[November 19, 2020] I remember being called a lunatic by several of my commanders. I was an Infantry Company Commander when it first happened. My boss at the time, a Lieutenant Colonel, said that I was a “crazy man and lunatic” when it came to battle tactics. I ran across a poem by Vietnam War correspondent Joe Galloway the other day that reminded me of the phrase God’s own Lunatics!
I have a lot of respect for Joe Galloway. Not a typical news reporter, and that is a fact. The man was a brave SOB, having made a name for himself at the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965 (I wrote about the battle here). Galloway was immortalized in the movie; We Were Soldiers (2002) when he and Lt Col Harold Moore’s battalion of airmobile Infantry soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division fought with multiple North Vietnamese regular army regiments.
Joe Galloway was to later write and narrate a poem to the helicopter soldiers. This is how it begins:
“I don’t know if there is anybody here today who doesn’t thrill at the sound of those blades. That familiar whoop whoop whoop is the soundtrack of our war. The lullaby of our younger days. To someone who spent his time in Nam with the grunts, I’ve got to tell you that noise was always great comfort.”
This presentation by Joe Galloway was a hero in his own right. He was also the only civilian to be awarded, from the U.S. Army, the Bronze Star in action. Never since have I ever heard this happen; a true honor.
“It meant that someone was going to help, Someone was coming to get our wounded, Someone was coming to bring us water and ammo, Someone was coming to take our dead brothers home. And eventually, someone was coming to give us a ride out of hell. Even today when I hear it, I stop, catch my breath, and think back to those days. I love you guys as only an infantryman can.”
Armed only with a camera, Joe Galloway was everywhere on the battlefield. This battle was the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN). This was also the first use of a new tactic developed at Fort Benning’s Infantry School in Georgia that used helicopters to move troops quickly from one point on the battlefield to another.
“We are the fortunate ones. We survived when so many better men gave up their precious lives for us. We owe them a sacred debt, to live each day to it’s fullest. What they are saying when you listen hard enough is this, “We’re at peace and so should you be… and so should you be.””
To read the poem, go to this link or listen to the soundtrack from The Shadow of the Blade (see link). Several versions can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. Thanks to Vietnam Veteran and Marine Robert “Bob” Reilly for sending me the links to this Joe Galloway poem.