View Full Version : Vietnam Vet, Journalist Hackworth Dies

05-05-05, 01:12 PM
Vietnam Vet, Journalist Hackworth Dies

Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.

Hackworth died Wednesday in Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer. His wife, Eilhys England, was with him.

Hackworth, a syndicated columnist for King Features, advocated a streamlined military and improved conditions for troops. He wrote several books including "The Vietnam Primer," "About Face," and "Hazardous Duty."

"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group for which Hackworth served as chairman. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."


Rest In Peace

05-05-05, 01:26 PM
Sent to me by Mark aka The Fontman


Hack's military career as a sailor, soldier and a military correspondent has spanned nearly a dozen wars and conflicts, from the end of World War II to the recent meltdown in the ex-Yugoslavia.

He sailed in the merchant marine at age 14 and the U.S. Army at 15. In almost 26 years in the Army he spent over seven years in combat theaters, winning a battlefield commission in Korea to become that war's youngest Army captain.

After almost five years in Vietnam Hack's cup runneth over. In 1971, as the Army's youngest colonel he spoke out on national television saying, "This is a bad war ... it can't be won we need to get out." In that interview, he also said that the North Vietnamese flag would fly over Saigon in four years -- a prediction that turned out to be right on target. He was the only senior officer to sound off about the insanity of the war. Understandably, Nixon and the Army weren't real happy with his shooting off his mouth.

With all his many awards, Hack still considers the Combat Infantryman Badge and the United Nations Medal for Peace -- which he was presented for his anti-nuclear work in Australia -- his "highest awards.

Hack is a regular guest on national radio and TV shows, and from 1990 to the end of 1996, he was Newsweek's contributing editor for defense. Besides his Newsweek cover stories and other reporting, he has been featured in magazines including People, Parade, Men's Journal, and has also been published in Playboy, Soldier of Fortune, Self and Modern Maturity. His column, Defending America, appears weekly in newspapers across America and on this site.

During Desert Storm which Hack covered for Newsweek, he was the only correspondent to accurately predict the outcome of the Gulf War. He has won many national and international awards for his Newsweek reporting, including the George Washington Honor Medal for excellence in communications.

Hack's books include The Vietnam Primer and the international best seller About Face, Hazardous Duty and The Price of Honor. His newest book, Steel My Soldiers' Heart's, a best seller from coast to coast, is now in the bookstores and amazon.com and bn.com

Hack is an advocate of military reform and a believer that the big fire power -- "nuke-the-pukes" -- solution won't work anymore, but that doesn't mean war will go away. He sees big and little fights ahead and urges military reform. He believes passionately that "America needs a streamlined, hard hitting force for the 21st century" and beyond. Hack brings to his mission his unique experience acquired in almost 52 years of bouncing around hot and cold battlefields. He also brings an insider's view of the Pentagon and the military establishment made deadly current by input provided on a daily basis by serving warriors from around the globe. E-mail frequently brings him the word before the Pentagon gets it.


05-05-05, 01:34 PM


Individual Decorations & Service Medals:

Distinguished Service Cross (with one Oak Leaf Cluster)
Silver Star (with nine Oak Leaf Clusters)
Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal (with "V" Device & seven Oak Leaf Clusters)(Seven of the awards for heroism)
Purple Heart (with seven Oak Leaf Clusters)
Air Medal (with "V" Device & Numeral 34)(One for heroism and 33 for aerial achievement)
Army Commendation Medal (w/ "V" Device & 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Good Conduct Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany and Japan Clasps)
National Defense Service Medal (with one Bronze Service Star)
Korean Service Medal (with Service Stars for eight campaigns)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal (2 Silver Service Stars = 10 campaigns)
Armed Forces Reserve Medal

Unit Awards:

Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award (with one Oak Leaf Cluster)
Meritorious Unit Commendation

Badges & Tabs:

Combat Infantryman Badge (w/ one Star; representing 2 awards)
Master Parachutist Badge
Army General Staff Identification Badge

Foreign Awards:

United Nations Service Medal (Korea)
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device (1960)
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Gold Stars)
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Silver Stars)
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (1st Class)
Vietnam Staff Service Medal (1st Class)
Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2d Class
Vietnam Parachutist Badge (Master Level)
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (with three Palm oak leaf clusters)
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, First Class Unit Citation (with one Palm oak leaf cluster)

World War II Merchant Marine Awards:

Pacific War Zone Bar
Victory Medal


05-05-05, 02:48 PM
Col. David H. Hackworth, 1930-2005: Legendary U.S. Army Guerrilla Fighter, Champion of the Ordinary Soldier

Thursday May 5, 1:57 pm ET

NEW YORK, May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, groundpounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.

