One of the things General Hal Moore says about me in his book We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young is:
“. . . and very quiet. He spoke briefly and to the point.”
I will prove him right in my answer to the question: “What do you want people to remember about the Ia Drang valley battle?” Plain and simple: The brave men who fought there. In the space allotted to me in this brief memoir I cannot begin to describe their individual contributions and sacrifices. General Moore does a brilliant job of telling about that in his book—except in some isolated cases, the Hollywood movie version does not.
I took command of C Company in April 1964 and was in command at the time of the Ia Drang battle in November 1965. I had the rare privilege of training new soldiers for combat and then seeing them perform in battle. The unique circumstances under which the air mobile concept was tested insured that units stayed intact as much as possible, thus most of the men who were in the company in April 1964, deployed to Vietnam with it. It sounds corny, but we were family.
Who were these men?
Many of the NCOs had been with the company long before I joined it. About half a dozen had combat experience in Korea. The junior enlisted men were a mix of 19–20 year olds, some who had voluntarily enlisted and others who had been drafted.
The air mobile testing program was such that we spent far more time in the field on training exercises than most units. The pace of our training was up tempo and the men became accustomed to reacting quickly to last minute changes of mission to the extent that it became second nature. This proved critical when, upon landing in LZ X-Ray, the C Company mission was immediately changed from securing the landing zone to that of establishing a blocking position to the south and southwest. Had not the men reacted so quickly to the orders of their leaders, there would have been a very different outcome to the battle, for about 20 minutes after establishing a blocking position, we were attacked by a 200–to–300 man enemy force driving straight toward the landing zone. Our success in defeating this attack and the subsequent performance of the company is detailed in General Moore’s book.
The men of C Company (for that matter the entire battalion) remain a close knit family. We meet annually to remember those we lost and to relive for a brief time the happier times we spent together. But come mid November of each year, I always keep the memory of those men foremost in my thoughts.