David Haskell Hackworth
Colonel, United States Army
5 May 2005:
Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, one of the most decorated veterans in U.S. history who became a vocal advocate for military reform, died yesterday in Mexico at 74.
Hackworth returned from Vietnam as a strong critic of the war, later becoming a journalist and author of several best-selling books.
Hackworth was in Mexico for treatments of bladder cancer, which he had battled for some time.
"He died in my arms yesterday morning," his wife, Eilhys England, said today.
Hackworth pushed for streamlined military and improved conditions for troops.
"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group for which Hackworth served as chairman. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."
Hackworth wrote several books including "Steel My Soldier's Heart," "The Vietnam Primer," "About Face," and "Hazardous Duty."
"Hack genuinely loved his boys -- and that meant any and all U.S. servicemen," said WND's Joseph Farah, who recruited Hackworth as a columnist in 1998. "That meant any time I needed advice on military questions, Hack was always helpful in providing answers and context. He could always link you up with servicemen and vets who would have answers if he didn't. We've lost a tremendous networking force for the men in the field. We've lost a genuine, one-of-a-kind American hero."
Courtesy of the David H. Hackworth Estate:
Colonel David H. Hackworth, 1930-2005: Legendary
U.S. Army Guerrilla Fighter, Champion of the Ordinary Soldier
Colonel David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, groundpounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.
Colonel Hackworth spent more than half a century on the country's hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as Perfumed Princes. He preferred the combat style of World War II and Korean War heroes like James Gavin and Matthew Ridgeway and, during Vietnam, of Hank "The Gunfighter" Emerson and Hal Moore. General Moore, the author of "We Were Soldiers Once and Young," called him "the Patton of Vietnam" and General Creighton Abrams, the last American commander in that disastrous war, described him as "the best battalion commander I ever saw in the United States Army."
Colonel Hackworth's battlefield exploits put him on the line of American military heroes squarely next to Sergeant York and Audie Murphy. The novelist Ward Just, who knew him for forty years, described him as "the genuine article, a soldier's soldier, a connoisseur of combat." At 14, as World War II was sputtering out, he lied about his age to join the Merchant Marine, and at 15 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Over the next 26 years he spent fully seven in combat. He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Army's second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and 8 Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his 8 Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantryman's Badge.
A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABC's Issue and Answers to say Vietnam "is a bad war...it can't be won. We need to get out." He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.
With almost five years in country, Colonel Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War. After the interview, he retired from the Army and moved to Australia.
"He was perhaps the finest soldier of his generation," observed the novelist and war correspondent Nicholas Proffit, who described Colonel Hackworth's combat autobiography About Face, a national best-seller, as "a passionate cry from the heart of a man who never stopped loving the Army, even when it stopped loving him back."
Having risen from private by way of a battlefield commission in Korea, where he became the Army's youngest Captain, to Vietnam, where he served as its youngest bird Colonel, he never stood on rank.
From the beginning his life was a soldier's story. He was born on Armistice Day, now Veteran's Day, in 1930. His parents both died before he was a year old and the Army ultimately stood in for the family he never had. His grandmother, who rescued him from an orphanage, raised him on tales of the American Revolution and the Old West and the ethos of the Great Depression. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he got his first military training shining shoes at a base in Santa Monica, where the soldiers, adopting him as mascot, had a tailor cut him a pint-sized uniform. "At age 10 I knew my destiny," he said. "Nothing would be better than to be a soldier."
He always credited his success in battle to the training he received from the tough school of non-coms who won World War II, hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hard-fighting sergeants who drilled into him the basics of an infantryman's life: sweat in training cut down on blood shed in battle; there was nothing wrong with being out all night so long as you were present for roll call at 5:00 a.m., on your feet and in shape to run five miles before breakfast in combat boots.
In Korea, where he won his first Silver Star and Purple Heart before he was old enough to vote, he started his combat career in what he later called a "kill a commie for mommie" frame of mind. He was among the first volunteers for Korea and later for Vietnam, where he perfected his skill. "He understood the atmosphere of violence," Ward Just observed. "That meant he knew how to keep his head, to think in danger's midst. In battle the worst thing is paralysis. He mastered his own fear and learned how to kill. He led by example, and his men followed."
Just met him in the ruins of a base camp in the Central Highlands in 1966, where he was a major commanding a battalion of the 101st Airborne. "He was compact, with forearms the size of hams. His uniform was filthy and his use of obscenity was truly inventive." What struck the journalist most forcefully was "his enthusiasm, his magnetism, his exuberance, his invincible cheerfulness."