Col. Hackworth spent more than half a century on the country's hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as Perfumed Princes. He preferred the combat style of World War II and Korean War heroes like James Gavin and Matthew Ridgeway and, during Vietnam, of Hank "The Gunfighter" Emerson and Hal Moore. General Moore, the author of "We Were Soldiers Once and Young," called him "the Patton of Vietnam" and General Creighton Abrams, the last American commander in that disastrous war, described him as "the best battalion commander I ever saw in the United States Army."

Col. Hackworth's battlefield exploits put him on the line of American military heroes squarely next to Sgt. York and Audie Murphy. The novelist Ward Just, who knew him for forty years, described him as "the genuine article, a soldier's soldier, a connoisseur of combat." At 14, as World War II was sputtering out, he lied about his age to join the Merchant Marine, and at 15 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Over the next 26 years he spent fully seven in combat. He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Army's second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and 8 Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his 8 Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantryman's Badge.

A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABC's Issue and Answers to say Vietnam "is a bad war...it can't be won. We need to get out." He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.

With almost five years in country, Col. Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War. After the interview, he retired from the Army and moved to Australia.

"He was perhaps the finest soldier of his generation," observed the novelist and war correspondent Nicholas Proffit, who described Col. Hackworth's combat autobiography About Face, a national best-seller, as "a passionate cry from the heart of a man who never stopped loving the Army, even when it stopped loving him back."

Having risen from private by way of a battlefield commission in Korea, where he became the Army's youngest captain, to Vietnam, where he served as its youngest bird colonel, he never stood on rank.

From the beginning his life was a soldier's story. He was born on Armistice Day, now Veteran's Day, in 1930. His parents both died before he was a year old and the Army ultimately stood in for the family he never had. His grandmother, who rescued him from an orphanage, raised him on tales of the American Revolution and the Old West and the ethos of the Great Depression. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he got his first military training shining shoes at a base in Santa Monica, where the soldiers, adopting him as mascot, had a tailor cut him a pint-sized uniform. "At age 10 I knew my destiny," he said. "Nothing would be better than to be a soldier."

He always credited his success in battle to the training he received from the tough school of non-coms who won World War II, hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hard-fighting sergeants who drilled into him the basics of an infantryman's life: sweat in training cut down on blood shed in battle; there was nothing wrong with being out all night so long as you were present for roll call at 5:00 a.m., on your feet and in shape to run five miles before breakfast in combat boots.

In Korea, where he won his first Silver Star and Purple Heart before he was old enough to vote, he started his combat career in what he later called a "kill a commie for mommie" frame of mind. He was among the first volunteers for Korea and later for Vietnam, where he perfected his skill. "He understood the atmosphere of violence," Ward Just observed. "That meant he knew how to keep his head, to think in danger's midst. In battle the worst thing is paralysis. He mastered his own fear and learned how to kill. He led by example, and his men followed."

Just met him in the ruins of a base camp in the Central Highlands in 1966, where he was a major commanding a battalion of the 101st Airborne. "He was compact, with forearms the size of hams. His uniform was filthy and his use of obscenity was truly inventive." What struck the journalist most forcefully was "his enthusiasm, his magnetism, his exuberance, his invincible cheerfulness."

To young officers in Vietnam and long afterwards, he presented an unforgettable profile in courage. "Everyone called him Hack," recalled Dennis Foley, a military historian and novelist who first saw him in action with the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry in 1965. "He was referred to by his radio call sign of 'Steel Six.' He was tough, demanding and boyish all at the same time, stocky with a slightly leathered complexion. His light hair and deep tan made it hard for us to tell how old he was. He wore jungle fatigue trousers, shower shoes, a green T-shirt and a Rolex watch. In the corner of his mouth was a large and foul smelling cigar. As we entered the tent, he was bent over a field table looking at a map overlay and drinking a bottle of San Miguel beer."

