Hal Moore provides inspiration for ‘We Were Soldiers’
Sitting in his favorite rocking chair in the sunroom of his home in Auburn, Ala. (pop. 42,987), Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, 89, is surrounded by a dozen young students hanging on his every word—how a small-town Kentucky boy managed to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., flew through the air as a young paratrooper when his parachute snagged on the tail of an airplane and, most notably, led his troops in the first major battle of the Vietnam War.
In that historic battle in November 1965 in Vietnam’s rugged Ia Drang Valley, Moore’s boots were the first on the battlefield and the last off as he and his 390 men, outnumbered by 4-to-1, killed an estimated 750 enemy soldiers during a fierce three-day shootout. Seventy-nine of Moore’s men died in the firefight.
“Never once did it cross my mind that we would fail,” the retired general tells the youngsters during a lesson on leadership.
“When you’re up against a tough problem, never quit. There’s always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favor. And then after that, one more thing again. Never give up.”
Moore’s tenacity is grounded in experience.
At age 15, he set his sights on attending West Point to become an Army officer, though he was unable to secure an appointment through his own senators and congressman. Undeterred, he moved to Washington, D.C., at age 18, working days in the Senate Book Warehouse and taking evening classes to finish high school, all while knocking on doors on Capitol Hill to get his foot in the door of West Point.
More than two years later, a Georgia congressman nominated Moore for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy—with permission to swap if he could find a willing West Point candidate. He did.
“In the game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out,” Moore says. “But I learned that in the game of life, three strikes and you’re not out.”