Friday, November 14, 2003

Ia Drang

On 14 November 1965 the US First Cavalry division launched an offensive in the Ia Drang valley in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. This marked the first time that American regular forces met North Vietnamese army units in combat.

The first engagement as at LZ X-ray where an understrength battalion led by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry with approx.. 450 men) was attacked by over 3,000 NVA troops. In a three day battle the US force held their perimeter with the help of around the clock air and artillery support. American losses were 79 dead and 121 wounded; NVA casualties were many times that.

LtC Moore went on to become a Lt. General. His book on the battle-- We Were Soldiers Once... and Young became a best-seller and later was made into a movie starring Mel Gibson.

LZ X-ray was only the beginning of a 34 for day campaign. (Read more here) On 17 November 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry fought off the further attacks at LZ Albany suffering 155 killed and 121 wounded.

All told the 7th Cavalry suffered 234 killed in action. As Moore and Galloway wrote in their books prologue: "That is more Americans than were killed in any regiment, north or south, at the Battle of Gettysburg, and far more than were killed in combat in the entire Persian Gulf War."

General Moore distilled three lessons of leadership from his experience:

First, never quit. Three strikes and you're not out. Put that on your refrigerator.
Number two - there's always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favor. There's always a way.
Number three - trust your instincts.
The cover of We Were Soldiers had a picture of a young officer--Lt. Rick Rescorla who was a platoon leader in the 2/7 Cav. Rescorla survived the war and later went on to become vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. He died in the WTC attacks as he worked to get his people out of the tower. His story is here.

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