With Gen. S.L.A. "Slam" Marshall, he surveyed the war's early mayhem and compiled the Army's experience into The Vietnam Primer, a bible on a style of unconventional counter-guerrilla tactics he called "out gee-ing the G." His finest moment came when he applied these tactics, taking the hopeless 4/39 Infantry Battalion in the Mekong Delta, turning it into the legendary Hardcore Battalion. The men of the demoralized outfit saw him at first as a crazy "lifer" out to get them killed. For a time they even put a price on his head and waited for the first grunt to frag him.

Within 10 weeks, the fiery young combat leader had so transformed the 4/39 that it was routing main force enemy units. He led from the front, at one point getting out on the strut of a helicopter, landing on top of an enemy position and hauling to safety the point elements of a company pinned down and facing certain death. Thirty years later, the grateful enlisted men and young officers of the 4/39, now grown old, are still urging the Pentagon to award him the Medal of Honor for this action. So far, the Army has refused.

On leaving the Army, Col. Hackworth retired to a farm on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane. He became a business entrepreneur, making a small fortune in real estate, then expanding a highly popular restaurant called Scaramouche. As a leading spokesman for Australia's anti-nuclear movement he was presented the United Nations Medal for Peace.

As About Face was becoming a best seller, he returned to the United States to marry Eilhys England, his one great love, who became his business and writing partner. He became a powerful voice for military reform. From 1990 to 1996, as Newsweek Magazine's Contributing editor for defense, he covered the first Gulf War as well as peacekeeping battles in Somalia, the Balkans, Korea and Haiti. He captured this experience in Hazardous Duty, a volume of war dispatches. Among his many awards as a journalist was the George Washington Honor Medal for excellence in communications. He also wrote a novel, Price of Honor, about the snares of Vietnam, Somalia and the Military Industrial Complex. His last book, Steel My Soldiers' Hearts, was a tribute to the men of the Hardcore Battalion.

He was a regular guest on national radio and TV shows and a regular contributor to magazines including People, Parade, Men's Journal, Self, Playboy, Maxim and Modern Maturity. His column, Defending America, has appeared weekly in newspapers across the country and on the website of Soldiers For The Truth (www.sftt.org), a rallying point for military reform. He and Ms. England have been the driving force behind the organization, which defends the interests of ordinary soldiers while upholding Hack's conviction that "nuke-the-pukes" solutions no longer work in an age of terror that demands "a streamlined, hard-hitting force for the twenty-first century."

"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."

Over the final years of Col. Hackworth's life, his wife Eilhys fought beside him during his gallant battle against bladder cancer, which now appears with sinister regularity among Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Blue. At one point he considered dropping their syndicated column, only to make an abrupt about face, saying, "Writing with you is the only thing that keeps me alive." The last words he said to his doctor were "If I die, tell Eilhys I was grateful for every moment she brought me, every extra moment I got to spend with her. Tell her my greatest achievement is the love the two of us shared."

Col. Hackworth is survived by Ms. England, one step-daughter and two step-grandchildren, and four children and four grandchildren from two earlier marriages. At a date to be announced, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Soldiers For The Truth is now working on legal action to compel the Pentagon to recognize Agent Blue alongside the better known Agent Orange as a killer and to help veterans exposed to it during the Vietnam War. Memorial contributions can be sent to Soldiers For The Truth either by internet (www.sftt.org) or by mail to, PO Box 54365, Irving, California, 92619-4365.


05-05-05, 04:48 PM
Rest in peace, Colonel.

05-05-05, 08:08 PM

Our ‘Soldier for the Truth’

From Roger Charles:

Hack died yesterday morning after fighting cancer in three forms for the past several years.

America's grunts have lost their most formidable defender. The Pentagon's "Perfumed Princes" have lost their most effective and unrelenting critic. And SFTT has lost its founder, its leader and its most dedicated, selfless worker.

