Many books have been written about the Vietnam War – the vivid experiences of both the US and Vietnam soldiers – and that the message and lesson of one more story or a review for that matter will risk being lost amidst a vast ocean of tragic tales told with great pain. However, Colonel David H. Hackworth, (U. S. Army RET. ) He has provided something more than a recall of an Army combat unit in the post-Tet Offensive world of Vietnam. He has presented readers with a primer (textbook) sort of a tactical reform for infantry.
LTC Hackworth told the readers how he took over the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry operating in Vietnam in 1969 and turned it into one of the most effective in Vietnam. He told the public how he developed tactics against the Viet Cong that were so effective he was able to “out Guerrilla the Guerrilla. ” He did this by changing from a search and destroy operational strategy where the VC always had the advantage by being able to chose the time and place of attack, to one of using the same guerrilla tactics against the Cong.
He used stealth, surprise, ambush, snipers and massive firepower to defeat the enemy who had long dominated the Mekong Delta area where the 4/39th operated for years. His well disciplined battalion defeated and decimated the legendary 261 Viet Cong Battalion. All the information is there in stark GI English. Hackworth, beginning with the first sentence of chapter 1 and finishing up with the last sentences of the last chapter, said: We now need to fight smart as much as we need to get even.
There is no other choice. We do it right or we lose. We win–or we die. (Czarnecki 2004) Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts contained the collected practical wisdom of Hackworth, the successful battalion commander. Unfortunately, the wisdom that keeps soldiers alive on the battlefield does not necessarily contribute to the end of battles or wars. Hackworth told of his struggles not only with the Cong but with the pretend and phony soldiers in the ranks above him.
Analyzing what Hackworth wanted to tell the readers is just like recognizing that therein lies the major lesson of this frank and valuable book. Hackworth successfully conveyed to those in service and the civilians as well that if a nation’s armed forces can be exceptionally well trained, exceptionally lethal, and full of esprit de corps, they can win all the battles and can maximize the body count.
But if the end of the battle or war is flawed or worse, uncertain–no amount of courage, steel, or personal battlefield leadership can obtain victory.
Czarnecki, Jon. “Hackworth, David H. and England, Eilys. Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts – Book Review. ” Naval War College Review, 2004. FindArticles. com. 11 Dec. 2007. <http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0JIW/is_1_57/ai_113755363>. Hackworth, David H. “Steel My Soldiers Hearts. ” Touchstone Publishing. 2002.