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Steel My Soldiers' Hearts - Col. David Hackworth

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Without a doubt, Col. David Hackworth was one of the greatest field commanders of the Vietnam War. When he inherited the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry (assigned to the 9th Infantry Division), they were considered the worst battalion based on their near 40% casualty rate -- this without ever engaging a main body enemy force. Morale and discipline were at an all time low for the battalion. Col. Hackworth transformed this hopeless battalion into the Hardcore Recondos by re-instilling the basics of military discipline and leadership throughout his troops, and by dampening the micro-managing style of the higher brass. He realized that his mission was not to please his superiors with ever increasing enemy body counts but to keep his men alive and healthy so that they could survive the war together -- "Stay Alert - Stay Alive". His mission was to out-guerrilla the Viet Cong guerrillas on their own turf and bring the fight to the enemy -- unfortunately, to do that, the 4/39th would have to venture deep into the hellish bog of the Mekong Delta.

 

The autobiographical book "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" takes you through the transformation of this battalion while fighting an unseen enemy in one of the most challenging environments on earth for the foot soldier.

 

Copyright 2002; ISBN 0-7432-4613-6

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I've got the Purple Heart of a kid mentioned in the book- Larry E. Bailey. Bailey wasn't in Hack's battalion, but was in a company opconned to him, A/6/31st Inf. Bailey was KIA on 24 March 69, and was awarded the Silver Star that day. I've talked to quite a few members of Bailey's company and none of them were fans of Hack.


Judges 1:19- And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

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Dwight

 

I don't think his own men were fans of him during his early days, let alone those opconned to him temporarily. He was a hard sweetheart but he showed results and kept the majority of his men alive.


 

 

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It's unusual for us to have patches or insignia here in the Book Report Section but this patch applies directly to Hackworth's group of Hardcore Recondos.

 

I'm always looking for duplicates of this patch or any other 4/39th designed insignia from Vietnam.

Hackworth_39_3.jpg


 

 

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RP

 

Dunno why, but could not reach the article thru that link.

 

VERY interested in anything having to do with Hack.


HONORING FAMILY LtCol Wm Russell (1679-1757) VA Mil; Pvt Zachariah McKay (1714-97) Frederick VA Mil; BrigGen Evan Shelby, Jr (1719-94) VA Mil; Pvt Vincent Hobbs (1722-1808) Wythe VA Mil; Pvt Hugh Alexander (1724-77); Lt John R. Litton (1726-1804); Bvt BrigGen/Col Wm W. Russell (1735-93) 5th VA Rgmt; Lt James Scott (1736-1817); Capt John Murray, Sr (1747-1833); Capt John Sehorn, Sr (1748-1831) VA Mil; Pvt Corbin Lane (1750-1816) Franklin/TN Mil; Cpl Jesse D. Reynolds (1750-1836) 5th VA Rgmt; Capt. Solomon C. Litton (1751-1844); 1Lt Christopher Casey (1754-1840) SC Mil; Pvt Mark Adams (1755-1828); Pvt Randolph White (1755-1831) Bailey's Co. VA Rgmt; Capt. John R. Russell (1758-1838); Pvt Joseph T. Cooley (1767-1826) Fort Hempstead Mil; Pvt Thomas Barron (1776-1863) 1812; Capt. John Baumgardner (1787-1853) VA Mil; Pvt Joel Estep (1828-1864) Co B 5th KY Inf CSA & US; Pvt George B. Bell (1833-1910) Co C 47th IL Inf US; Cpl Daniel H. Barron (1838-1910) Co B 19th TN Rgmt Inf CSA; Capt Richard K. Kaufman (1908-1946) 7th PRG/3rd AF CCU; T-5 Vernon L. Bell (1926-95) 1802nd Spec Rgmt; PO2 Murray J. Heichman (1932-2019) HQSB/MCRD; PFC Jess Long (1934-2017) US Army; PFC Donald W. Johnson (1931-) 43rd ID HQ; A1C Keith W. Bell (1931-2011) 314th TCW; A3C Michael S. Bell (1946-) 3346th CMS; A1C Sam W. Lee (1954-2017) 2d BW; AW3 Keith J. Price (1975-) VP-10; 1Lt Matthew Wm Bell (1985-) 82nd Abn/SOC








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Thanks RP, that works now.

 

Well worth reading, may I say.

 

I bookmarked it.