But we have not lost our inspiration.

To all those touched by Hack's life, in person or through his writings, I ask that we pause for a moment today to thank God for His gift of this awesome, fearless Soldier For The Truth.

I know Hack will be watching as we continue the march as he ordered in our last conversation. He left his wonderful wife and soulmate, Eilhys, and his special friend (and head of our advisory board), Phil Matthews with clear directions for SFTT's future.

We at SFTT will do our best to assist them in turning Hack's concepts into realities.

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen of our grand nation deserve no less.

I quote another to best capture in a few words the life of this truly great American Soldier:

"A greater soul hath seldom dwelt in this house of clay."

May he Rest In Peace.

Semper fidelis,

Roger Charles

President, Soldiers for the Truth

May 5, 2005


05-06-05, 05:58 AM
David Hackworth, Vietnam vet and military analyst, dies at 74
Associated Press Writer
May 5, 2005, 9:22 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.

Hackworth died Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer. He lived with his wife in Greenwich.

A Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War, Hackworth worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, often criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

"Most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout," Hackworth wrote in February. "That's not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield."

Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign condolence letters sent to the families of fallen soldiers. Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter by hand.

"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group that Hackworth chaired. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."

Orphaned before he was a year old, Hackworth was raised in California by his grandmother and in foster homes. He became a merchant marine at the age of 14 and lied about his age to join the Army in 1946 when he was 15.

Hackworth gained a reputation for blunt talk when, as a teenage private in Italy, he told Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, "The chow stinks."

At 40 he became the youngest full colonel in Vietnam, where he served for nearly six years. He won some 80 medals in his career, including two Distinguished Service Crosses, 10 Silver Stars and eight Purple Hearts.

His unsparing criticism of tactics and doctrine continued throughout his 25-year career. It culminated in 1971 when he appeared on ABC's "Issues and Answers" show. He told a national television audience that the Army's Vietnam tactics were not unlike the food he had in Italy.

It was one of the first times a senior officer had publicly spoken out against the Vietnam War, and the Army unceremoniously retired the man who had been told a few months earlier that he was virtually assured promotion to brigadier general.

"I was brokenhearted because the Army was my family," he told The Associated Press in 1990. "I loved it."

He gave up his medals in protest and moved to Australia, where he made millions in a restaurant business and a duck farm.

His medals were reissued by Brig. Gen. John Howard in the 1980s and he returned to the United States around the time he published his best-selling autobiography, "About Face."

"Writing the book had driven the devil out of me," he said. "I was able to heal myself."

He decided to channel his energy into pushing for reforms and streamlining the military, saying "the American people are tired of being ripped off."

Hackworth's other books include "The Vietnam Primer" and "Hazardous Duty." His latest was "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts."

He came under fire because of his role in a 1996 Newsweek investigation of whether Adm. Michael Boorda wore medals for valor that he did not deserve. Boorda, the Navy's top admiral, committed suicide rather than face disgrace, and some in the Pentagon blamed Hackworth.

Then, CBS reported that Hackworth may have worn a "Ranger" tab he did not earn. An audit by the Army's chief of awards and decorations, found he was issued the Ranger tab improperly, but that he should have been issued other medals and was not. There was no indication Hackworth wore any medals beyond those issued him by the Army.

He is survived by his wife of eight years, Eilhys England, a stepdaughter and four children from two earlier marriages, the family said.


benny rutledge
05-06-05, 02:09 PM
Not one word about Hackworths passing has been mentioned on ANY of the News channels. However the "Runaway Bride"has been deemed more noteworthy. Go figure.Rest in Peace Brother Hackworth............

Toby M
05-06-05, 04:05 PM
Rest easy Hack, you're battle is over...

05-06-05, 04:42 PM
He was very passionate about his causes. No matter what his conclusions, he brought up the issues and asked the tough questions, especially when not many else would. That is to be admired.

God rest you Colonel!

05-06-05, 05:06 PM
I saw this on Military.com - but nowhere else. I sometimes thought that his statements were a little out there - but yellowwing's right, he asked the tough questions and didn't bow to politics - a true advoate of the common grunt.

