlightened
me but it has helped my family about me as well. I would like to wish
you the greatest success with your book and may God watch over you.
Hardcore Recondo, Sir
Richard K Fuhrmann
I am a Vietnam Veteran, having served 2 tours with the Air Force at
Radar Sites from Phou Quoc Island in the South to Dong Ha in the North,
plus tours in the Philippines, Thailand and Germany. Steel My Soldiers'
Hearts is the first book of yours that I have read, and I think it
is fantastic. Brings back a lot of memories, some good, some bad,
but I wouldn't trade anything for them. I intend to read your other
books as soon as I can get them. I want to thank you for "telling
it like it is," and I think it would have been an honor to serve
under your command.
God Bless America,
David V. Auvil, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
I have just finished "Steel My Soldiers Hearts." It is a
book that should be read by every man or woman who hopes to be a leader,
either military or civilian.My Grandaddy always told me it was a lot
easier to lead a horse across a stream than to drive him across and
he would then add that humans were a lot like horses. In other words
get out front and lead. I think the book is a powerful anti-war statement.
Any person with a heart and a brain cannot read of the horror of combat
without realizing that war is man's greatest burden. Oh that we could
but reason together and solve our differences. As long as we have
the "hunter-gatherer instincts to solve our differences with
force there seems little hope. I also think the book explains quite
nicely the loss of institutional memory that plagues our armed forces.
I flew combat missions off the USS Midway in 1967 and we had only
one officer in the squadron with combat experience from Korea. He
was invaluable in teaching the rest of us how to inflict maximum damage
with minimum risk. Had it not been for his knowledge we would have
been far less effective.
Those of us who have been in the military have all encountered the
phony baloney BSers that think only about their own advancement. Your
book brought back so many memories of those types which I met both
in the military and in civilian life as well.
Finally, the book provides a blue print for our war on terrorism.
These Muslim fundamentalists are a lot like Charley was. They are
dedicated, disciplined, smart, tough, and have a fervent religious
belief that terrorism can bring us down just as it appeared to have
brought the Soviet Union to its knees in Afghanistan.
Many thanks for an engaging and thought provoking book.
CDR USNR (Retired)
Author of "The Wisdom of Walter"
A book about life and mankind's problems.
Available at: http.//www.1stbooks.com/bookview/8492
I just wanted to write to you to firstly- "thank you" for
all your honor and service to this great country! It is truly men
like you that allow us to live in freedom. Secondly I wanted to thank
you as an author- I have been reading "Steel my soldiers hearts",
and have not been able to put it down- I have told other people that
I know would love it to pick it up also. I love your style of writing
and your style of leadership ! Finally; want to thank you and commend
you on your website- it is excellent and I find it very interesting.
Mr. Hackworth- thank you for helping make me appreciate freedom more
and to have the opportunity to share some of your knowledge ! Keep
up the great work !
I got a whole bunch (about 8) who want their copies autographed but
the book tour didn't get close enough for them to hook up with you.
I promised if we hooked up in LA or somewhere else I would bring them
As far as the content, EVERYONE (about 30+ people I know who bought
it and conversed with me about it) across the board enjoyed it, especially
the way it was written with so much insight from so many different
sources (medics, snipers, jr. officers, senior officers, flight guys,
etc.). They thought it showed a tremendous desire on your part to
tell the actual story as opposed to just your story.
thought it was a valuable lesson for today ie: Learn the way the
enemy plays the game, then become better at it than him and combine
it with our resources and technology to guarantee a victory. Third,
a valuable (but no one knows if it's learnable) lesson for senior
officers to not fuck with success. If the guy running the OP, whether
it's a NCO, a jr. officer, Brigade level, whatever, if he's getting
results LEAVE HIM THE FUCK ALONE. But few believe senior management
will learn that lesson because they need to show that they somehow
are responsible for whatever success occurs to advance their own
Only negative was some thought the cover was too subdued and didn't
"eye catch" enough on the shelf.
Hope that helps,
would be foolish to listen to either of these men (?). Scrowcroft
and Powell were the doves with elder Bush and part of the reason
we didn't finish Hussin off in the Gulf war.
As for Powell he was a political fast tracker in a uniform. You
should have one of your staff interview some of his troops he "commanded"
during his tours in Nam. One's I've talked to haven't had much good
to say. Words like bootlicker, ass kisser, coward are just a few
brought up, but off course they are ex-nco's like myself.
Your new book is great, bought five and handed them out to some
buddies of mine, they all liked it. I suggested to the Mobile Riverine
Force Association that they have you have a least a book signing
table at the last reunion. Received an e-mail back, They said it
caused a small fire storm, so I decided against going, and told
the president of the MRFA to take me off their rolls, that I couldn't
have association with people with no backbone. I saw the difference
in the battalion before and after your arrival. Bunch of hippy dope
smokers that slacked off every chance they could but a few months
later there sure was a change for the better after you implemented
bought your latest and it is better than advertised!! It will go
in my "must read" file for my two boys who I'm sure will
be fighting the "war on terror" after the Army has given
me the "heave-ho". I've only got a couple of others on
my list for the Combat Infantryman. You put yourself in the company
of "This Kind of War" and "Up Front". You see,
my Dad was in an I&R platoon in WWII as a young BAR gunner and
when I was commissioned as an Infantry LT he gave me those two books
and said that they were essential reading. I've since added "Blackhawk
Down," and now I've added your book. Oh, there are others out
there, but they don't hit you in the gut, and the heart the way
yours does, and fighting is visceral, it is not an academic exercise.
"Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" is "spot-on" as
my buddies in the SAS would say. Keep it up!!!
Just finished "Steel my Soldier's Hearts." As usual, another
great piece of work. I am envious of those who served under you.
You were - and continue to be - a leader...in the truest sense of
the word. Thanks for all you have done, are doing, and will do in
PS: We continue to highlight your site on our web site (http://www.kz106.com/armed.htm)
I was a new shake and bake E-5 11BP40 when I arrived in VN in 8/1968.
I was assigned to D/4/39inf. Hardcore. I served as a squad leader
at FSB Danger, FSB Moore and Cailai in the delta with the 9th Inf
Div. I found you to be the the soldiers commander, you looked after
us and lifted the moral of the BN. With your guidence we took the
battle to the enemy, we kicked butt. No other unit in the 9th had
the commardier that the 4/39th did. I Derose'd to Ft Hood in 69.