HONORING FAMILY LtCol Wm Russell (1679-1757) VA Mil; Pvt Zachariah McKay (1714-97) Frederick VA Mil; BrigGen Evan Shelby, Jr (1719-94) VA Mil; Pvt Vincent Hobbs (1722-1808) Wythe VA Mil; Pvt Hugh Alexander (1724-77); Lt John R. Litton (1726-1804); Bvt BrigGen/Col Wm W. Russell (1735-93) 5th VA Rgmt; Lt James Scott (1736-1817); Capt John Murray, Sr (1747-1833); Capt John Sehorn, Sr (1748-1831) VA Mil; Pvt Corbin Lane (1750-1816) Franklin/TN Mil; Cpl Jesse D. Reynolds (1750-1836) 5th VA Rgmt; Capt. Solomon C. Litton (1751-1844); 1Lt Christopher Casey (1754-1840) SC Mil; Pvt Mark Adams (1755-1828); Pvt Randolph White (1755-1831) Bailey's Co. VA Rgmt; Capt. John R. Russell (1758-1838); Pvt Joseph T. Cooley (1767-1826) Fort Hempstead Mil; Pvt Thomas Barron (1776-1863) 1812; Capt. John Baumgardner (1787-1853) VA Mil; Pvt Joel Estep (1828-1864) Co B 5th KY Inf CSA & US; Pvt George B. Bell (1833-1910) Co C 47th IL Inf US; Cpl Daniel H. Barron (1838-1910) Co B 19th TN Rgmt Inf CSA; Capt Richard K. Kaufman (1908-1946) 7th PRG/3rd AF CCU; T-5 Vernon L. Bell (1926-95) 1802nd Spec Rgmt; PO2 Murray J. Heichman (1932-2019) HQSB/MCRD; PFC Jess Long (1934-2017) US Army; PFC Donald W. Johnson (1931-) 43rd ID HQ; A1C Keith W. Bell (1931-2011) 314th TCW; A3C Michael S. Bell (1946-) 3346th CMS; A1C Sam W. Lee (1954-2017) 2d BW; AW3 Keith J. Price (1975-) VP-10; 1Lt Matthew Wm Bell (1985-) 82nd Abn/SOC








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This is an excellent book, that I have read 2 or 3 times since I have had it. If you like this book, his other books especially "About Face" which is about his entire career is another excellent book. His service in Korea was amazing, especially with his creation of the "Wolfhound Raiders". I wish I could find more info out there on the raiders, but his book tells it how it was. He created them and also let them until the end when they were almost wiped out.

 

Anyway, if you like Steel my Soldiers Hearts, then you will love About Face, Col. Hackworth sounded like an amazing soldier, starting from buck private and working his way up to full bird. Unfortunately he passed a few years ago in Australia.

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Dwight

 

I don't think his own men were fans of him during his early days, let alone those opconned to him temporarily. He was a hard a$$, but he showed results and kept the majority of his men alive.

Sorry for taking so long to reply, I just noticed the thread again.

 

The problem the guys from A/6/31st Inf had with Hack was their role in the action on 23-24 March 69 bore little resemblance to that described in "Steel My Soldiers Hearts." In "About Face," Hack wrote that A/6/31 had "acted like total pros." By the time "Steel" rolled around, that description changed from "total pros" into "blundered into a mine field."

 

In my conversations with surviving A Company troopers, which was supported by radio logs from NARA, Hackworth ordered them into an LZ that hadn't been scouted over the objections of the Company CO and the "minefield" was actually a bunker complex. The company took very heavy casualties getting out of the bunker complex and because of that was late to block the fleeing NVA force. They feel to this day, that they took unnecessarily heavy casualties and that they were slighted by Hackworth to cover up his poor decision.


Judges 1:19- And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

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For another view on Col. Hackworth and his actions in Vietnam see the (new) link below:

 

http://www.vietnam6bn31inf.com/southwest_o..._support_ba.htm

 

At the above link you will find an article correcting chapter 7 of

Hacks book "steel my soldiers hearts".

 

Thanks for posting the link RR. On The cover of the chap 7 correction are pictures of then Lt Robert Hill (standing) and Warren Lizzote steping from the water. the The photos used were mostly from Echo co throughout the article. our 6/31st Echo co became Echo 75th rangers

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Sorry for taking so long to reply, I just noticed the thread again.

 

The problem the guys from A/6/31st Inf had with Hack was their role in the action on 23-24 March 69 bore little resemblance to that described in "Steel My Soldiers Hearts." In "About Face," Hack wrote that A/6/31 had "acted like total pros." By the time "Steel" rolled around, that description changed from "total pros" into "blundered into a mine field."

 

In my conversations with surviving A Company troopers, which was supported by radio logs from NARA, Hackworth ordered them into an LZ that hadn't been scouted over the objections of the Company CO and the "minefield" was actually a bunker complex. The company took very heavy casualties getting out of the bunker complex and because of that was late to block the fleeing NVA force. They feel to this day, that they took unnecessarily heavy casualties and that they were slighted by Hackworth to cover up his poor decision.

 

 

Hi Dwight, My name is Jim Ballinger, I am an A/6/31 Viet Nam vet. I was involved in the firefight that you mention,

I hold no grudge against Hackworth. We were on eagle flights that day, and almost always when on eagle flights, we went in cold, not knowing what we were gonna find, once we landed. However I do hold a grudge against the CO of A company. He knew that Hacks Btn. was in contact a short distance from A companys LZ. He (the CO) had alpha company go into the woodline in single file, with the normal 10 to 15 meter spacing between each man. After the first 20 to 25 men were in the trees the enemy soldiers opened up on us with all they had. Going in 10 abreast would have far better, considering the circumstances. In an earlier post you mentioned that you were in posession of Baileys purple heart, if you don't mind , I would like to know how you happen to have that award. I ask because Bailey was a friend of mine, and I saw him die that day.