05-06-05, 08:38 PM
I am deeply saddened about the death of Col Hackworth...My prayers are out for the family. I personally never liked the Col. and i don't believe most of the stories about his time in Vietnam...especially the medals. My opinion only....no disrespect to the deceased! You either liked Hackworth or you didn't....not much middle ground! His passing was noted on Mil.com as mentioned above.

05-06-05, 11:43 PM
Many moons ago, when I rode public transportation to work, I decided to read as much as I could about the military history from the Burma Campaign, through the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Korea, China and European theatres. I decided to read all books that where written by or about Privates, Non-Commisssioned Officers up through Colonels. One of the Colonels I read about was Colonel David Hackworth. I can't validate anything that Colonel Hackworth wrote, especially about his battlefield demeanor, or individual awards. I do know that he cared about the "grunt", "doggie", and I do know that alot of his writings expressed those sentiments. Like him or not he was a doer. I'm thinking that , perhaps, as a result of his concerns and writings, a grunt or two's life was saved. I did see his death mentioned
on commercial tv but it was just a mention. May he rest in peace.

05-09-05, 03:09 PM
A spot check of Google news covering the media. A news search on "David Hackworth" shows 209 media stories. A news search on "Jennifer Wilbanks" (the run away bride) shows 5,910 news stories.

Any Veteran deserves better, dammit. You are right Benny Rutledge, this is a load of crap. :(

05-09-05, 08:17 PM
Memorial Service

A Memorial Service for Colonel David H. Hackworth, Infantry, United States Army (Retired), will commence on Tuesday, 31 May, at 11:00am EDT at the Main (new) Chapel, Ft. Myer, Arlington, Virginia.

This service will last somewhat less than one hour, since services for another individual are scheduled to start at 12:00 noon in this same chapel.

Following Hack's Memorial Service, those who wish to may follow in trace the caisson with Hack's cremains to the burial site. (Services at the grave site will be on the order of 20-30 minutes.)



05-09-05, 08:21 PM

From The Editor

Reflections on a Soldier

Carrying On

Following the unbeaten fighting spirit of David H. Hackworth, an admired friend, military comrade and mentor, I am one of the many who pledge to continue his quest for the truth for the benefit of our troops, their families and the defense of our country.

I know that Hack will continue to inspire us from the eternal high ground he now firmly occupies.

--Ralf Zimmermann

A Life of Moral Courage

I am saddened by the news of Hack's death. He was someone I deeply admired

for his leadership and his moral courage. I did not agree with all his thoughts and opinions, but I respected him for always callin' it like he saw it.

Working for him on the SFTT staff has been one of the most exciting and liberating things I have ever done. Hack gave many others and me an outlet for the joys and frustrations of military life that we have experienced and that would have likely gone unnoticed. He showed how one man or woman with moral courage can stand up and try to make a difference on behalf of the countless young men and women who wear our country's uniforms and who go where they are needed and do what they are told to keep our nation the land of the free and the home of the brave.

His passing has shifted my inspiration for writing for SFTT from doing it with him, to doing it for him, to support our beloved troops.

May he rest in peace.

--Matthew Dodd

An Honored Memory

I first saw Col. David Hackworth on television at the onset of the Global War on Terrorism. I was struck by the way he stood out from the other talking heads and how you knew he was sincere when he spoke of winning the conflict that we were thrown into on 9/11. He was an extraordinary individual. It is truly an honor to be associated with him and SFTT as a Contributing Editor.

--Chad Miles

Incident at Panmunjom

I was nearing the end of a 10-day reporting trip to South Korea in 1994 when my Army escort invited me to visit the DMZ village of Panmunjom, casually noting that another journalist would be coming along – a Newsweek military correspondent named David Hackworth. I had read his columns and vaguely knew of him as a former career Army officer turned commentator, and author of a controversial autobiography, About Face, that had been published several years earlier.

We drove from Yongsan up the MSR through Pyokche and Munsan, crossed the Imjin River and soon were in the heavily-guarded truce village, staring eyeball to eyeball with armed North Korean soldiers.

