Steel My Soldiers' Hearts Feedback

Comments from Grunts:

Hardcore Recondo Sir,

I 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 in.

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.


Robert Cotton


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 knee.

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 thank you.

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

Jeff Pace
US Army


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.

Very Respectfully,

CPT(P), Armor

Col. Hackworth,

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

Semper Fi,

Russ Peaden
Major, USMCR
Richmond, VA

Dear Col.,

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 together.

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 lady.

I am glad that things appear to have gone well for you. Thank you for helping keep me alive. I salute you again.

Hardcore Recondo
Spec. 4
Harvey Sweeney

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.

Colonel Hackworth.

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.

Most important….. Keep promoting your techniques on how to engage our new enemies.

Tim Blair

PS: Looking forward to reading more of your work.

I'm 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 your book.

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 guilty secret.

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.

Frank Brokaw
3rd. Bt. 8th Inf. 4th Infantry Div. 1969-70.

Col. 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

I 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,

Jamie Alban.


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.

HCR Mike


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!

Two thoughts:

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

Dear Col. Hack,

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.

Kind Regards,

Jorge Rioseco

Good day Sir.

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 outstanding!

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.

Bruce Mitchell.

Dear Col. Hackworth:

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


best 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.

Sgt Ray
Elie US Army vietnam 1967-1968

Dear David,

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.


Kenneth E. Mifflin


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.

Thanks again,
D 3/3 Stay Alert Stay Alive
SGM (RET) Norm Breece

Dear 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 ordered.

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 you, sir.

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

Col Hackworth,

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)

Dear Colonel Hackworth,

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.

Jim Glendenning
CDR USNR (Retired)
Author of "The Wisdom of Walter"
A book about life and mankind's problems.
Available at: http.//


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 !

Bruno Giannini

First, 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 to you.

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.

Secondly, all 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 careers.

Only negative was some thought the cover was too subdued and didn't "eye catch" enough on the shelf.

Hope that helps,


One 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 your changes.


Ken Wood
USA ret


Just 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 the truest sense of the word. Thanks for all you have done, are doing, and will do in the future.
Drive on,


PS: We continue to highlight your site on our web site (

Dear Col Hackworth,

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 the 4/39th.

Doug Peterson, Cpt retired Hardcore

Read "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.

10th Division Rifle Platoon Sgt

Col David Hackworth,

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 book.

Best Wishes.

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 us today.

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.

God Bless

Bruce "Doc" Cotta
Middletown, RI

Dear Col. Hackworth

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.

Colonel Hackworth:

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

Dear Colonel Hackworth:

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 he will.

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 other.

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!


Tammy Carter

Dear Colnel Hackworth,

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.

Brion McEldowney

Morning COL Hackworth,

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 shined boots.

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
CW3, Retired
"Old Reliable"

Dear Hack,

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 generation.

Yours Truly,

Chris Clark
Houston, Texas

Dear Sir,

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.

Best Wishes,

Lt. J.K.
New Jersey

Dear Hack,

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

John M Franklin, VA

Really 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.

Peter Welles

Dear Col. Hackworth,

This is one of the most exciting military-related books I have ever
read! I am completely enthralled! Keep up the great work!

Carol B.

Colonel Hackworth,

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 shelf.

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.

Thank you.
Mike Gesker

In 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.)

Dear Colonel,

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

Hi Dave:

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,

Ray Funderburk

Dear Colonel Hackworth,

I've 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.

"We 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? only seems to be able to deal in used copies.


Bill Carnell


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 STATE CSM.....

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


Colonel Hackworth -

I 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 problem.

Would you send your only son into battle with the United States military today?

God Bless You!!!!

Dianne in Dallas

Just 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 many, many of my friends are not. Finally, we got someone walking the walk and talking the talk.....Semper fi

William T. White
Colonel (ret'd) USMC

Got 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.

If you find the time, go to 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.

V/r Hank


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.

Adam Paxton
2nd Lt
Annandale, VA

I 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

Dear Colonel Hackworth,

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

Thank 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.

Bill Mandel

Mr. Hackworth:

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 other tomes.


Allan Kasprzak, Buffalo, NY

COL Hackworth,

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

Tyler McGlasson

Great 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

Dear Hack,

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,

Nels Hefty