Movie: We Were Soldiers

By | September 5, 2020

[September 5, 2020] I don’t do movie reviews, but I do comment on them occasionally. My wife told me that doing a “war movie review” might be a good idea, and I should consider starting. Here is my first attempt. The movie I chose today for a review is We Were Soldiers (2002) starring Mel Gibson.

The movie is based on the 1994 book We Were Soldiers Once … and Young by Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and war journalist Joseph Galloway. I first saw the movie at the Fort Sill, OK movie theater with about 50 soldiers attending from my Engineer unit. We were preparing for deployment to the Iraq War, and our commander thought it a good idea to give us a couple of hours off. Since that time, I read Hal Moore’s book, saw the movie another two times, and read a few reviews.

In Hal Moore’s book, he complains about how portrayals of the Vietnam War were inaccurate when he said that “Every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” I think back to movies like Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Apocalypse Now (1979) that help define the war in our minds but are historically inaccurate. Director Randall Wallace said he was inspired by this comment and became determined to get it right this time.

The movie puts most of the war’s politics and the traditional soldier bantering in the backseat to focus more on the men who fought there and their wives back home at Fort Benning, GA. Tactics of the real battle are shown as well as the brutality of the fighting without overdoing the blood and guts drama we so often see. However, the movie works best at a meaningful level; that of the American and North Vietnamese soldiers.

The Battle of Ia Drang was covered in an earlier article (see link here). There is a good showing of how Hal Moore’s soldiers used the use of the helicopter and jungle tactics from the 1st Cavalry Division. This gives us good visuals, like the helicopter gave combat troops tremendous mobility on the battlefield to commit forces anywhere.

What I found interesting was that the movie shows us, inadvertently I think, the problem when a military doesn’t have an objective that is clear. The soldiers in Vietnam were not told to take a specific geographical objective and then move onto the next. Instead, they operated under search and destroy missions. In the movie, we see Hal Moore’s commander telling him before the battle that his 1st Cav soldiers have a simple order, “Find the enemy and kill him.”

Courage is highlighted in the movie and it is done well. It shows how American soldiers stood up to a North Vietnam Army regiment that outnumbered them 10 to 1. This ratio would normally guarantee victory when locked in a battle where weaponry was similar and on the ground where the attacker had intimate knowledge.

I liked the movie and give it a thumbs-up. Watch it.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Movie: We Were Soldiers

  1. Bryan Lee

    Happy Labor Day. Oh, yes, great movie that I’ve watched several times. I have Netflix and often get We Were Soldiers free on occasion. I take advantage of the free shows all the time. This is my favorite.

  2. Harry Donner

    Excellent review of a truly good movie. Thanks. Oh, please continue with other “war movies.”

    1. Georgie M.

      Harry, you and others have identified an important point and that is that we should “enjoy” these movies because they represent what we believe happened and should rightly honor those soldiers there.

  3. Yusaf from Texas

    IMHO, this is one of the best movies made (at least up to that time). It shows us courage under the most extreme circumstances.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Hal Moore knew that the Landing Zone X-Ray where the helicopters put him and his men down was just east of the Chu Pong hills; the troops could see that long massif clearly from their camp. What they couldn’t see was the massive presence in those hills of North Vietnamese troops, who initially outnumbered them 10-1. Moore’s men were given no time to settle and over the next forty-eight hours Hell bubbled up and broke through the earth’s core at LZ X-Ray.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Yes, and it was done well in the movie altho much is left out. Thanks Willie for sharing this detail.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      A great movie to watch more than once. My dad was in Vietnam and I’m proud to say he is my dad. God Bless him and all the Vietnam veterans and all our current military and vets.

      1. Dale Paul Fox

        Our Vietnam Vets were treated horribly, lead by “Hanoi” Jane Fonda and other traitors.

  5. Ronny Fisher

    We Were Soldiers Once… and Young is a 1992 book by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and war journalist Joseph L. Galloway about the Vietnam War. It focuses on the role of the First and Second Battalions of the 7th Cavalry Regiment in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, the United States’ first large-unit battle of the Vietnam War; previous engagements involved small units and patrols (squad, platoon, and company sized units). It was adapted into the 2002 film We Were Soldiers.

  6. Eric Coda

    In November 1965 I was twelve-years-old and had recently absconded from a training college for Catholic priests. I was always outdoors and was probably wandering around in the early Scottish winter happily unaware that 6,000 miles south east of me Lt.Col. Hal Moore and his soldiers were jumping from helicopters in a clearing in the Ia Drang valley, Vietnam. A number of his men would have been just seven years older than I was.

  7. Xavier Bordon

    Read the book! If you are considering reading this book, do it. Even if you have seen the movie adaptation, you need to read this book. It is hard to capture just how powerful and moving Hal Moore’s account of the battle in the Ia Drang valley is. While I have read countless books about various wars in my life, none have moved me quite in the same way that this book did.

    1. Watson Bell

      I agree with you Xavier, I usually don’t read books about the Vietnam war because so few books are able to tell the story of those days. I cannot say enough about the story Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway told here. It’s extremely well written.

  8. Forrest Gump

    We Were Soldiers … and Young — great! What else is there to say.

  9. Fred Weber

    Once again, super blog post and this time on a movie that we all should have seen and enjoyed.

    1. Greg Heyman

      We “should” have seen it but some of us didn’t. I did not see it for whatever reason but I’ll go on Netflix and rent the film even if not free. Thanks for the recommendation. I like older war movies, so I’m sure this more recent one will work for me too. I like the idea that you will start ‘reviewing’ war movies, I know that’s not your forte but there are valuable lessons in them even if they are not easy to see. ?

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      Yes, I agree. Another top notch article. I’ve sent the website’s link to friends of mine and they are reading this leadership blog now. It continues to grow in popularity.

  10. Tom Bushmaster

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for a short movie review and how you see it too. There are plenty of historical inaccuracies in this movie too. I don’t think anyone can make a movie about modern warfare and make it watchable. The soldiers are normally too spread out and the action to dispersed.

    1. Stacey Borden

      Right, so there has to be some kind of compression of the action for us to watch on the screen. Still, this movie does give us some flavor and better approved by the man who was there and not some hyper-liberal Hollywood sicko’s interpretation of events or reality. Hollywood knows how to show action but its never reality.

  11. Randy Goodman

    Truly great movie, awe inspiring, and helpful to see what real war is like.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      What more is there to say? Great movie but also the reason is that it shows what real men are like. You didn’t see any of these soldiers saying they wanted a “safe space” like snowflake college students do today because they hear something they don’t like. When you are getting shot at by someone who wants to kill you and your buddies, your perspective on life changes.


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