After waiting several hours under a tree in the sweltering heat of a Korean summer day for a scheduled press conference involving ongoing North-South negotiations in the conference center nearby, a tall, erect U.S. Army lieutenant colonel – the commander of the elite Joint Security Battalion at Panmunjom – strode up to our position. The officer was polite but indifferent as a Washington Post reporter and I took turns introducing ourselves.

"I'm Dave Hackworth," Hack said.

The officer's eyes bugged out and his voice cracked. "Y-y-you're my *hero!" he exclaimed.

I think I'd better read that book, I told myself.

Seven years later, when Hack asked me to launch DefenseWatch magazine, I readily agreed, telling him that it was a great journalistic opportunity and professional challenge. But I didn't tell him the real reason why I had volunteered.

He had become my hero, too.

--Ed Offley

Hack and the 'Screaming Eagles'

My experience with Hack goes back to 1964-66, the 101st days at Fort Campbell and Vietnam. I was a young company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry in the Division's 1st Brigade. At Fort Campbell, I remember Dave Hackworth – then a major – as the hard-charging brigade S-3 operations officer. Even then, he claimed that more sweat on the training field meant less blood on the battlefield. We trained hard in those days, and he was a major influence in that training spirit.

In 1965, the 1st Brigade, 101st deployed to Vietnam, where I saw that same spirit in the man. The training principles he instilled in all paid dividends. We fought well and hard in several different fighting environments throughout the country.

Colleagues have reminded me that Hack remained controversial in retirement. So be it: He remained true to his beloved foot soldiers, and that will be his everlasting credit. The U.S. Army has lost one of its best soldiers. I am proud to have known and served with him.

--Paul Apfel

Condolences from NavySEALs

God Bless Col. David Hackworth. He will be sorely missed by the troops. We at NavySEALs.com send him our blessings.

--Mark Divine

The Soldier's Defender

I first learned about Colonel David Hackworth in 1990, when I purchased his book, About Face, at the Stars and Stripes bookstore in Germany. For one week, during my free time at Grafenwoehr, I devoured his work. For a young, know-nothing butter bar, Hack's memoirs were a virtual field manual on how to soldier and lead. Twelve years later, after corresponding by email, Hack suggested that I write articles for his burgeoning website. His exact words were, "open fire." Thank you Hack, for giving me the opportunity when no one else would.

Hack was more than just a hero. He was a defender of the ordinary soldier. As a former enlisted man, he never forgot about the young people who give all and ask for little. That was why he despised the military's perfumed princes and targeted them for destruction whenever he had the opportunity. Hack was the maestro of common sense and of thinking outside the box; something the military has always failed at. He knew that an officer with imagination and ingenuity could save lives and inflict damage on the enemy.

In his final years, Hack was concerned over the Army's ridiculous political correctness and its insane coddling of young recruits at basic training. Hack had come of age in the "brown shoe" Army and knew that any soldier who couldn't handle the rigors of basic training wouldn't survive the horrors of combat.

Hack never went to West Point, but he was an embodiment of their famous motto, Duty, Honor, Country. As a young soldier, he was motivated to fulfill his duty as a citizen and serve his nation. As an officer, he lived by the simple code of honor; lead by example. As a civilian and a writer he continued to serve his country by flushing out the feather merchants, duds and REMF medal-seekers in the U.S. military.

--Ray Starmann

A Sergeant's Vision

We may be a nation of laws, but we are defended by men. On May 4, 2005 America lost one of its most experienced and devoted warriors, U.S. Army Col. David H. Hackworth.

Many obituary writers have emphasized Hackworth's outrageous, unconventional, maverick and outspoken nature. I have a different view: He was a mature, intelligent thinker who was savvy enough to know that controversy promotes the truth he knew. Who did he want to educate? Soldiers and Marines in the line of fire. Why else would he go to magazines like Maxim and Esquire with extensive interviews if not to reach young male audiences?

Col. Hackworth knew that patriotism could be the last refuge of the scoundrel, meaning a patriotism that did not consider how war would play out on the ground in the long run combined with a lack of equal valuation for the lives of those who ended up fighting there. His viewpoint was a mixture of the most egalitarian American spirit one could have with the very traditional classic war wisdom of Sun Tzu, the required West Point staple of realism at war.

