David Haskell Hackworth
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)• Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
David Haskell Hackworth
David Haskell Hackworth was born on 11 November 1930 in California.
Hackworth joined the U.S. Merchant Marine at age 14, towards the end of World War II, when teenagers routinely entered the armed services before their 18th birthday by lying about their age. After the war, he lied again to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was assigned as a rifleman to the 351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division, and stationed on occupation duty in Trieste. His unit, part of TRUST (Trieste United States Troops), at times served under British command, and his duty as a Private gave him many of the lessons that he would later draw on as both a non-commissioned and a commissioned officer, including his belief that U.S. units should never be placed under operational control of foreign militaries. It was under Sergeant Steve Prazenka that Hackworth learned the value of hard training and the quest for perfection.
In the Korean War, volunteering again to serve, he became a Sergeant. Hackworth fought in Korea with the 25th Reconnaissance Company, the 8th Rangers, and finally the 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division. He was awarded a number of medals for valor, and several Purple Hearts for being wounded multiple times. After a successful raid on Hill 1062 and a battlefield promotion to First Lieutenant, the commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment offered Hackworth command of a new volunteer raider unit. Hackworth created the 27th Wolfhound Raiders and led them from August to November 1951. He subsequently volunteered for a second tour in Korea, this time with the 40th Infantry Division. Hackworth was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Demobilized after the Armistice Agreement in Korea, Hackworth became bored with civilian life after two years of college and re-entered the U.S. Army in 1956 as a Captain.
When Hackworth returned to active duty, the expanding "Cold War" had substantially changed the structure of the Army from what he had known. Initially posted to 77th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion in Manhattan Beach, CA, Hackworth was eventually assigned to Germany, initially in staff roles but returning to the Infantry in the early 1960s as an Infantry Company Commander under Colonel Glover S. Johns. From this veteran, he learned a great deal of the skills that were needed to be an effective officer. He was involved in a number of fire drills around the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and his exploits at the time were rivaled only by the loyalty of his troops and the growth in his leadership skills and style. He recounted his experiences with the Russian Guard and his views on military history in his book About Face.
When President Kennedy announced that a large advisory team was being sent to South Vietnam, Hackworth immediately volunteered for service. His request was denied, on the grounds that he had "too much" combat experience for the mission.
In 1965, he deployed to Vietnam as a Major, where he served as an Operations Officer and Battalion Commander in the 101st Airborne Division. He quickly developed a reputation as an eccentric but effective soldier, becoming a public figure in several books authored by General S.L.A. "Slam" Marshall. Following a stateside tour at the Pentagon and promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Hackworth co-wrote "The Vietnam Primer" with Marshall after returning to Vietnam in the winter of 1966-67 on an Army-sponsored tour with the famous historian and commentator. The book adopted some of the same tactics as Mao Zedong and Che Guevara and the Viet Cong in fighting guerrillas. Hackworth described the strategy as "out-G-ing the G." His personal and professional relationship with Marshall soured as Hackworth became suspicious of his methods and motivation.
However, both his assignment with "Slam" Marshall and his time on staff duty at the Pentagon soured Hackworth on the Vietnam War. One aspect of the latter required him to publicly defend the U.S. position on the war in a speaking tour. Even with his reservations concerning the conflict, he refused to resign, feeling it was his duty as a field grade officer to wage the campaign as best he could.
Hackworth was assigned to a training battalion at Fort Lewis, WA, and then returned to Vietnam to lead elements of the 9th Infantry Division. There he turned his theories about guerrilla warfare, and how to counter it, into practice with the 4/39 Infantry in the Mekong Delta, an underperforming unit made up largely of conscripts. Hackworth transformed the unit into the counterinsurgent "Hardcore" Battalion (Recondo) from January to late May 1969.
Hackworth next served as a Senior Military Advisor to the South Vietnamese. His view that the U.S. Army was not learning from its mistakes, and that South Vietnamese ARVN officers were essentially corrupt, created friction with Army leadership.
In early 1971, Lieutenant Colonel David Hackworth was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and received orders to attend the Army War College. Hackworth received another opportunity to attend the War College as he had turned down a previous opportunity to go there. Colonel Hackworth was being groomed for bigger and better things, but he had no desire to become a General Officer and declined once again to go to the War College and would soon become totally fed up with the system, not to mention the war in Vietnam.
Hackworth's dissatisfaction ultimately culminated in a television interview with ABC. On 27 June 1971, he appeared on the program Issues and Answers and strongly criticized U.S. commanders in Vietnam, said the war could not be won and called for U.S. withdrawal. The interview enraged senior U.S. Army officers at the Pentagon. He soon found himself ostracized in the defense stablishment.
Hackworth was nearly court-martialed for various infractions such as running a brothel for his troops in Vietnam, running gambling houses, and exploiting his position for personal profit by manipulating U.S. currency. At the same time, he was experiencing personal problems that resulted in divorce. In order to avoid a court-martial, and in an effort to rebuild his life, he was allowed to retire at the rank of Colonel. Hackworth then moved to Australia.