 

Thanks Jim

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Jim,

 

Thanks for the additional info, and moreso for your service.. A few years ago, I was in contact with Bruce Swander, Ted Wylie and Bob Grant about Larry Bailey. Bruce provided the radio logs, and Bob and Ted provided info about the action itself. Hackworth wrote that Bailey was killed carrying wounded to the LZ, while Grant told me over the phone that Bailey died while single-handedly charging the bunker line armed with an M-79. I believe, while I haven't seen the citation, that Bailey was awarded a posthumous Silver Star. Grant told me that Bailey should have gotten more.

 

I've had Bailey's Purple Heart for several years now. I came into possession of it in 1999, purchasing it at a militaria show in the Cincinnati area. From what I've been able to find out, Bailey lived in Phoenix Az. with his mother, but he was born in Owensboro KY. When he was killed, his mother and father couldn't agree where was to be buried. Army regs dictated that it was the father's decision, and he is buried on a hillside in a church cemetery just outside Owensboro. I've visited his grave several times since, and have photos of it, if you'd like to see them.

 

Dwight


Judges 1:19- And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

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Jim,

 

Thanks for the additional info, and moreso for your service.. A few years ago, I was in contact with Bruce Swander, Ted Wylie and Bob Grant about Larry Bailey. Bruce provided the radio logs, and Bob and Ted provided info about the action itself. Hackworth wrote that Bailey was killed carrying wounded to the LZ, while Grant told me over the phone that Bailey died while single-handedly charging the bunker line armed with an M-79. I believe, while I haven't seen the citation, that Bailey was awarded a posthumous Silver Star. Grant told me that Bailey should have gotten more.

 

I've had Bailey's Purple Heart for several years now. I came into possession of it in 1999, purchasing it at a militaria show in the Cincinnati area. From what I've been able to find out, Bailey lived in Phoenix Az. with his mother, but he was born in Owensboro KY. When he was killed, his mother and father couldn't agree where was to be buried. Army regs dictated that it was the father's decision, and he is buried on a hillside in a church cemetery just outside Owensboro. I've visited his grave several times since, and have photos of it, if you'd like to see them.

 

Dwight

 

 

Yes Dwight I would like to know the name and location of the cemetery where Bailey is buried. Also I would like to know if you could be persuaded to sell Baileys purple heart. The last and possibly greatest act of the mans life was performed under the colors of the 31st infantry regiment. I would like to buy the award and present it to 31st Inf. Reg. Assn. If you would like to communicate with me privately my e-mail add. is jballinger@windstream.net

 

Jim

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There is no doubt that David Hackworth was an outstanding soldier and a military hero but I'd take much of what he had written in recent years with a grain of salt. I thoroughly enjoyed his book About Face. But after Vietnam, Hackworth was a bitter man with an ax to grind against his former peers, superiors and most flag/general officers. That influenced his writings as a journalist and author. Years ago I saw my Division Commander almost in tears when Hackworth did a "Hack Job" on him in Hazardous Duty. General officers trembled for fear of what he would write about them in his weekly column "Defending America".

 

Admiral Boorda the Chief of Naval Operations in the 1990s committed suicide before an interview with Hack about potentially unauthorized V devices on his Navy Commendation and Achievement medals. Although Hackworth earned 2 Distinguished Service Crosses and 10 Silver Stars and numerous other medals, had his own problems with military decorations when investigated by Dan Rather of CBS about his authorization to wear the Ranger Tab and a second Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

Hackworth was a true hero and a great man, but one who also came with human flaws.


Kevin

 

My book, "Desert Uniforms, Patches, and Insignia of the US Armed Forces" is available on Amazon and other booksellers World-wide: www.amazon.com/Desert-Uniforms-Patches-Insignia-Forces/dp/0764352067

 

Check out our Facebook group on the book and all things Desert Uniform related: http://www.facebook.com/groups/DesertUniform

 

Always looking for:

- Saudi camel tongue rank fobs - DCU Uniforms & Patches - AAFES Pogs - Parachute Rigger Badges - Berlin Brigade Items - Pershing Rifles Items - East German Para Items-



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A friend of mine was i the 39th and refuses ot this day to buy any of Hack's books as he refiuses to put one dime in his pocket (so poor is his opinion of him). Hackworth praises some officers whom my friiend has always maintained were duds.

 

Of course Hackworth lost all credibility with the army in the gulf when an SF NCO had to pull a pistol on him to get him off a special operations chopper headed off o a mission.

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On A Co. 6/31st and Hackworth's book. The CO of Alpha was relieved of command after the action mentioned because of his own actions which Hackworth can't be held accountable for. Alpha was opcon to Hackworth by his request to supliment his battalion strength. The A company CO might have been a friend of Hackworths. The largest reported difficulty I've heard from those who were there was that Alpha was set down on a VC strong point with no arty support in range of the location.

 

However, the operation that Hackworth discribed did happen and a lot of enemy dead were reported. And the 9th Division looked upon it as a large victory and reported it that way.

 

My interest is that I was in Alpha 6/31st at a later date than the action mentioned and have a website for the 6/31st and know some of those that were there. 6thofthe31st.com

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