Why did Col. Hackworth polarize people so much? Because he never stopped being a sergeant even though he had become a commissioned officer, and he turned that exacting sergeant's eye on live, active duty leadership questions that many brass hats did not want to discuss. Like any good sergeant, Col. Hackworth believed it was unacceptable to cut corners on preparation, training, gear and full-fledged chain of command support for the man in the field.

Col. Hackworth's lack of snobbery made him approachable by the average warrior and the average person wanting to know more about what warriors had learned and had sacrificed to better equip their own thinking on America's war decisions. This approachability was more remarkable to me as I read more about what he actually had done on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam. What he did for those under his command and what he dedicated himself to do for generations of young combat troops thereafter was twice as remarkable.

--Michael Woodson

The Legend and the Man

It is sometimes hard to really know a man and even harder to know a legend.

Col. David H. Hackworth was certainly a living legend, an airborne-all-the-way, two-fisted, hard talking, ass-kicking, name-taking infantryman whom everybody called Hack.

I never met the man in person. I read his books, watched him pontificate on TV, and once sat mesmerized driving across some barren landscape in southern Georgia listening to him talk on syndicated radio about the "Perfumed Princes" and the "ticket-punching" rogues he hated with a passion.

Hack made me feel good on a visceral level. I was an Army enlisted man in the 'Nam and had a natural antipathy for the guys who used to make me stand in the sun and listen to them blather on. His comments about parade-ground generals took me back to the time when Army Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais actually went into the great Douglas MacArthur's "old soldiers just fade away" routine – and while my buddies were dropping like flies in 110 degree heat – as he was turning over command of the 101st Airborne Division after the big fights in the Ashau Valley. Hack hated guys that did that because he understood.

I already know the legend, maybe I'll meet the man next time around.

--Nat Helms


05-10-05, 04:54 AM
Steel Six Out!

May 9, 2005

by Geoff Metcalf


A very dear friend died recently. His obit www.hackworth.co read:

”Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, ground-pounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.”

”Col. Hackworth spent more than half a century on the country’s hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military-Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as ‘Perfumed Princes’.”

I never served with Hack. In fact he left the army the same year I went on active duty. However, we became friends after I interviewed him on the radio.

We seldom saw each other but routinely communicated via email and phone. I loved the guy. We didn’t agree about everything. Like most friends we occasionally argued and those ‘discussions’ were mutually laced with language neither of us would ever use on the radio.

The last note I sent him was one of encouragement, prayers, and orders to listen to doctors and his wife. He replied:



Two months later, what we know is what is gained is loss. Cancer did what bullets and shrapnel could not and killed him at the age of 74.

Hack’s greatest strength and most consistent position was a personification of what we were all taught about leadership. FM22-100 defined Dave Hackworth. He was an officer “of the troops and for the troops”. He thought (and demonstrated by example) that leaders should lead from the front and by example.

That demonstrated leadership and willingness to put himself in the same jeopardy as his troops resulted in consequences positive and negative. On the plus side he earned the respect, admiration and trust of his subordinates. It also contributed to his collecting a gaggle of medals for valor including ten Silver Stars.

The downside of leading at the front end of the spear was multiple Purple Hearts and the attendant scars.

His harshest criticisms were routinely directed at what he called ‘Perfumed Princes’. He had a healthy contempt for the senior and general officers that functioned more as politicians or medieval court bureaucrats than soldiers.

Hack was (regrettably) in the minority of senior officers opening and chronically critical of the brass. Not surprisingly the military leadership (and pentagon types) really didn’t like the mouthy Colonel. He wasn’t the Lone Ranger, but he did serve as a minority report.

I recently spoke with Col David Hunt about his new book and Hunt agreed with Hack and me that our uniformed services are way too top heavy and that in the interest of cost efficiency and mission integrity would could and should do what General Marshall did at the start of WWII and fire a big contingent of the senior officer contingent.