What a mickey mouse unit that was, the 2nd AD. After 9 months I
had one yr in my enlistment and volunteered to go back to VN. I
again arrived at the 90th replacment BN. I was assigned to Echo/Recon
3/506th. 101st Div. as a recon team leader. What I learned with
the 4/39th greatly enhanced my ability to lead a recon team. In
1988 I joined the army reserve as a nurse 0-3. I was assigned to
the 101st combat support hospital for Desert Storm, my foward surgical
team air assualted into Iraq to set up a MASH unit. Now my son is
a pfc in the 2/504th PIR at Ft. Bragg. They are going to the JRTC
at Ft. Polk next week for a month. On December 5th they are going
to Afghanistan for 8 months. My son is a avid reader and he will
have alot of down time and along C147 ride to Afghanistan. I would
like to purchase your latest book Steel my soldiers hearts. I would
like it to have it signed by you to him personally. How can I have
this done?? I also want to read it and will buy it because it involves
Doug Peterson, Cpt retired Hardcore
"Steel' Over block leave in July. Meant to write to you about
it sooner but have been very busy since. I think it is your best
effort to date!! The perspective was just right, just enough from
your view and just enough from the ground view. I particularly enjoyed
the Search and Attack blow by blow by the "Hardcore".
I have talked it up and several co workers have bought/read it and
have had good things to say. Great Job!! Most read for warriors.
Division Rifle Platoon Sgt
I was a soldier in the 25th Inf Div, III Corps, Jun 69 - Jun 70.
I completed reading your book, Steel My Soldiers Hearts. Thank you
for your efforts to cut through to the core issues and illuminate
the real problems that the ordinary soldier and it's officer's corps
was faced with coming to grips with ... in the mud, with the mosquitos,
and enough unfriendlies to allow anyone with a lightbulb upstairs
to know where they stood in the big macro.
I was in the enlisted ranks, and advanced in grade to move up through
the ranks to SSG in 13 months resulting from having gone to Nam
and being committed to actually do the job coupled with the Army's
need for me to be promoted so quickly. There were a host of others
who were whining about there circumstances instead of buckling down
to deal with the real world and pulling together as a unit...your
best defense and offense as applicable and necessary. It boils down
to one basic word ...commitment.
I do not know whether you will actually read this. It would be my
guess that this is being read by someone that is actually a part
of your staff with the number of e-mails you probably are receiving.
Even with this fact, I thought when I saw your e-mail address on
your worldnetdaily website that I'd actually step up to the plate
and say Thank You for you and your Units work both for your book
and what was done so many years in the past. I consider the work
that was done by those preceeding my arrival, helped cut down those
unfriendlies that would have been committed to knock us out.
I have done a fair amount amount of reading since I got back from
Nam and your note regarding Bernard Fall in your book added additional
credability to your work. It is my opinion that what transpired
during the Nam Era is as pertinent today as it was then regarding
the link to dealing with a Terrorist Group. It was an education
of sorts to find so many people who fail to measure up to the commitment
required to maintain Freedom. This is illuminated in your last two
chapters. The message in your last two chapters adequately bridges
the link from the past events to today's events and circumstances.
I am currently working as a Registered Professional Engineer for
the US Army Corps of Engineers. I did not start with the Corps until
'91. So all of us that served did not go down the tubes as is sometimes
portrayed by the media of the 70's and 80's. Another example of
this is properly noted in those you had the honor to serve with
as you have noted in your book.
Of those books I have had the opportunity to read on the Nam subject,
your up there with Bernard Fall. That's pretty fair company in my
Although I haven't read any other of your articles other than your
book, your treatment is credable enough to warrant checking in with
what you have written. Again Thank You for your work. America is
well served by this effort. Your work will outlast all of us here
today. America needs such wise thoughts to think about. There are
too few who are thinking about the real questions and issues facing
Lew Riggin, PE
25th Inf Div, Jun '69-Jun'70, SSG
I was delighted with your book, of course. It wasn't easy to come
by, here in Phoenix. I thought it the perfect birthday present (for
me, that is) and scouted it in Borders. Well hidden in the most
obscure corner of their Military History section. Same was true
when my wife actually bought it, at Barnes & Noble, where it
was catalogued entirely differently (and just as well camouflaged).
Two other points: first, thank you for writing dialogue in perfect
military pitch. That's exactly as we spoke, even (no, especially)
low-life AR grunts like me. Anything else would have been an edited
compromise. It took me back to the clipped, salty style I learned
and absorbed nowhere else. Thanks for the honest memories.
Second, and most important, I looked forward to your epilogue for
about 2/3 of the book only for one reason... to find out what eventually
happened to that pluperfect Dick, Col. Hunt. Would you mind, not
necessarily "for eyes only", publishing in some of your
SFTT notes (I'm grateful to be on your list) what eventually happened
to that miserable excuse. I know it will be, er..., abridged to
avoid dancing the "libel" dance, but I'd sure appreciate
knowing that "low lifes" like that eventually get theirs.
Thanks again for a wonderful read and, yet again, a great service.
Tom Rouse, Phoenix
Thanks for remembering the combat medic in "Steel My Soldier's
Hearts." As a fellow member of the Legion of Valor, twice wounded
combat medic, four times decorated for valor (1st Bn./ 5th Inf.)
I appreciate how you treat the drafted soldier, especially the medics
in this book. We were a crazy MOS but always the most decorated.
We did the job we were trained to do. Keep up the great work.
Bruce "Doc" Cotta
I am writing you for several reasons. First, I want to congratulate
you on the new book. I got a copy as soon as it was on the shelf
here in Portland and read it immediately (actually, I made them
remove it from the pallet in the backroom so I could have the first
one). I just want to tell you that your book has had the most profound
effect on me of anything I have read about Vietnam (of course, Doc
Holly's books are right up there). I just wish my dad hadn't died
right before you took over maybe things would have been different
for him. I wish I could come to New Orleans in November to have
you sign my book but I am fundraising for a trip to Vietnam in March
of 2003. I am traveling with Sons & Daughters, In Touch and
there are approximately 200 of us kids going to Vietnam to retrace
our fathers' final footsteps. The trip is $4,000 and so I have been
fundraising with veteran's groups, making hand-made cards, and have
had two fundraising yard sales. My half brother will be traveling
with me and acting as my photographer and emotional support during
the trip. I have been wanting to make this trip for over 10 years
and my dream is finally coming true. I am hoping that this trip
will bring me full circle in my healing and provide some closure
to the pain I have felt over the loss of my dad. I cannot wait to
experience the sights, smells, and sounds of Vietnam. We will be
arriving in Saigon and breaking up into color coded travel groups.
I will spend approximately 5 days south of Saigon touring Soc Trang,
Can Tho, My Tho, and Dong Tam. I have grid coordinates that Dan
Evans maped for me so I should be able to get close to the area
my dad died in. He was only a few miles out of Dong Tam providing
security when he was killed.
