Hal Moore served in uniform during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam and rose to the top ranks of the United States army- achieving the rank of Lieutenant General. He will forever be immortalized for his heroic leadership over three days as the commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the first major battle of the Vietnam War at Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. That battle was documented in his book he co-authored named “We Were Soldiers Once…..and Young” and was later made into a Hollywood movie in which LTC Hal Moore was played by Mel Gibson in “We Were Soldiers”.
Hal Moore grew up in Kentucky but moved to Washington, DC during high school with the intent to attend West Point. He finished high school in DC then attended George Washington University for two years before securing his appointment to West Point. He entered West Point at the beginning of World War II in June 1942. His class would graduate just after VE-Day (Victory in Europe) in June 1945 and be handed their diplomas by the legendary General of the Army Omar Bradley. 2LT Hal Moore was commissioned in the Infantry and shipped off to the Pacific, arriving just after VJ-Day (Victory over Japan). Though he missed serving in action in World War II- he would later serve in significant combat operations in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
He served in the occupation of Japan from 1945-1948 and then returned to the US to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division for three years at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. His chance for combat would come as the Company Commander of an Infantry Company in the Korean War in 1952 with the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division and then with a heavy mortar company in the same unit. He was awarded three bronze star medals- two for valor and his first Combat Infantryman Badge.
Returning back to join the faculty at West Point in 1953 he taught infantry tactics to cadets for two years before attending the Command and General Staff College. His next assignment was to help prepare him for Vietnam, as he was assigned the Office of the Chief of Research and Development, developing new airborne and air assault equipment, tactics and procedures. After graduating from the Command and Staff College he deployed to Oslo, Norway at the Headquarters, Allied Forces Northern Europe.
After attending the National War College and receiving a masters degree from George Washington University, he was finally given his own battalion command with the 11th Air Assault Division, which was re-designated the 1st Cavalry Division and then deployed to Vietnam.
The Battle of Ia Drang Valley took place in November 1965 as the first of 300,000 regular army American troops were being deployed to defend South Vietnam against the communist Viet Cong guerillas and the North Vietnamese Army. The enemy was located in a very difficult to reach area that tested the new American air mobility strategy. 3rd Brigade, 7th Cavalry was sent into the area on a search and destroy mission. LTC Hal Moore led the 400 men of the 1st Battalion into the landing zones and soon found them encircled by vastly superior enemy forces of over 2,000 regular army North Vietnamese soldiers. The battle that ensued was a battle fought by a smaller, US force, using superior air power to defend itself against an enemy intent on overrunning and decimating the American battalion.
Vietnamese commanders intended to destroy the American political commitment by decimating a battalion in the field. Over the course of three days LTC Hal Moore and his soldiers fought a brutal battle including hand to hand combat that resulted in the vast majority of the battalion being killed or wounded- but they survived and continued to throw back the enemy until reinforcements could finally arrive. Both sides claimed victory as the US proved air mobility and firepower, combined with superior infantry tactics could defeat vastly larger enemy units. The NVA claimed victory and success in the strategy of getting so close to limit the benefits of the US superior firepower from artillery and air power. These strategies and tactics would dictate the next eight years of battle between the US and NVA.
LTC Hal Moore and a reporter who was imbedded with his battalion Joe Galloway later chronicled the events of that battle. The US lost 234 killed in action and 250 wounded. US estimates were at least 1,500 enemy killed. LTC Hal Moore was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage leadership while Joe Galloway was the only civilian in the Vietnam War to receive the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions. Three Medals of Honor were awarded- two for helicopter pilots who continuously braved enemy fire and one for 2LT Walter Marm for his actions at LZ X-Ray.
After Vietnam he rotated to Korea as the Chief of Staff of the 8th Army and then the Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division. He returned to the US to Ft. Ord, California as Commanding General of the US Army Training Center. His final assignments were as the Commanding General Military Personnel Center (MIPERCEN) and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, US Army. In this role, he was instrumental in integrating the first class of Women into West Point.
In 1977 he retired and moved his family to Crested Butte, Colorado where he became the Executive Vice President of Crested Butte Mountain Ski Area.
He and his wife Julia raised five children, two of whom were career Army officers.
In 2003 he was awarded the prestigious West Point Distinguished Graduate Award and on 3 December 2011 the LTG Hal Moore Room at the Thayer Hotel at West Point was dedicated in his honor by Ed and Lydia Knapp on behalf of the grateful members of the McAuliffe Chapter of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division reunion.