Modern Reporting Technology Might Have Irked Military Leaders in Vietnam

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Combat operations at Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, November 1965. Major Bruce P. Crandall's UH-1D helicopter climbs skyward after discharging a load of infantrymen on a search and destroy mission. (U.S. Army)

Few reporters have done more to shape the way we remember the Vietnam War than Joe Galloway. He was present at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, embedded with the 7th Cavalry Regiment, where he rescued a wounded American soldier.

Some 33 years later in 1998, the Defense Department awarded him, a lifelong civilian, the Bronze Star for his effort. He's the only civilian to receive a Bronze Star for combat valor from the Army.

Galloway joined Military.com's Managing Editor, Hope Hodge Seck, in the second episode of the new "Left of Boom" podcast. The two talked about war reporting and Vietnam commemorations, among other topics.

The truth, Galloway said, has to be worth something very real for a reporter to put his or her life on the line. He says he’s lost 70 of his friends to the war in Vietnam in pursuit of truth.

"We've always tried to hold their feet to the fire when necessary. That's our job. The way the news is handled, the way news people are handled, is different from administration to administration," Galloway said. "... But we still have the same job to do, and we have to do it to the best of our ability in pursuit of the truth."

In 1992, he co-authored a memoir of the battle with then-Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, who was the commander on the ground at Landing Zone X-Ray during the weeklong fighting at Ia Drang. The book, called "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," was later turned into the 2002 movie "We Were Soldiers."

Mel Gibson portrayed Moore as a lieutenant colonel in the film, and Barry Pepper played Galloway.

Ia Drang was the first major, set-piece battle between the United States Army and the People's Army of Vietnam (also known as the North Vietnamese). It also featured the first use of helicopters in a large-scale air assault and -- to give an idea of the scope of the fighting -- the first use of B-52 Stratofortresses for tactical support.

The battle itself is claimed as a victory for both sides. There were two landing zones in Ia Drang. At LZ Albany, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, under Lt. Col. Robert McDade took 50% casualties. At LZ X-Ray, Moore and his 1st Battalion got pummeled, but managed to inflict 10 times more casualties than they took.

"You have to tell the American people what's really going on on the battlefield," Galloway said. "What's going on on an aircraft carrier, what's going on around the world."

But things in Ia Drang might have been very different with today's technology.

"I think about what it would have been like for Hal Moore in the Ia Drang battle if I had been sitting on a sat phone and his boss would have been reading my stuff," Galloway said. "Probably, he would have stomped on my sat phone. He didn't need anyone looking over his shoulder in real-time."

Since 2013, Galloway's documentation of the Vietnam War has shifted to its veterans. As a special consultant to the Pentagon's Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Project, he travels all over the U.S. interviewing Vietnam veterans and civilians alike -- anyone whose experience in Vietnam can add to a richer retelling of the story of the war.

"I don't make a lot of money doing it, and I don't like airports," he said. "But I think it's important. It's important that we capture as many of these stories before they're all gone. This generation of veterans is dying off faster than the World War II people did."

To hear the entire interview with Galloway, listen in on the player above.

You can also tune in to Military.com's Left of Boom podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher.

-- Follow Hope Hodge Seck on Twitter @HopeSeck.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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