Colonel David Hackworth was a man who stuck to his guns and was never afraid to say exactly how he felt about an issue. He was a brave soldier who never put his men in any danger that he would not also face himself. One of the most decorated individuals in United States military history, he was innovative in his military tactics and led his troops well.
On Veteran's Day, November 11th, 1930, David Hackworth was born in California. Tragically, David's parents both died before he turned one. For the remainder of his youth, David was raised by his grandmother. Deeply moved by the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hackworth knew what his fate in life would be. At the age of ten, he was shining shoes on a military base in Santa Monica.
At fourteen, he lied about his age and used fake identification documents in order to join the Merchant Marines. He was stationed around the California Coast. When he was fifteen, it was nearing the end of World War II and he joined the Army. He was a rifleman in the 351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division and was sent to Trieste, Italy, on the northeastern border of the country to work with TRUST (Trieste United States Troops).
The Korean War began in 1950; Hackworth was selected to serve in this engagement. He was assigned to positions in the 25th Reconnaissance Company, the 8th Rangers and the 27th Infantry. He served as a sergeant initially but received a battlefield promotion to lieutenant whilst in combat. He earned several medals for heroism and three Purple Hearts. Due to a successful raid of a hill and his on site promotion, in was requested of him to lead a new unit, the 27th Wolfhound Raiders. He led them from August until November in 1951. He volunteered for a second stint in Korea and was assigned to the 40th Infantry Division where he would earn the promotion to captain.
Having grown bored with civilian life, two years after returning from Korea, he re-entered the Army. During the Cold War he served in the 77th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion at Manhattan Beach California. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to Germany. Initially he worked as staff but eventually joined the infantry and helped to assist in fire drills during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. He attended various colleges and eventually graduated with a Bachelors of Science in History. Afterwards, he attended Command and General Staff College.
When President John F. Kennedy announced initial involvement with Vietnam, Hackworth jumped at the chance and immediately volunteered his service. He was denied for being overqualified and having too much experience. By 1965 he was finally deployed to Vietnam as a major. He served as an Operations Officer and a Battalion Commander in the 101st Airborne Division. He Co-Wrote the "Vietnam Primer" with his superior, General S.L.A. Marshall. The book detailed military strategies and maneuvers. It employed the use of guerrilla tactics, which echoed the methods being used by the enemy in an effort to beat ( or at least match) them at their own game. Hackworth took charge of a battalion known as the Heartbreak Battalion. It was known for having been led poorly and had lost 600 men in just six months time. The morale was extremely low before he took over. Hackworth retrained the men to fight like guerrillas. Instead of marching as huge units, the men crept in the night and the shadows. Six months after taking over, the battalion had lost an additional twenty-five men, which was a mere fraction of the previous six months, when 600 men were lost. They also were able to take out 2,600 members of the Viet Cong in that time. They re-nicknamed themselves to the Hard Core Battalion.
The Vietnam War encountered various problems and came under heavy criticism from some people. David Hackworth had some harsh opinions about the leadership and tactics involved in the war. However, he was loyal to his country and led a speaking tour around the United States in support of the Vietnam War. After the tour he returned to Vietnam and was given charge of the 9th Infantry Division in 1968.
In 1971, Hackworth was promoted to Colonel. He was given the opportunity to attend the Army War College . This was a good indication that he was being groomed for General Officer. However, he had been soiled by his personal experience in Vietnam and did not want to rise in the ranks. In June of 1971 he went on a television interview on an ABC show; during the program he voiced his strong opinions criticizing the leadership in the Vietnam War efforts and the war in general. This did not gain him any favor with his superiors and peers and he ended up retiring not too long after then.
After retiring from the military, he moved to Australia, where he took up several business ventures, including a duck farm. He came back to the United States in the 1980's and started a career in journalism. Newsweek hired him as a contributing editor. In 1989 he wrote a memoir about his military life called About Face: The Odyssey of an American Hero. Several tv shows had him on periodically to discuss his military opinions and he also discussed his experiences with post traumatic stress disorder. As a military journalist he was in hot pursuit of uncovering the truth. One of his common subjects, was investigating the validity of military awards that famous high ranking soldiers wore and was passionate about people wearing only the awards they earned.
Hackworth continued writing until his death. On May 4th, 2005 Colonel David Hackworth passed away from bladder cancer in Tijuana, Mexico where he was receiving treatment for his illness. His remains were laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery. Hackworth was an innovative and dedicated soldier. In spite of his opinionated nature that often criticized the military, his intent always had America's best interest in mind. He was a highly decorated, devoted and an honorable Colonel.
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