Secondly, I also wanted to tell you about a guy my dad served with,
Spec 4 Ezekiel Hernandez, who made approximately 2 hours of audio
tapes while in Vietnam serving with the 4/39. Hernandez was wounded
by the mine that killed my dad and lost his eye and suffered horrible
gut wounds that have left him disabled all these years. He and I
have formed a friendship over the past 7 or so years and he came
to my wedding in 1995. I have received the first of the two tapes
and to say the least it is very emotional. I thought you might be
interested in hearing what the guys were saying prior to your arrival.
The audio is so good that you can hear outgoing rounds and insects
on the recording. It is a wonderful piece of history. I am trying
to help the audio guy, who made the recordings for Hernandez, find
the families of some of these guys on the tape as some of them didn't
make it home. I will contact Dan Evans for assistance since he is
so good at locating people from the 4/39. If you are interested
in the tapes, I will get copies sent to you.
Thirdly, I just want to say thank you for being my hero and sharing
all your memories with those of us who were left behind.
Kristin L. Kidd (Daughter of PFC Francis C. Sollers - KIA 12/23/68)
I have just finished reading your excellent piece, "Steel My
Soldiers' Hearts". I could not put it down. It was like a powerful
magnet drawing me to it. There is definitely going to be another
re-reading shortly. The Vietnam War or "police action"(depending
whose opinion) is perhaps the low point in our valley of the twentieth
century. Yet, there is so much to be learned from it. Every droplet
of blood left in the rice paddies should remind us all what happens
when people that are clueless are left to run the "show".
Sadly, even in the military, politics and personal gains come first
for certain types of individuals. We have become a nation where
our leaders have shady pasts over their military service, where
political correctness has priority at the expense of human lives,
and where the need of one supercedes the need of the whole. I am
no better than any of these types of "leaders" I have
just mentioned. It makes me sad to think the greatest nation in
the world squanders away her assets. No, I do not refer to money
or materials(land of the big px). I refer to what has molded our
great nation and her leaders throughout our history. Loyalty, honor,
discipline, integrity, principle, ethics, readiness, pro-activeness,
and mission/goal orientated. How Bill Clinton ever became president
is beyond me. Bin Laden says he has Allah on his side, well, we
have God on ours. It would seem to me they are both one and the
same. Politics has never been one of my favorite subjects. It just
sounds like most politicians are always singing the same song, "blah,
bla, bla". Somewhere on our roadmap we made a left turn. We
need to turn right back on to that path which has always been the
envy of the rest of the world and their leaders. AND, if you are
one of those who is lacking in loyalty to the stars and stripes
then basically, get the HELL out and go back to that piss ass timbuktu
of a country you come from. Back to wearing 4th hand shoes, taken
away in the middle of the night cause you voted for the "other
guy", or beat up for not facing the east 3 times a day. God(or
the Supreme Being/Enmity you pray to) bless us all.
From March 1968 - March 1969 I worked as a general surgeon in Vinh
Long, not terribly far from Dong Tam. I was with a MILPHAP unitattached
to the MACV unit in Vinh Long. My main function was to take care of
Vietnamese civilians who got injured and to provide medical support
to the MACV team with whom I was living. I burned out on trauma surgery
and went into obstetrics and gynecology when I returned from Viet
Nam. I never really understood that war and I can't seem to forget
the tragedy and the faces of so many injured and killed women and
children and older people. I also can't forget the faces of so many
of our young kids who gave so much for something I am sure they never
understood either. Your book is excellent as it serves to remember
so many of our brave young people who lived and died in a horribly
difficult situation. I congratulate you for a well written book and
especially for your unselfish efforts in Viet Nam. Without your leadership
and dedication we would have certainly lost many more precious people.
Thanks for sharing your insights and this part of your life with us.
Sheldon R. Kushner, MD
I really liked your book, "Steal my Soldiers Hearts." I
purchased it for my husband and started reading it in the Books-a-million
coffee shop, during lunch the day I bought it. I became so interested
in it that I ended up reading it first. I am a woman, a mother of
three and have never been interested in war, or war movies or anything
like that. I would never have believed I would have read a book about
the Vietnam War, much less really, really, liked it. That's why I
am writing to you, I want you to know why I believe your book had
such an impact on me and gave me even more strength to get through
a really tough situation. Last August 18, 2001, our only son, was
injured at college, playing football. He sustained a spinal cord injury
that has left him paralyzed from his chest down. He was a freshman,
competing for a top spot and made a routine tackle and did not get
up. This has been so devastating and we are heartbroken as you could
imagine. However, we are very hopeful that some time in the future,
using stem cells or olfactory cells or who knows what kind of cells,
doctors will be able to cure his paralysis. We also believe that if
God so chooses he could heal our son at any time, and we pray that
Since we came home from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where Daniel
went for rehab after being stabilized, we have been involved, along
with several other well known, well organized groups, such as the
Christopher Reeve Foundation, the Miami Project and others in a letter
writing campaign to try and sway those senators that are not on board
to support Senate Bill S2439, proposed by Senators Hatch, Feinstein,
Kennedy, Harkin, Thrumon, and others. This bill would restrict cloning
for human reproductive reasons, but would not close the door on therapeutic
cloning, sometimes called SCNT (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer) and
would hopefully bring about, the possibility of countless cures to
be found for diseases that affect nerve tissue.
The reason I am telling you this is because, several times while reading
your book you said things that really struck my heart and I would
find myself saying, "Yes that's the spirit, never let the powers
that be keep you from doing what is right." I think that your
bravery and your commitment to keeping as many soldiers alive throughout
that whole ordeal really shined through in your writing of the story.
I feel sometimes like we are fighting a war and my brave soldiers
(my family) and I are never, ever, going to let the enemy defeat us
without an all out effort to keep this thing from destroying us. We
are a strong and loving family, dedicated to each other. I am so thankful
for that. I am also thankful for our faith in God to help us get through
this. Also, there have been countless friends and even strangers that
have supported us. I just wanted you to know, that I really, really,
enjoyed your book. You are very brave. A true soldier! Your book made
me feel very brave and very confident that even in the face of terrible
odds, victory can be found if you never, ever, ever, give up on each
I despise politicians, but I know that we can overcome their ignorance
if we keep on fighting and try to stay one step ahead of their political
constipation. I have no idea how you feel about this issue, but I
can almost bet if it means an end to human suffering you would not
be against it.
All my admiration for standing up for what you truly believe in!
Just finished reading your book, it's great. I am a deputy fire
chief in a large fire department in New Jersey located minutes from
Manhattan. I found your book to be both extremely interesting and
enlightening. The leadership techniques sprinkled throughout your
book and your website can be applied not only to the battlefield,
but to the fireground as well. I intend to put some of them to use
immediately. Reading your book from the point of view of a fire
ground commander brings out some great similarities of the army
and the fire department. It is all to easy to get complacent in
between the fires. It is all too easy for leaders to strive for
the promotion instead of looking out for their men. It is all too
easy to relax discipline, be a "nice guy officer" and
ease off on the training. Sound familiar?
