They Were Soldiers Once by Joseph L. Galloway and Marvin J. Wolf

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Former Vietnam War correspondents Joseph L. Galloway and Marvin J. Wolf have combined forces to write a book with a little-traveled approach to telling the stories of those who took part in that war. They Were Soldiers Once: The Sacrifices and Contributions of Our Vietnam Veterans (Thomas Nelson Books, 416 pp. $34.99, hardcover and audio book; $14.99, Kindle) includes the in-country experiences of 49 people who took part in the war, but also delves into what those men and women have done with their lives since then. That is the most captivating factor of this book

Galloway was a United Press International combat correspondent in Vietnam. He’s best known for his collaboration with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore on the book We Were Soldiers Once… and Young. Galloway is also known for putting down his camera, picking up a rifle, and helping fight off the NVA during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965—and for receiving the Bronze Star for that courageous act.

Co-author Wolf served as the Public Information Officer for the 1st Air Cavalry at An Khe. Among a plethora of other books, Wolf co-wrote Buddha’s Child: My Fight to Save Vietnam with the Nguyen Cao Ky, the controversial former South Vietnamese prime minster, and Abandoned in Hell: The Fight to Save Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, with the hero of that fight, William Albracht.

They Were Soldiers has an obligatory A-list of Vietnam War veterans filling its pages. Among them are former Army nurse Diane Carlson Evans, the founder of the Vietnam Womens Memorial; film director Oliver Stone; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell; and Sen. Max Cleland.

What makes this even more worth the read, though, are the profiles of lesser-known veterans. People such as Paul Longgrear, a Baptist pastor, who said of his service in Vietnam: “I really didn’t mind going. I wanted to see the world. I was pretty wild at that time. Really wild, to be honest.”

Burbank, California resident, Don Ray, a permanent fixture at veterans’ events in that city, is another fascinating addition to the book. Ray was a dog handler stationed near the Cambodian border was attached to the Soc Trang Civil Action Group. “When the Sergeant in charge of the unit and the veterinarian were both arrested for black-marketeering, he suddenly found himself in the role of the detachment’s acting veterinarian technician,” Galloway and Wolf write. After the war, Ray’s passion for research led him to a career in broadcast journalism at KNBC-TV in Burbank.

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Joe Galloway

In addition to those who donned the uniform in Vietnam, others people profiled in the book served in civilian capacities. The International Voluntary Services (IVS), erroneously thought to be an arm of the CIA at one point, sent people to Indochina to counter communism in a nonviolent way.

Retired North Carolina State University English Professor and poet John Balaban, a pacifist who struggled with his draft board, as recounted in his book Remembering Heaven’s Face, telling them, “If you don’t believe me, send me to Vietnam.” They did. Balaban, another very appropriate addition to They Were Soldiers, served with IVS as an English professor at Can Tho University. But being a pacifist did not preclude him from experiencing the Vietnam War’s death and destruction.

Vietnam veterans have suffered the indignities of being labeled the first to lose a war, drug abusers, baby killers, and the like. Many a Hollywood film and TV shamefully added to that erroneous image. The truth is that an overwhelming majority of Vietnam War veterans, much like their World War II veteran parents, came home from their tours, fit back into their communities, went to college or back to work, married, had children, and continue to make the USA the great country it is today.

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Marvin Wolf

Joe Galloway and Marvin Wolf’s They Were Soldiers goes a long way to illustrate that. Their book will greatly enhance the libraries of Vietnam War veterans, students of the war, journalists who reported on it, as well as J School students of today.

–Marc Phillip Yablonka

The reviewer is a journalist and the author of Vietnam Bao Chi: Warriors of Word and Film, His web site is warstoriespress.com

Hal Moore by Mike Guardia

Mike Guardia’s Hal Moore: A Soldier Once… And Always (Casemate, 229 pp., $32.95) is a concise, admiring biography of retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore. That is at should be, as there is a lot to admire about Hal Moore, who is best known for his outstanding leadership during the 1965 Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.

Author Mike Guardia, an active-duty Army officer and author (American Guerrilla, Shadow Commander), concentrates on Moore’s military career, beginning with his graduation from West Point in 1945 and highlighting his infantry service in the Korean War and in Vietnam.

Moore’s Vietnam War story has been told before, primarily in the two books he wrote with former Vietnam War correspondent Joe Galloway: the classic memoir We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, (1992), and We Are Soldiers Still (2008), the sequel that tells the back story of the battle and a 1993 TV documentary that brought Moore and Galloway back to the battlefield.

Mike Guardia

As we wrote in our review in print edition of The VVA Veteran: “Told in Moore’s strong first-person voice, this readable narrative goes over the basics of the November 1965 actions at Landing Zones X-Ray and Albany, the fiercest components of the 34-day Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

“Moore, then a lieutenant colonel, showed exceptional courage and leadership as he saved his under-strength battalion from certain obliteration under a withering attack from a 2,000-man North Vietnamese Army regiment. Galloway, a UPI reporter, had a front-row seat for the vicious fight that lasted almost three days.

“In their new book, Moore and Galloway present revealing portraits of two former enemy commanders, Gens. Nguyen Huu An and Chu Huy Man, whom the authors met—and bonded with—in Vietnam nearly three decades after the battle.

“This book (along with its prequel and the Randall Wallace Hollywood film We Were Soldiers) proves that Hal Moore is an exceptionally thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, and courageous leader of men. He was one of a handful of Army officers who studied the history of the Vietnam wars before he arrived. Since the war ended, he has been a strong voice for reconciliation and for honoring the sacrifices of the men with whom he served.”

Guardia leans heavily on the two books in his account of Moore’s life, along with interviews he conducted with his ninety-year-old subject, with members of his family, and with veterans who served with him.

—Marc Leepson