Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 16, 2012 - 04:16pm PT
For those who care, 47 years ago today Lt. Col. Hal Moore and the late Sgt. Major Basil Plumley rode the last lift of their bloodied battalion out of LZ X Ray in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam's Central Highlands after some 72 hours of combat.
The 1/7 Cav of the Airmobile Division had met the NVA in the first battalion sized engagement in the Vietnam war and what Neil Sheehan described as the most significant battle since Ap Bac. As it turned out, Hal Moore's understrength battalion defended the LZ in a lopsided fight against a reinforced NVA regiment taking 79 KIA and 121 wounded while inflicting losses of an estimated 1215 enemy killed.
The 1/7 was relieved by the 2/5 and 5/7 and, in contrast to Moore's exemplary performance, McDade's 2/7 later walked into an ambush on the way to LZ Albany and suffered grievous losses.
In explaining the costly Ia Drang campaign to the American public, Defense Secreatry Robert MacNamara introduced the doctrine of acceptable losses in the 10:1 body count and the notion of winning the Vietnam war through a level of attrition the Vietnamese couldn't endure. Joe Galloway said that in that statement "you could smell the beginning of the rot" that would permeate the remainder of the conflict. The Vietnamese endured at unimaginable cost and history repudiated MacNamara's theory.
This story is well chronicled in Hal Moore's and Joe Galloway's account, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young", Harper Perennial.
The LZ X-ray part of the Ia Drang battle gets most of the attention for many reasons. It was the first, large, stand-up fight between U.S. and main force N.V.A. units. It was a hell of a hard fight, and Moore's (reinforced) battalion did well.
But the events of the next day, which are less well known, didn't turn out so well. The units that secured LZ X-ray so that Moore's battalion could evacuate marched overland the next day from X-ray toward LZ Albany. Their march security wasn't very good and they were ambushed. In another knock-down, drag-out fight, this time in heavy brush and jungle, these First Cav units took a hell of a beating.
None of this is in the book or the movie (it's Moore's book and his unit wasn't in the ambush).
Lots of respect is indeed due these soldiers, who believed in what they were fighting for. Almost half a century past the events, with Vietnam no longer an "enemy," the same should probably be said for the Vietnamese soldiers who fought so hard and bitterly.
None of this is in the book or the movie (it's Moore's book and his unit wasn't in the ambush)
Yes it's very much in the book and Moore's battalion was understrength and not reinforced.
The fate of the 2/7 is referenced in my post and well chronicled in Moore's and Galloway's book and offers a sobering counterpoint to the 1/7s costly but well fought battle.
McDade's was ordered to walk his battalion from X Ray through "Indian Country" to Albany with no air support and little in the way of preregistered artillery support.
No flanking patrols, just a green Lt. Col. leading his column on a "walk in the sun" through the elephant grass.
After the capture of an NVA prisoner, McDade stopped the column, called all his company commanders and their radio operators forward leaving his three rifle companies without leaders or communications when the NVA opened up a blistering attack the full length of the stalled out column. It was carnage.
Perry, it's been years since I read the book, and I stand corrected.
I did just watch the movie (days after Sergeant Plumley died, I watched it "in his honor"). Obviously the second action is not in the movie, but to put this second action in the movie would have doubled its length, so that is understandable.