Lt. Gen. Harold Gregory “Hal” Moore, Jr. passed away on February 10, 2017, a few days short of his 95th birthday.
He was the first of West Point class 1945 to be promoted to brigadier, major, and lieutenant general. He served in the military from 1945 to 1977. He served in Japan after WWII, until 1948. He made over 300 parachute jumps in the 82nd Airborne Division, 150 of which were in the Airborne Test Section with experimental parachutes.
He commanded a mortar company during the Korean War, because he was due for promotion to major – but the 7th Division’s commanding general had put a hold on any promotions without command of a company in combat. In 1954, he returned to West Point and was an instructor in infantry tactics, teaching then-cadet Norman Schwarzkopf, who called him one of his heroes, and cites Moore as the reason he chose the infantry branch. (Schwarzkopf led the UN coalition during OPERATION: DESERT STORM.)
In 1964, now a lieutenant colonel, Moore completed the course of study at the Naval War College, earning a master’s degree in International Relations from my alma mater, George Washington University. He was transferred to Fort Benning and took command of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry, 11th Air Assault Division. In July they were redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and deployed to Vietnam in September.
On November 14, 1965, he led the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Brigade, into the Battle of la Drang. encircled by the enemy with no clear landing zone that would allow them to leave, Moore persevered despited being significantly outnumbered by the NVA and VC – who would go on to defeat the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry only a few miles away a day later. He was nicknamed ‘Yellow Hair’ due to his blond hair by his troops, as a homage to General Custer – who, as a lieutenant colnel, commanded the same 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn just a century before. Though casualties were higher for the other parts of the battle of la Drang, Moore’s troops suffered 79 killed and 121 wounded. 634 NVA and VC bodies were found in the vicinity, with an estimated 1,215 killed by artillery and airstrikes in the area. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part of the battle, promoted to colonel, and took over command of the 3rd Brigade.
In 1968, he was assigned by the Army to Harvard University to complete his M.A in international relations. On August 31, he was promoted to brigadier general, and then to major general in 1970. His assignment at the time was as assistant chief of staff of the Eighth Army in South Korea. He was charged by General Michaelis of the 7th ID to clean up a major drug abuse and racial strife problem. Moore established leadership schools for both officers and NCOs, and institted an ‘equal opportunity policy.’ He backed it up with punishments to those who discriminated based on race, ethnicity, or creed.
In 1974 he was appointed deputy chief of staff for personnel, his last assignment. He dealt with army recruiting issues after the draft was terminated, as well as the drawdown of forces after the end of the Vietnam War. His next assignment was to become Commanding General, US Army Japan, but he retired instead. He left the Army on August 1, 1977, after 32 years of active service.
In 1992 Moore wrote We Were Soldiers Once… And Young with co-author Joseph L. Galloway. The book was adapted into the 2002 film We Were Soldiers, by Mel Gibson. It remains my absolute favorite Vietnam War movie.
Moore and Joseph L. Galloway have written another book together, a follow-up to their first collaboration. We Are Soldiers Still; A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam was published in 2008.
Here he is putting out the flag that his son, Col. David Moore, sent home from Afghanistan. Rest in peace, sir.