Lisa's Reviews > We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam

We Were Soldiers Once...and Young by Harold G. Moore
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May 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: classic, biography, history, leadership, memoir, military, political, vietnam-war, a-list-my-ten-favorite-books-as-o
Read in April, 2011

Every time I read a book about a war, or a battle, or a military conflict which is written by someone who experienced the conflict first hand (AKA a combat veteran,) I feel the need to explain something before I begin my review. I have found that when a veteran of combat writes a book about a particular battle or incident, that they write from their perspective (AKA the rank they held) at the time as opposed to their current rank or status. Sometimes, they may add some more recently acquired wisdom, but for the most part they only know how they thought and felt and acted within the role that they held at that time. Therefore, if I refer to Hal Moore as a Lieutenant Colonel and not as a general, it is for this reason.
Based on the above statement, I should state that for whatever reason, ignorance or stupidity or whatever, I have found that usually, I only understand War from a "Platoon or Company perspective." I have read, understood, appreciated and loved multiple books by Lieutenants, Sergeants, and even Captains, but I have a much more difficult time understanding higher ranking officers or larger military units. This book definitely fit that pattern at times. Colonel Moore described the battlefield, the perimeter, the strategy, the communication process, and administrative things in a way that sometimes left me flicking at my lips with my pointer finger. Frequently he went off on an LTC tangent which he would explain better in a subsequent chapter. Luckily for me, much of the story was told in short narratives by battle survivors. I really understood and enjoyed reading about small group interactions such as the experiences of the lost platoon or interactions that occurred in foxholes. I got a little lost when I read about the placement of companies around a perimeter, reserve units, command post operations, air strikes, artillery, and machine gun activity. Luckily he included maps. I did enjoy the tidbits of leadership insight despite the fact that I will never use them.
I'd like to add here that I have a personal fondness for battle maps. Any maps will do really. Squiggly lines and arrows drawn hastily on a napkin are fine with me. I HATE books which attempt to explain a battle without providing any kind of visual clues whatsoever. Because frankly, verbal descriptions of "flanking manuevers, columns, and patrol formations" are pretty meaningless to me. Is the left flank on our left, or the enemies left? LOL. I guess I'm not really the target audience, anyway. I gave the book 5 stars because it is a classic and really quite wonderful despite my inadequacy as a reader.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Francis (new)

Francis Cook Not a word about the valiant ARVN soldiers and their superior leadership though. The americans, if they'd not been encumbered by Westmoreland, should have followed the French army's example and realised you cannot win a war of occupation without the consent of the population. I wish there were more translations of books from the Vietnamese point of view. Might spoil the narrative for West Point somewhat.


Lisa The sequel "We Are Soldiers Still" went into the Vietnamese perspective quite a bit. Hal Moore developed significant liberal leanings. While this book was more tactical in nature, the sequel is more political and introspective. You may like it.


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