Hal Moore

Memorial Video prepared by the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office
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Hal’s story began in Bardstown, Kentucky, a tiny community tucked in the Ohio River Valley’s foothills. His generation grew up hearing the harrowing tales of the Great War, the Roaring Twenties’ decadence, and experiencing the hardships of the Great Depression. Hal learned to appreciate the value of hard work. He took various odd jobs to help his family make ends meet – cutting grass, caddying, and even being a waterboy at the Guthrie Distillery Warehouse.

Hal had a voracious appetite for reading. When he was not working, fishing, or playing sports, Hal was at the library, devouring any book he could find on military history. Hal crystallized his goal of attending USMA when he was 15. In 1940, he accepted a patronage job at the Senate book warehouse that required him to drop out of high school and travel to DC while severely sick with the flu to meet the start date. Hal finished school at night and walked the halls of Congress searching for an appointment. Awarded a USNA appointment from KY, he convinced a Georgia congressman to swap his USMA appointment for the Kentucky USNA slot. Appointed from Georgia, he entered USMA in 1942.

After graduation, Hal served on occupation duty in Japan with the 11th Airborne Division. He returned to the 82nd Airborne, where he married the great love of his life, Julie Compton. Bored with peacetime duty, Hal transferred to the Army Field Forces Board, where he tested parachutes, surviving multiple malfunctions, including being hung up and towed behind a plane. Deployed to the Korean War in 1952, he joined the 7th Infantry Division where he participated in the bloody outpost battles, including Pork Chop Hill, Alligator Jaws, and others. He commanded Rifle and Heavy Mortar companies, served as a Regimental S3, Division Assistant G3, earning two Bronze Star Medals for Valor.

Subsequent assignments included teaching tactics at USMA, developing airborne and air assault equipment in the Pentagon, and a tour of duty in Norway, where he planned the ground defense of Northern Europe. In 1964, Hal took command of an infantry battalion in the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) focused on developing the air mobility operational framework. In 1965, the battalion was designated the 1st battalion, 7th Cavalry, and deployed to Vietnam as part of the 1st Cavalry Division.

Hal is best known for his leadership in the first major battle of the Vietnam War in the Ia Drang Valley. It was a fight to the death against over 2,000 enemy furiously determined to destroy the vastly outnumbered 7th Cavalry. After a three-day bloodbath, the enemy quit the field, leaving over six hundred of their dead. Hal was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the fight. Promoted to Colonel, Hal assumed command of the 3rd Brigade and led it through several campaigns in 1966, during which he matured the Airmobile concept. His operational success caused several publications to call him the “General Patton of Vietnam.” Often on the ground sharing the risks with his troopers, he earned another Bronze Star Medal for Valor (rescued a wounded soldier under heavy automatic and small arms weapons fire) and individual awards of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Hal loved soldiers deeply and formally asked the Department of the Army to return his Purple Heart because he believed his wound was not severe enough when compared to those his troops suffered. When Bardstown announced it would celebrate his return with an elaborate “Hal Moore Day,” he refused to participate unless the event changed to “Vietnam Veteran’s Day.”

In 1968, Hal pinned on his first star and led the planning for the Army’s withdrawal from Vietnam. He returned to Korea in 1969 as the Eighth Army G3, was frocked to Major General, and given command of the 7th Infantry Division to straighten it out after it was fractured with insubordination and race riots. Hal rebuilt the Division back into a capable fighting force. In 1971, he took command of the Training Center at Fort Ord in the era of Vietnam antiwar demonstrations, drug problems, racial tensions, and the transition to the modern volunteer Army. Hal applied his techniques from Korea to create another successful outcome. In 1974, Hal was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned as the DCSPER, where he rebuilt an NCO Corps almost destroyed by the Vietnam War.

Moore’s entire career was centered on identifying and developing men and women who could lead, win, and bring their troops home.  Hal Moore’s “Five Principles” formed the bedrock of his approach.  These principles reflected a moral code of equal rights and fair treatment which were exemplified throughout his youth, military education, and command responsibilities. He created and implemented innovative policies to ensure fairness, create opportunity, and enforce non-discrimination for all his soldiers. Senior military commanders noted that the “outstanding capabilities of General Moore are exemplified by his handling of minority problems; the confidence placed in General Moore by minorities; and the confidence of all other races and creeds in their commander.”  

Following retirement, he co-wrote the 1992 New York Times Bestselling book on the Ia Drang battles, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, that remains on official Army and USMC reading lists to this day. Up until his death, Hal shared his combat leadership experiences and principles with soldiers in countless seminars. The Army confirmed his contributions to the Infantry with the annual Doughboy Award in 2000. The Smithsonian recognized his perspective by including a video of him discussing the Ia Drang in its Vietnam exhibit. USMA designated him a Distinguished Graduate in 2003. Hal’s other books were We are Soldiers Still and Hal Moore on Leadership. Hal rests in the Fort Benning cemetery alongside his troops from Vietnam.

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