Your book is a reminder to leaders, both in the armed services and
the fire department, to get back to the basics, get back to reality,
and to not forget the "mission".
Thanks for the education.
I was in the 9th Infantry Division the same time you were. I am
now reading your book Steel My Soldiers' Hearts. I have to say the
first few pages gave me goose bumps and that is difficult in Florida
when the weather is 90 degrees. The first three people you mention
in the book, LTG Ewell, COL Ira A. Hunt, and COL Spirito.
I do not know if you would remember me or not but on Thursdays when
all the Battalion Commanders were in from the field to attend LTG
Ewell's weekly staff briefing, I sometimes provided the security
portion of the briefing on Communications Security and the number
and type of violations that had been monitored by my troops.
You described COL Hunt to a T. I remember when he was the acting
commander of FSB Moore. I had to visit the TOC one day and he was
screaming on the radio to on of the Commanders in the field that
when he told him to release his aircraft, he meant for them to release
them. He was standing there in his razor harp fatigues and spit
I also remember during the weekly staff briefings COL Hunt would
get upset when the statistics were given out about how many medals
had been given out by all the other in country Divisions compared
to the 9th. One of his comments on day was the fact that he passed
a soldier walking along the streets at Don Tam and asked him what
unit he was from. I cannot remember what unit it was now but it
was an infantry unit. He asked the poor private how long he had
been in the 9th Division and his reply was about three months. Hunt's
response was, "Where is your CIB?" He was asking the S-1,
why the guy had not received his CIB yet.
As for LTG Ewell, I remember him well, he reminded me of some college
professor walking around the Div TOC with his ring binders in his
hand and looking more like a college professor, than a Division
Commander. You knew he was the Commander though.
I have not finished your book yet, but I remember the night of the
motor attack on FSB Moore, my unit, the 335th Radio Research Unit,
had a platoon in support of the Brigade on FSB Moore. I do not remember
who was the Platoon Leader when you were there but if it was Lt.
Robert Burns, he was outstanding. We had another Lt. though that
replaced him that was useless. He was a defrocked priest, but then
the Army took him. You may remember getting situation reports called
"Robert Burns." They were intelligence report that we
provided to the brigade that were SIGINT reports that we could not
sanitize but were intelligence reports gained through Signals Intelligence.
They usually came from radio intercept or airborne direction finding.
I can remember the Brigade S-2 telling the Bn S-2's that they had
a "Robert Burns" for them and that meant it was fairly
good Intel. We were all super secret at that time and could not
reveal the source. Thank goodness those days are behind us, or at
least I hope so.
As for COL Spirito, I can remember getting him out of bed at 2AM
to give him a Spot Report on one of his operations that I had intercepted
over a microwave and at the same time, my operator had intercepted
the same conversation over the land line. It was a call from someone
else you mentioned in your book, CPT Dickey, the commander of the
LRRP. He was using double talk on the telephone and through analysis
I was able to determine the exact location that the mission was
to take place. As you know the VC was very good at intercept and
I had no choice but to get COL Spirito up in the middle of the night
to tell him that one of the LRRPs missions had possible been compromised.
Since the LRRPs were his responsibility, the mission was canceled.
In 1972-1974 COL Spirito and I were stationed at SHAPE in Belgium.
He was the Commander of the Military Intelligence unit at SHAPE
and I was assigned to the Communication Security Section at the
International Headquarters, SHAPE. (CPT Jessie Johnson, you may
remember him as COL Johnson, from Desert Storm was my Company Commander,
he reminds me a lot of you, Hardcore Infantry.) COL Spirito must
have like the work I did in Vietnam because he wrote a very strong
supporting letter when I applied for Warrant Officer.
I have wanted to meet you and discuss old times but have never gotten
the chance. In 1989 I bought your book About Face, and could not
put it down. As we were both in the 9th Infantry Division at the
same time, I know exactly where I was the night they were lifting
you off at the 3d Surgical Hospital and the VC hit the ammo dump.
I was in my bunker because we had just came under attack. When the
ammo dump blew, I thought we had taken a direct hit in the company.
For 13 years I have carried some pictures of the day after that
I had printed for you, however, not knowing how to get in touch
with you I never mailed them to you. Now that I have an address,
I will look for them again and mail them to you. They are pictures
of the aftermath of the ammo dump being blown up and were taken
of the immediate area around the dump. I do not know if you knew
it or not but 17 soldiers were vaporized at the ammo dump that night.
The next day one of my troops intercepted a call to the 3d Surgical
Hospital and it was from someone that worked at the ammo dump stating
they had found a foot and could the doctor identify it. At that
time there was no DNA so all the doctor could tell the individual
was that all he could do was tell him that it was a foot, either
left or right and nothing more. No other body parts were ever found.
I guess that I will get to that part of the book later.
Enjoy seeing you on the TV from time to time. I am glad that someone
is telling it like it is.
Thanks for your time, hope that I have not bored you with my memories.
Edward V. Whitaker
Almost 33 years have passed since I was part of the 'The Herd'.
Serving with a gung ho, volunteer, select (our own Herd barracks
at Cam Ranh) outfit was a great experience, notwithstanding the
chickshit, and fit with family service in the Revolution, Tunisia,
Anzio, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan.
Looking back all these years, I realize that there are things about
Nam I will always carry with me but one that continues to hurt is
the memory of coming home to the World. I never realized the profound
impact of the rejection until Afghanistan. I am ashamed but admit
to being jealous at all the attention and praise for the troops.
As years passed, I had seldom mentioned Nam unless someone said
something particularly stupid. Feel no sadness for me because I
moved on. But feel great sadness for the many who were no longer
soldiers but no longer fit into the new culture. Sad because they
had so much to contribute.
Your book, "Steel .... ", hit the the U.S. military problem
right on, which is why I turned down OCS and a career. You are an
someone for whom I have great respect. It was a poignant moment
but lifted my spirits when I read the lines "thank you for
your brave service" you wrote in my copy. I know you write
similar words to everyone; what matters is you mean it. Most of
us never heard words of praise from our countrymen. And our friends
who did not come home, never heard them from anyone at all, passing
on forgotten except by their families.
Thank you for writing about your experiences and thank you for continuing
to be an advocate for the current warriors, as well as the forgotten
I just finished reading "Steel... My Soldiers Hearts"
I know this a public forum, but still I want to say thank for writing
it. My Dad was a 2 tour combat medic with the 82nd in Vietnam. I
served my entire 8 years with no combat thank God, but like you
he saw and did what most soldiers hope never needs being done. He
is dying now, and until just this summer he never spoke of his ordeals.