Hackworth, the Businessman
Settling on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane, Hackworth soon made a fortune through profitable real estate investing, a lucrative duck farm, and a popular restaurant called Scaramouche. He was also active in the Australian anti-nuclear movement.
Hackworth, the Journalist
Hackworth returned to the U.S. in the mid-1980s and began working as a Contributing Editor on defense issues for Newsweek. He also made regular television appearances to discuss various military-related topics, and the shortcomings of the military. His commentary on the psychological effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, based on his own experiences in overcoming the disorder, resonated with disabled veterans.
In the mid-1990s, Hackworth investigated Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, then Chief of Naval Operations. Hackworth, through his Newsweek articles, questioned Boorda's wearing of potentially unauthorized V (for valor) devices on his Navy Achievement Medal and Navy Commendation Medal, generating much controversy. Boorda committed suicide before he could be interviewed by Hackworth. Hackworth appeared on countless televisions and radio talk shows and formed his own website, Soldiers for the Truth, continuing to be the self-proclaimed voice of the "grunts" until his death.
King Features Syndicate distributed Hackworth's weekly column "Defending America." Many of his columns discussed the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War and were concerned with the policies of the American leadership in conducting the wars, as well as the conditions of the soldiers serving. Hackworth continued the column until his death from bladder cancer in May 2005. Associates believe that his cancer was caused by exposure to Agent Blue (a defoliant used in Vietnam), and are lobbying the U.S. government to have the substance labeled a known carcinogen, like the more famous Agent Orange.
In response to Hackworth's investigation of Admiral Boorda, CNN and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather questioned the accuracy of Hackworth's own military decorations. In particular, the reports accused Hackworth of claiming a Ranger Tab to which he was not entitled and an extra Distinguished Flying Cross on his website. Hackworth threatened to sue CBS and requested a formal audit of his military records. In response to the military audit, the Executive Producer of CBS News sent a letter to Hackworth that stated:
"The Army's audit of its records has determined that the Army made an administrative error back in 1988, when it reissued your medals and awards. Along with numerous other decorations, the Army mistakenly issued you a Ranger Tab and two Oak Leaf Clusters for your Distinguished Flying Cross. The Army has thus verified what we reported as your explanation of the matter.
As far as we are concerned, the Army audit makes clear that you did not at any time wear or claim any military honor not actually issued by the U.S. Army, based on its official records, including the service record you signed and dated. At the same time, CBS continues to believe that our reports did not state or imply that you knowingly wore or claimed decorations not issued by the U.S. Army and that any such inference drawn from the reports would be mistaken.
Similarly, we do not believe our reports in any way equated your conduct with that of the late Admiral Boorda's. Indeed, as we believe we made clear in our reports, by all accounts you are a man who has shown extraordinary heroism in your service to our country, and has deservedly been awarded many of the nation's most coveted awards for valor."
In 2002, Hackworth was asked about the controversy in an interview with Proceedings. In the interview he stated:
"I had served in the 8th Ranger Company; later I served in the 27th Raiders of the 25th Infantry Division. On the Raiders' tenth mission, the regimental commander awarded every trooper the Ranger Tab. When all this fell out after the Boorda story, I immediately had my records audited. And they reflected that I was awarded the Ranger Tab. It was on my official records; it's not something I claimed falsely.
Let me tell you how the regulation reads now. To rate a Ranger Tab, you had to have been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) while a member of the 8th Ranger Company. But I got my CIB with Company G, 27th Infantry Regiment. Thus, the 1951 award of the tab did not meet the 1980s criteria. I take all the blame.
All the guys in the 27th Raiders got the Ranger Tab, but they were not Rangers. When the Boorda story exploded, people were looking for chinks in my armor. So I'm a defrocked Ranger. As it turned out, though, in the Army's vetting of my record, they found I had ten Silver Stars, not nine."
Hackworth's harsh treatment of S.L.A. Marshall in About Face was criticized by Marshall's grandson, John Douglas Marshall, in his memoir Reconciliation Road: A Family Odyssey. Noting Hackworth's "savaging" of his former mentor, the younger Marshall sought him out for an interview and was impressed by Hackworth's "limited intellect" and his tendency to "present his impressions as fact." The book notes several errors in Hackworth's accounts of events.
Medals and Awards
Hackworth earned over ninety awards, including numerous individual citations for valor as well as unit citations earned by units he served in or commanded. He was proudest of his Combat Infantryman Badge, which he frequently wore on the lapel of his civilian sports jackets in retirement.
Distinguished Service Cross with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Foreign Individual Awards
Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class
Vietnam Master Parachutist Badge
World War II Merchant Marine Awards
Pacific War Zone Bar
Death and Burial
Colonel David Haskell Hackworth died on 4 May 2005 at the age of 74 in Tijuana, Mexico. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.
He is survived by his wife, Eilhys England, a stepdaughter, and four children from his two previous marriages.
|Honoree ID: 57||Created by: MHOH|