Hackworth’s life was full and epic. He lost both his parents as an infant and was raised by his grandmother. He was 14 when he lied about his age in order to get into the Merchant Marines toward the end of World War II. He lied about his age again a year later to get into the Army. During the subsequent 26 years he served seven years in combat.

He was in many ways the antithesis of the John Kerry types who tried to hyperbolize their daring do. He just did what his kind of leader did, and medals happened. He was three times nominated the Medal of Honor. He received the Army’s second highest award for valor twice (the Distinguished Service Cross). He was also awarded ten Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars and eight Purple hearts.

I don’t know if time and opportunity will allow me to attend the formal burial at Arlington, but I’m planning a private memorial similar to the one I held when B.T. Collins http://www.geoffmetcalf.com/sambird_20010526.html died.

I will take my old rucksack and hike into an isolated lake in the California Sierras. I’ll sit by a campfire alone, throw the cap from a bottle of scotch into the fire and toast my friend. David Hackworth, the orphan who embraced the Army as his family and spent a lifetime trying to make it better for the grunt infantryman.

Duty, Honor, Country is more than just words to some people. For Hack it was the essence of his being. His courage and integrity was palpable. He personified ‘command presence’ and he did it with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. I will miss him.

His critics (and there are many) can kiss my Airborne 4 th point of contact….

Geoff Metcalf


05-12-05, 02:04 PM
David Hackworth: Unforgettable soldier


Col. David H. Hackworth was not your typical television talking head. He was a military analyst to be sure. He understood tactics, strategies, defense technologies and the disposition of military forces. The man knew how to fight, and he knew how to report on and write about fighting. But soldiers and their well-being were always his priorities. After all, Hackworth had been a combat soldier for much of his adult life -- and for most of his teenage years -- before becoming a best-selling author and syndicated columnist.

Lying about his age to join the Army at 15, Hackworth spent a quarter-century in service. He became the Army's youngest captain after winning a battlefield commission during the Korean War. During the Vietnam War, he was known for leading troops from the front during some of the most intense fighting. He was a gritty, bayonet-loving combat commander -- radio call sign, "Steel Six" -- who chewed cigars and sipped beer while poring over maps detailing enemy strong-points and re-supply routes. Yet he ditched his medals in protest and was nearly court-martialed for publicly criticizing the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

Retiring from the Army in 1971, Hackworth settled for a time in Australia, where he earned a small fortune as a duck farmer and restaurateur. He later wrote books -- including "About Face," "Hazardous Duty" and others -- became a syndicated columnist for King Features, was a regular guest on every U.S. television news channel from Fox to CNN, and he continued to openly defy the military's orthodox approach to anything, often championing new Army reforms with the individual soldier always in mind.

I first met Hackworth a few years ago while working on one of my own books. I had a question about the history of his much-loved unit -- the Wolfhound Raiders of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Regiment. I sent him an e-mail pulled from his Web site, and "Hack" -- as he signed his name -- responded within minutes. I was amazed at the response time from this much-in-demand author, not to mention the detailed, personal answer to my question.

I later learned that that his response and our soon-to-develop relationship was due to the fact that I was a former Marine rifle-squad leader and Hack was an old-school, combat Army officer who loved veterans of all stripes and from all branches of service.

Hack and I differed on quite a bit, politically. For instance, he often criticized the Bush administration for its handling of the war in Iraq, even referring to the "occupation" phase as "going down as one of the biggest snafus in U.S. military history." I, on the other hand, believe that we are winning, and that we will ultimately achieve peace and freedom in that country.

Where Hack and I did -- and I still do -- agree was in our disdain for ticket-punching senior military officers, who were more concerned about their own careers than they were about the individual soldiers under their commands. Hack referred to them as "perfumed princes," and he wanted them out of the defense establishment just as soon as they showed their cards and before they could make decisions affecting the lives of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

Hack often exhorted all journalists who cared about U.S. servicemen and women to take up the cause. His last words to me, in fact, were, "It is only with numbers that we can make the bastards listen."

Goodbye, Hack, and thank you for making everyone listen.

Retired Col. David H. Hackworth, 74, died last week at a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico. W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper. This column first appeared in MilitaryWeek.com; wtsjr@militaryweek.com.