We both read your book together in the hospitable everyday. He talked
to me about the war for the first time in my 30+ years. He cried
for the first time in my recollection, and told me he still feels
guilty for his buddies who are gone. My dad is a proud Samoan who
always loved his country and 20 years service. He said he would
of liked to have served with men like you. No glamour speeches from
my old man, but I know you and many others that are here know what
he went through. I am proud of all vets, but mostly of my Dad, cuz
he is my hero. Thanks for the great book which we shared Colonel.
Joe Fiegaa Salanoa
Sgt. USA 11B/M
I have just finished reading Steel My Soldier's Hearts . I have
read all of you books and have followed your columns since the early
1990's. I just wanted to let you that, as a Police Officer, I have
used many of your ideas and adapted your tactics to fit our specific
needs. As the commander of a Street Crimes Unit, I used you as a
role model and sold my guys on sound tactics, strong discipline
and leadership by example. Our unit racked up well over 500 arrests
in almost two years and we became the studs of the P.D. The attitude
spread to other divisions who wanted to join in on the fun. Thanks
for the great job that you do. Your leadership and advice is universal
and will benefit anyone who listens.
Just finished "Steel!"
You have developed into a very compelling writer. I loved About
Face:. I was a "Brown Shoe" myself. My youngest brother,
I have three, served with you in the 39th. He was there before and
during your assignment, rotating home in July 69. Several times
I would call him while reading the book. "Is this as you remembered
it?", "Yes" was his usual response. Most vivid to
him was the srategy, stop marching into minefields that had no payback
for them. Early on the troops learned your message, train &
survive. I implore you, keep haunting the brass, it is so easy for
them to forget their real mission, function intellegently, forcefully
and SURVIVE doint it. Keep up the good work. My brother returned
safely, probably because of you. Thanks
M Franklin, VA
enjoyed the book and totally agree with your perspective. Having
a son in NROTC to receive his commission 1/04, I am very aware of
what's going on. Am a former 1LT, US Army Intelligence, released
from active duty 4/72. Did not serve in Vietnam. Let me know what
can be done besides trying to convince everyone I know that we need
more qualified military leaders.
This is one of the most exciting military-related books I have ever
read! I am completely enthralled! Keep up the great work!
Thank you for your splendid new book, "Steel My Soldiers' Heart."
It was moving, enlightening, maddening, and inspiring. I am writing
to thank you for your story and your service to our country.
I was an infantry officer in the First Infantry Division from 1971-1973.
At the time, the Big Red One was back within the safe confines of
Ft. Riley, Kansas. I can proudly say, we kept most of Manhattan,
and Junction City, Kansas safe for democracy.
One of your chapters of your book, that struck very close to home
for me was one of the last ones about "Green lieutenants."
I was certainly exhibit A, as far as that goes, and I fear I probably
erred on the side of wanting to be well-liked than a good leader.
Being an infantry officer is something I desired after taking ROTC
at the University of Dayton. My brother graduated from VMI and served
two tours in Vietnam, first in your old neighborhood of the Mekong,
as an advisor to the ARVN in 1967-68, and later as a company commander
with the 1st Air Cav in 1970-71. To paraphrase my favorite poem,
"Gunga Din," "he's a better man than I am.
I believe that my ROTC training and 9 weeks of Ft. Benning's Infantry
School prepared my for a body bag, and little more. I never felt
our training was adequate or thorough enough. Everything was done
once. We spend more time learning to drive a car, than how to lead
men into combat. As I mentioned, I volunteered to be in the infantry,
but at the time it was a branch that was a catch-all for those at
the lower end of military science classes. In other words, those
at the top chose their branches, and combat arms was not always
a priority except for the hardcore. So those with less aptitude
and leadership skills ended up in the infantry.
Believe me, I don't consider myself better than them by any means.
In ROTC, I knew my military history, and kept my brass nice and
shiney, but I don't think I was prepared to lead men into combat.
I feel fortunate that I did not have to do so in Vietnam. No soldier
should have died while I learned the ropes. I do greatly admire
those that did lead with honor and bravery. You and they are made
of stiffer mettle than me. Perhaps with more training, the essential
confidence that you speak so strongly about would have followed,
but we'll never know.
My father was in the O.S.S. during World War II, and he passed away
in 1996. My Mom can still visit Ft. Meade to shop at the commissary,
and I take her once a month. As we are stopped at the checkpoint
I thank the young men and women who serve today. Without a draft
the military is further removed from the fabric of our nation. Another
Rudyard Kipling poem comes to mind, "Tommy." I fear few
Americans know anyone in the service anymore, and few middle to
upper class citizens find themselves in uniform except as officers.
I'm not sure how healthy it is to always rely on some other person
to do our bidding for us.
Well, I've run on and on like a long winded briefing. Forgive me.
I do want to thank you again for your contribution to our country
and for writing your books. I also read "About Face" when
it first came out, and have "The Price of Honor," on my
I salute you, and fear in my heart that I might have been one of
those damn lieutenants you had to fire before I fucked things up
in your battalion.
a way of introduction: you called me at LTG Hank Emerson's request
(1989) while I was in the hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco
~ I never did follow up your very generous gesture with a thanks;
I hope you will accept this note as such.
While reading your latest, Steel My Soldier's Hearts, Ardant du
Picq's words kept haunting me: "A nation, democratically constituted,
is not organized from a military point of view. It is, therefore,
as against the other, in a state of unpreparedness for war."
Yes, we had the soldiers and the technology to fight the Viet Cong.
We lacked the Gunfighters and the Hardcore 6's to prosecute the
battles, for Patton's Summertime soldiers were in charge. From my
point of view everyone had their own idea on how this war was to
be prosecuted and dam few of them ever read Sun Tzu or walked in
thir their soldier's boots.
Another thought kept leaping at me: not only does man have thumbs
and four morte digits, which is supposed to separate man from the
rest of the animal world, he also has the ability to disseminate
information to follow on generations nationally and internationally.
This is not the case in Eisenhower's "military complex".
It appears that every leader has to make his mark in the annals
of military history. I have always followed one rule: "Lead,
follow, or get the hell out of the way", but lead while under
the wings of proven great leaders and fit their battlefield acumen
and coup d' oeil to the task at hand.
Thank you for this great text.
George W. Simmons, Jr.
CSM, US Army (Ret.)
