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Excerpt

We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang --- the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam

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Chapter One

The
small bloody hole in the ground that was Captain Bob Edwards's
Charlie Company command post was crowded with men. Sergeant Hermon
R. Hostuttler, twenty-five, from Terra Alta, West Virginia, lay
crumpled in the red dirt, dead from an AK-47 round through his
throat. Specialist 4 Ernest E. Paolone of Chicago, the radio
operator, crouched low, bleeding from a shrapnel wound in his left
forearm. Sergeant James P. Castleberry, the artillery forward
observer, and his radio operator, PFC Ervin L. Brown, Jr., hunkered
down beside Paolone. Captain Edwards had a bullet hole in his left
shoulder and armpit, and was slumped in a contorted sitting
position, unable to move and losing blood. He was holding his radio
handset to his ear with his one good arm. A North Vietnamese
machine gunner atop a huge termite hill no more than thirty feet
away had them all in his sights.

"We lay there watching bullets kick dirt off the small parapet
around the edge of the hole," Edwards recalls. "I didn't know how
badly I had been hurt, only that I couldn't stand up, couldn't do
very much. The two platoon leaders Ihad radio contact with,
Lieutenant William W. Franklin on my right and Lieutenant James L.
Lane on Franklin's right, continued to report receiving fire, but
had not been penetrated. I knew that my other two platoons were in
bad shape and the enemy had penetrated to within hand-grenade
rangeof my command post."

The furious assault by more than five hundred North Vietnamese
regulars had slammed directly into two of Captain Edwards's
platoons, a thin line of fifty Cavalry troopers who were all that
stood between the enemy and my battalion command post, situated in
a clump of trees in Landing Zone X-Ray, la Drang Valley, in the
Central Highlands of South Vietnam, early on November 15,
1965.

America had drifted slowly but inexorably into war in this far-off
place. Until now the dying, on our side at least, had been by ones
and twos during the "adviser era" just ended, then by fours and
fives as the U.S. Marines took the field earlier this year. Now the
dying had begun in earnest, in wholesale lots, here in this eerie
forested valley beneath the 2,401-foot-high crest of the Chu Pong
massif, which wandered ten miles back into Cambodia. The newly
arrived 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) had already interfered
with and changed North Vietnamese brigadier general Chu Huy Man's
audacious plans to seize the Central Highlands. Now his goal was to
draw the Americans into battle -- to learn how they fought and
teach his men how to kill them.

One understrength battalion had the temerity to land by helicopter
right in the heart of General Man's base camp, a historic sanctuary
so far from any road that neither the French nor the South
Vietnamese army had ever risked penetrating it in the preceding
twenty years. My battalion, the 450-man 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry
of the U.S. Army, had come looking for trouble in the la Drang; we
had found all we wanted and more. Two regiments of regulars of the
People's Army of Vietnain (PAVW) -- more than two thousand men --
were resting and regrouping in their sanctuary near here and
preparing to resume combat operations, when we dropped in oil them
the day before. General Man's commanders reacted with speed and
fury, and now we were fighting for our lives.

One of Captain Edwards's men, Specialist 4 Arthur Viera, remembers
every second of Charlie Company's agony that morning. "The gunfire
was very loud. We were getting overrun on the right side. The
lieutenant [Neil A. Kroger, twenty-four, a native of Oak Park,
Illinois] came up in the open in all this. I thought that was
pretty good. He yelled at me. I got up to hear him. He hollered at
me to help cover the left sector."

Viera adds, "I ran over to him and by the time I got there he was
dead. He had lasted a half-hour. I knelt beside him, took off his
dog tags, and put them in my shirt pocket. I went back to firing my
M-79 grenade launcher and got shot in my right elbow. The M-79 went
flying and I was knocked down and fell back over the lieutenant. I
had my .45 and fired it with my left hand. Then I got hit in the
neck and the bullet went right through. Now I couldn't talk or make
a sound.

I got up and tried to take charge, and was shot a third time. That
one blew up my right leg and put me down. It went in my leg above
the ankle, traveled up, came back out, then went into my groin and
ended up in my back, close to my spine. Just then two stick
grenades blew up right over me and tore up both my legs. I reached
down with my left hand and touched grenade fragments on my left leg
and it felt like I had touched a red-hot poker. My hand just
sizzled."

When Bob Edwards was hit he radioed for his executive officer,
Lieutenant John Arrington, a twenty-three-year-old South Carolinian
who was over at the battalion command post rounding up supplies, to
come forward and take command of Charlie Company. Edwards says,
"Arrington made it to my command post and, after a few moments of
talking to me while lying down at the edge of the foxhole, was also
hit and wounded. He was worried that he had been hurt pretty bad
and told me to be sure and tell his wife that he loved her. I
thought: 'Doesn't he know I'm badly wounded, too?' He was hit in
the arm and the bullet passed into his chest and grazed a lung. He
was in pain, suffering silently. He also caught some shrapnel from
an M-79 that the North Vietnamese had apparently captured and were
firing into the trees above us"

Excerpted from WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE...AND YOUNG ©
Copyright 2002 by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L.
Galloway. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins. All rights
reserved.

We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang --- the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
by by Harold G. Moore

  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch
  • ISBN-10: 0060506989
  • ISBN-13: 9780060506988