I just finished SMSH and "had" to write to you and thank
you for several things. First, thank you for your dedicated service
to the protection of our country and for your selfless service to
your men. Secondly, thank you for being willing to put your experiences
on paper for us all to share and learn from. It must have taken
a lot of courage to go through the writing process, to re-live those
experiences and to re-visit those tragic losses. Lastly, thank you
for giving me some great guidance. It was no accident that I found
this book on the day that I did. I had been having some troubles
at home with my wife and had lost some of my focus as the leader
of my family. I had realized recently that my absentee father left
a lot to be desired in the "teaching and guidance" department.
(He's was a Navy man, Seabees in Okinawa, 1943-1945)...I am the
youngest of 5 children and had "slipped through the cracks"
in my family...when I picked up your book, I knew I had to read
it. I have always been fascinated with the Vietnam War and its many
paradoxes, and I knew I had to take the time to read this one. I
was right. Your book was not only about the events of the war, but
more importantly, it is about being a committed, responsible, caring,
dedicated and courageous leader. That is who I am committed to being
for FSB French.
You have made a huge difference in my life, if you can believe that.
Thank you and I wish you Godspeed.
Hardcore Recondo, Sir!
Sincerely and respectfully,
Richard T. French
You might remember me, we talked a few years ago while you were
still working for Newsweek. I was the 9th's public information officer
in Bearcat before you arrived to scare the hell out of my former
boss Ira Hunt. What a puke he was. I got along by avoiding him.
He was an ego-centered, put my name in print bastard. Oh, I can't
get started on him or I'll lose my train of thought.
I have begun writing, and have one novel published (Final Voyage
ISBN: 0-595-16605-9) which involves Navy seals. I have another with
a literary agent in California that deals with the Germans and Israelis
getting into a pissing contest in the Caribbean over some gold found
in a sunk U-boat full of gold bars taken from concentration camps.
A third is with a couple of agents that concerns a Hezbollah terrorist
that causes one of our nuclear reactors to melt down. So, you can
see I've been busy. What I am leading up to is the current project
I'm on that directly involves the 9th. I am writing a screenplay
called MEKONG. I want to tell the story of the poor GI in the delta
through the eyes of the combat journalist who went with him into
battle. It will have death, tragedy and gore mixed with humor, sex
and laughter. The purpose of my writing this story is a promise
I made to several young men in body bags over there 35 years ago.
Each time I crawled over a pile of dead VC, it didn't bother me
a bit. When I saw one of our brave young men in a body bag, I cried.
I promised them I would tell their story one day, and I now have
enough time lapse to follow through with my promise without having
nightmares. I don't know how your unit was covered by the PIO because
I had left before you arrived. However, when I was there, we had
a combat journalist assigned to each combat battalion. Of the 19
men in my section, we had 33 Purple Hearts. I picked up two myself.
I had battalion commanders look me up to shake my hand and tell
me how proud they were of my reporters with their unit. This was
because they were in the CO's back pocket and when the RTO got hit,
which was often, they were under orders to take over the radio and
stick with the battalion commander. They did so many times and as
a result, ended up being wounded. I am proud of those guys, so much
so we are having a reunion down here in Mississippi next July. I've
found almost all of them after 35 years, and two cried when they
heard my voice. One has totally gone hermit, living in a cabin without
electricity or running water in the mountains of Montana. He wouldn't
even discuss Vietnam with me. Another, who was stationed with Stars
and Stripes in Saigon, was a basket case, then after rehab, became
a physciatric nurse so he could help others in the VA hospital.
Funny story about Bruce McIllhency, they guy I had in Saigon. He's
the one who pulled the mayor into the canal and swam away with him
to protect him from assassination. The bastard later cursed Bruce
because his wounds got infected from the dirty water. He is also
he dude that shot the VC in the head while the camera caught him
in the square in Saigon. Bruce was in Saigon, although on my duty
roster, because the editor of Stars and Stripes came to me asking
for labor help. I told him I'd give him my most mature and best
writer ...if he would make sure the 9th was in the Stars and Stripes
every day, at least a photo if nothing else. Julian Ewell called
me in one day and said, "How the hell do you get us in the
Stars and Stripes so often? The other division commanders are bitching
to Westy about our news coverage. "Good management," was
my reply. He never knew the truth.
One of the opening scenes in my ACT I of my screen play portrays
me and Ed Bradly of CBS. He kept bugging me to take him into combat,
not show him some dead dicks after the battle. So, I found two young
helicopter pilots who hadn't started shaving yet and they volunteered
to do what I asked. "Sit us down between the good guys and
the bandits. I'll have the commander pop some smoke, you hover a
few seconds over the rice paddy, we'll unass the bird then you go."
Hell, they thought I was crazy. Anyway, I called CBS and Bradly
and two Vietnamese--a cameraman and a sound man, met me at Ton San
Nhut helipad. I took them into the delta to the battle underway.
We flew right into the crap flying around, hovered and I leaped
out and immediately sunk waist deep in mud and tit deep in water,
and I'm 6'3" tall. Bradly jumped and a RPG landed nearby and
he went under and stayed under. The two Vietnamese went under and
never came up because they were about to drown with all the heavy
equipmet. I pulled the two little guys with me and we made it to
the rice paddy dike and flattened our backs against the mud, with
the bad guys on the other side. I saw Bradly come up for air a couple
of times, then go back down. In short, he chewed me out for almost
getting him killed and ruining all his equipment. "Get me out
of this mess," he shouted. "Oh, I forgot to tell you.
We have to go out on a re-supply slick. Wounded need to be evacuate,
ammo and rations and water have to come in. Folks like us have last
prority." He bitched. "So when?" I smiled. "In
about three or four hours we should make it out." He looked
at me with a scowl. "You planned this whole thing, didn't you?"
I smiled again. "War's hell, ain't it." So, I am doing
a screenplay and of course, you and your battalion will be in several
sequences, I can assure you. I am even doing some script work that
will show Ira baby as a true asshole that eat ice cream. Ewell,
I will leave alone because I think he was trying, maybe a bit too
hard. There are some others, like the time I was ordered to write
up a Silver Star citation for departing ADC Fulton. "For what?"
I asked Hunt. "Make up something," was his reply. "Bullshit"
was my reply. "If he'd done half of what me and my people have
done, yeah, I'd do it. But riding around at 1.500 feet doesn't deserve
a damn Silver Star." I refused so he got one of my enlisted
men to do it without me knowing. What a piece of work he was. After
I left War College, after being promoted ahead of my peers to major
and LTC, I was on the 06 promotion list when I ran into a real three
star asshole in Fort Hood. He told me to do something and I told
him no. "You will be in trouble, and I'll get court martialed.
No, I won't do it general." He told me I couldn't talk to him
like that, and I told him his door was closed and his aide wasn't
present so I could say anything I wanted to. "So, get yourself
another public affairs oficer, I quit." I gave him a salute,
did an about face and went to my office. I packed up my desk, shook
hands with the sergeant major and left post. I never went back until
my discharge was approved. I gave so much and then found out the
whole thing was full of dumb, ass kissing politicians---not soldiers
who know how to fight and take care of their men.
So, keep your powder dry, Dave, and I'll be communicating with you
in the future, for sure. Good work on your last book "Steel
My Soldiers' Hearts" I really enjoyed it, especially your loving
comments about Ira. See ya,
just finshed reading your new book, "Steel My Soldiers Hearts"
and re-reading "About Face" along with General Harold
G. Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young." I
don't know if you have General Moore's book, but there a couple
of outstanding parts in the introduction that I though was very
appropriate and really struck a chord. If you have read the book,
then you don't need to read any further, if you have not read it
then you may find this of some interest.
were the children of the 1950's and John. F. Kennedy's young stalwarts
of the early 1960's. He told the world that Americans would "pay
and price, bear any burden, meet any hardship" in the defense
of freedom. We were the down payment on that costly contract, but
the man who signed it was not there when we fulfilled his promise.
John F. Kennedy waited for us on a hill in Arlington National Cemetary,
and in time we came by the thousands to fill those slopes with our
white marble markers and to ask on the murmur of the wind if that
was truly the future he had envisioned for us.
The class of 1965 came out of the old America, a nation that disappeared
forever in the smoke that billowed off the jungle battlegrounds
where we fought and bled. The country that sent us off to war was
not there to welcome us home. It no longer existed. We answered
the call of one President who was now dead; we followed the orders
of another who would be hounded from office, and haunted, by the
war he mismanaged so badly.
We knew what Vietnam had been like, and how we looked and acted
and talked and smelled. No one in America did. Hollywood got it
wrong every damned time, whetting twisted political knives on the
bones of our dead brothers." General Harold G. Moore (Ret.)
We Were Soldiers Once and Young
What a sacrifice you and all the other young men of America made
so many years ago and continue to make today. Thank you for all
that you have done and continue to do. And if you ever get a chance
to come to Arizona, I'll be sure and bring my books for you to sign.
That would really make them complete. And by the way, is the Vietnam
Primer available to the public and if so still in print? Amazon.com
only seems to be able to deal in used copies.
I have just completed your book and have to commend you on a job
well done. Being in the Army full time I definitely see the( political
correct bullshit Clinton started) you write about on a daily basis.
Senior leadership these days are not about taking care of the lowest
private but how the can manipulate the system so they can get ahead
and screw everybody in between.... A soldier once approached me
and asked who" I was talking to", I told him it was his
The soldier replyed "I have been in for 3 yrs and that is the
first time I have seen him" The CSM has been in the billet
for 5 yrs. GO FIGURE
Sorry I cannot spell my name out but you know what would happen
if I did I need to feed the kids not loose my JOB
"FORCE OF CHOICE"
read your awesome book and it was a real eye opener for me. I was
just a small child during the Vietnam war, but I remember the pain
my Aunt and Uncle endured when they got the notice that their only
child Andy had stepped on a land mine and died. I kept wondering
while I was reading your book if he was one of the "throwaways"
of your predecessor at the base camp. I now have a 12 year old son
and I can't imagine in a few years sending him off to a pre-determined
death like so many of our young men in previous wars, just to satisfy
a few generals egos. We need more leaders / bosses like you today
that won't abandon the ship before the crew even knows there's a
you send your only son into battle with the United States military
God Bless You!!!!
finished "Steel----" Hack and you got a winner...sorry that
it has taken 30 years to write this book but I am thankful I am around
to enjoy it...so many, many of my friends are not. Finally, we got
someone walking the walk and talking the talk.....Semper fi
your book recently and 'hate to put it down/hate to read it.
It's great and of course I'll continue reading to completion. It
doesn't help my insomnia much. So much in the book (about incompetent
or cowardly leaders, ticket punchers, etc.) reminds me of my impression
of the bulk of our officers. As good of an author as Steve Nolan
is, his command of the English language isn't as realistic as yours.Add
that to the fact that he wasn't "There" and your book
blows him out of the water. I was in B co. 1st Plt, 1st 327, 101st
as an infantry pointman in '69-'70. I wish you were the division
commander when I was there. We could have turned the A Shau into
an NVA cemetary and gone home early. I only spent two weeks in the
lowlands, the rest in the mountains. I stay tuned to Fox News channel
and enjoy your input. You are so real and down to earth, you seem
like one of us little people.
you find the time, go to http://screamingeagles-327thvietnam.com
and check out 'Night Moves' on the Stories page. That is one of
my several works that fits in well with the shoddy leadership we
had in that company. 1st Lt. Stephen Schultz was the only officer
that I knew personally and truly respected. That man saved a lot
of lives with his brains and balls.
Above the Rest Erick
Thanks for the quick response. Nice to see you read and respond
to people's e-mails.
On a different note, I read SMSH and loved it. I'm a Navy ship driver
(destroyers) and am currently assigned command of a Patrol Coastal,
so I admit that much of what you talked about does not have a direct
correlation to what I do. But, I can tell you that I think your
conclusions regarding the problem with inexperienced junior officers
in right on the mark. I've read and re-read that section, and I
plan on making your ideas in it part of my junior officer training
regimen when I go back to sea (my current tour is almost over).
Thanks again, Hack.
I was given your book "Steel My Soldiers Hearts" as a
commissioning gift from one of my buddies at school. It is honestly
one of the best gifts I have recieved. I loved your book and the
way you handled your troops. I especially liked the information
about new Lt's and the problems you had. Reading your book always
reminds me (along with my dad, an SF Col.) that one is not in the
Army to make friends but to get a job done. I always wonder how
I'll do but whenever I think about I think back to your book and
my fathers words. Now all I have to do is wait, I was commissioned
in May of this year but don't report to IOBC until January '03,
which I have just gotten moved up from March '03. I'm still trying
to get an earlier date though. Thanks for the tips and lessons learned
from new Lt's on how to be a more effective one.
began reading your book "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" while
I was attending the Infantry Mortar Leaders Course at Fort Benning,
GA. I had never heard of you before a Staff Sergeant at the course
recommended you, I am glad I listened. Your book really establishes
the importance of instilling discipline, and training the fundamentals
in a fighting platoon. I served 7 months as a tank platoon leader
before being chosen to become my battalion's Mortar Platoon Leader.
During my 7 months as tank platoon leader I studied the fundamentals
constantly: I read my manuals, read books written by great armored
leaders of the past century, and consulted the senior NCOs in my
company constantly. I tried to become the expert among 2nd Lieutenants.
I still made the oldest mistake in the book: I was my soldiers'
friend before I was their leader. I was too interested in what would
keep my soldiers happy, and not what would get them trained for
real world missions.
I couldn't be happier that I read your book during my time at IMLC.
I was about 3/4 finished with your book when I took over the Mortar
Platoon, and I already knew that I would have to become a new kind
of leader. I was lucky enough to come into a platoon at the very
beginning of a 6-month train up for the NTC, and I got to spend
my first week in the field with my platoon last week. With the help
of my Platoon Sergeant, and my Section Sergeant, we established
a standard that is well above what I had in my tank platoon. We
trained Mortar Skills for a solid week, and we trained them to the
standard. We lined up a solid week of ass kicking, balls to the
wall training that kicked all of our asses physically and mentally.
I've never been so smoked in my entire army career. I can't wait
to go to the field again and continue to raise the bar. I got rid
of "Train-to-Comfort" mentality. I will never be that
type of leader again. I'll be thankful for the rest of my days that
I didn't take a platoon to war before reading your book. I completely
agree with your theory that green lieutenants are the army's biggest
problem. It took me 3 months with my first platoon to learn enough
to be effective as a leader, and that was just the beginning.
I'm still a green 2nd Lieutenant with only 15 months in the army,
but you've educated me to my faults, and now I can work on fixing
them. Thank you. I will be recommending your book to all of my peers.
I'm going to read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War", then I intend
to read Rommel's "Attacks", Patton's "War as I Knew
It", and Sajer's "The Forgotten Soldier."
I can't thank you enough.
Morgan M Dugan
Thank you for writing Steel My Soldiers' Heart.
I was drafted in 1969 and served in Vietnam from June 69 through
August 70. I was a farm boy from Northern California and didn't
have a military mind. I think I was pretty typical of the draftees
of that time. I was stationed on top of FSB San Juan Hill I was
a gunner for 'B' Battery in the 6th /11th Artillery 12 miles west
of Duc Pho. We fired support for the 11th Light Infantry Brigade
(Jungle Warriors) Americal. During the last part of my tour we became
the "jump" gun that would support the infantry as they
pursued the enemy out of the AO. For many of us the war boiled down
to one thing, "go home alive and help our combat brothers do
the same". Your book helped me to gain some of the dignity
that the war had stolen from me. It wasn't until I read your book
did I understand the importance of our fire missions. We knew our
support saved our brother's lives. But it was your book that brought
out the magnitude of the terror of the firefights to which you and
the other grunts were subject. I now realize that many older American
men are alive today because of the lanyard of our 105s'. We were
very proud of the accuracy and speed of our gun. We had pride in
our individual gun sections. We worked hard keeping Charlie busy
so you guys in the bush could live another day. We may have hated
the war but we never slacked off when a fire mission came down.
I am so glad that you told of the intensity of the ground fighting.
Even the mismanagement of the operations and the screw ups that
are present in combat. These stories help to reinforce the gravity
of saving American lives in our nightmare called Vietnam. I can
only think of how different we all would have regarded the war if
we all were able to serve under a commander like you. The respect
and concern for your men comes out clear. It would have been an
honor to follow you into battle. Thank you again for the book.
Allan E. Shafer
you for your web page and your book, Steel My Soldiers Hearts, I
totally enjoyed the book and look forward to reading The Vietnam
Primer, if I can find it anywhere,?, And I purchased The Art of
War by Sun Tzu. I wish I had known about you an your web site long
ago.I saw you on the book and authors program and I heard you talk
briefly about the book and your background in the military. I am
a Viet Vet Army 69, 70, 71. I cried when I read your book. It opened
up a well of buried anguish I hadn't touched before. Obviously,
I am not the only one that has experienced that from reading your
book. I am amazed that there are people out there with your depth
of wisdom,wealth of proficiency in your craft,energy and drive,
and true love for your brothers. I can't really convey my admiration
and appreciation for your amazing gift to the rest of us of your
unselfish life. Thank you sir.
May God bless you and your family abundantly.
I just finished reading your latest book "Steel My Soldiers'
Hearts" and I have to tell you that it was one of the finest
books ever written about the Vietnam War. More importantly, your
techniques and your exceptional handling of your men in turning
around your command should be a textbook lesson for all future military
leaders. Presently I am a Police Officer in Buffalo, NY and would
only hope that your tried and true methods of leadership would permeate
down to our command structure since there are so many similarities
between soldiers and police officers. Your steadfastness and your
commitment to your men is one that all leaders should strive for.
Kudos on this great book and I will certainly be purchasing your
Allan Kasprzak, Buffalo, NY
Just wanted to send a quick note on how much I enjoyed Steel My
Soldier's Hearts. As a former regular Army officer serving in the
gulf war with the 82d, I could relate to some of the frustrations
you experienced with higher command. How many Ira Hunt's are their
in the Army? I was always amazed how a general could be blind to
the ass kissing careerists. Ruthless ticket punchers willing to
sacrifice everything, including troops, in their quest for stars.
It's almost like, once I make general, all those years of sleeping
in the woods and eating MRE's is finally going to pay off. I want
all those luxuries, with full bells and whistles. I remember assisting
my regimental commander put on his chute during a night jump at
Bragg. When I lifted his ruck to attach to the H harness, it weighed
about 2 lbs. He must have stuffed it with paper. My thought was,
which one of these guys is jumping your stuff, sir. As I looked
around green ramp at all the other troopers staggering around from
the weight of their equipment it made me ill. That officer is now
the commander of XVIII Airborne Corps, LTG Dan McNeil.
Another section of the book I loved, was your comments regarding
young lieutenant platoon leaders and their probable ineffectiveness.
I had to learn the hard way about not being everyone's buddy, but
instead being an enforcer, insuring standards are upheld. LT's in
training need to learn this, it's a natural reaction to wish to
get along, but that won't cut it in this occupation, the stakes
are too high.
Your book exemplified basic leadership principles, leading by example,
sharing of risks and hardships, etc. I hope this be required reading
for all military academy, ROTC, and OCS programs. Don't get me wrong,
I'm not a bitter veteran, quite the contrary, I love the Army and
hope some day it can shed the effects of bureaucracy and learn to
take care of it's warriors, officer and enlisted.
Keep up the good work sir, best wishes
book, one of the best for the era. We all had different experiences
and I relate (personally) to Lima -6, Camp/Hammel and I now have
a better understanding of later years and different service. I have
just ordered your other books and expect them to be as riveting.
Thank you and don t stop being a thorn in their side.
Bruce P. Watson
Awesome book. I read it cover to cover in three days. Please don't
make me wait 4 years for the next one. Keep up the good work. Our
great country needs more citizens/soldiers like you.
All the best,