To young officers in Vietnam and long afterwards, he presented an unforgettable profile in courage. "Everyone called him Hack," recalled Dennis Foley, a military historian and novelist who first saw him in action with the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry in 1965. "He was referred to by his radio call sign of 'Steel Six.' He was tough, demanding and boyish all at the same time, stocky with a slightly leathered complexion. His light hair and deep tan made it hard for us to tell how old he was. He wore jungle fatigue trousers, shower shoes, a green T-shirt and a Rolex watch. In the corner of his mouth was a large and foul smelling cigar. As we entered the tent, he was bent over a field table looking at a map overlay and drinking a bottle of San Miguel beer."
With General S.L.A. "Slam" Marshall, he surveyed the war's early mayhem and compiled the Army's experience into The Vietnam Primer, a bible on a style of unconventional counter-guerrilla tactics he called "out gee-ing the G." His finest moment came when he applied these tactics, taking the hopeless 4/39 Infantry Battalion in the Mekong Delta, turning it into the legendary Hardcore Battalion. The men of the demoralized outfit saw him at first as a crazy "lifer" out to get them killed. For a time they even put a price on his head and waited for the first grunt to frag him.
Within 10 weeks, the fiery young combat leader had so transformed the 4/39 that it was routing main force enemy units. He led from the front, at one point getting out on the strut of a helicopter, landing on top of an enemy position and hauling to safety the point elements of a company pinned down and facing certain death. Thirty years later, the grateful enlisted men and young officers of the 4/39, now grown old, are still urging the Pentagon to award him the Medal of Honor for this action. So far, the Army has refused.
On leaving the Army, Colonel Hackworth retired to a farm on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane. He became a business entrepreneur, making a small fortune in real estate, then expanding a highly popular restaurant called Scaramouche. As a leading spokesman for Australia's anti-nuclear movement he was presented the United Nations Medal for Peace.
As About Face was becoming a best seller, he returned to the United States to marry Eilhys England, his one great love, who became his business and writing partner. He became a powerful voice for military reform. From 1990 to 1996, as Newsweek Magazine's Contributing editor for defense, he covered the first Gulf War as well as peacekeeping battles in Somalia, the Balkans, Korea and Haiti. He captured this experience in Hazardous Duty, a volume of war dispatches. Among his many awards as a journalist was the George Washington Honor Medal for excellence in communications. He also wrote a novel, Price of Honor, about the snares of Vietnam, Somalia and the Military Industrial Complex. His last book, Steel My Soldiers' Hearts, was a tribute to the men of the Hardcore Battalion.
He was a regular guest on national radio and TV shows and a regular contributor to magazines including People, Parade, Men's Journal, Self, Playboy, Maxim and Modern Maturity. His column, Defending America, has appeared weekly in newspapers across the country and on the website of Soldiers For The Truth, a rallying point for military reform. He and Ms. England have been the driving force behind the organization, which defends the interests of ordinary soldiers while upholding Hack's conviction that "nuke-the-pukes" solutions no longer work in an age of terror that demands "a streamlined, hard-hitting force for the twenty-first century."
"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."
Over the final years of Colonel Hackworth's life, his wife Eilhys fought beside him during his gallant battle against bladder cancer, which now appears with sinister regularity among Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Blue. At one point he considered dropping their syndicated column, only to make an abrupt about face, saying, "Writing with you is the only thing that keeps me alive." The last words he said to his doctor were "If I die, tell Eilhys I was grateful for every moment she brought me, every extra moment I got to spend with her. Tell her my greatest achievement is the love the two of us shared."
Colonel Hackworth is survived by Ms. England, one step-daughter and two step-grandchildren, and four children and four grandchildren from two earlier marriages. At a date to be announced, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Soldiers For The Truth is now working on legal
action to compel the Pentagon to recognize Agent Blue alongside the better
known Agent Orange as a killer and to help veterans exposed to it during
the Vietnam War. Memorial contributions can be sent to Soldiers For The
Truth either by internet or by mail to, PO Box 54365, Irving, California,
A retired army colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran who later became a journalist and military reform advocate has died.
David Hackworth was 74. He lived in Greenwich with his wife, Eilhys England. He died yesterday in her arms in Tijuana, Mexico.
Hackworth was a Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War. He worked in recent years for King Features, where he has been highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.
Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign condolence letters to the families of fallen soldiers. Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter by hand.
Hackworth served four tours of duty in Vietnam and was one of the first senior officers to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War. He was nearly court-martialed before he retired from the military in 1971 and gave up his medals in protest.
He moved to Australia and made millions in a restaurant business and a duck farm.
Hackworth is survived by his wife of eight years, a stepdaughter and four children from two earlier marriages, the family said.
England says he will be buried at Arlington
National Cemetery but said a date has not been set.
This nation has lost quite possibly the bravest soldier to ever wear a uniform.
Colonel David Hackworth not only displayed the heart of a lion in battle, but continued his brave ways long after leaving the Army.
He was an outspoken critic of senseless abuses of power on the part of politicians, while remaining a most ardent defender of those who were charged with executing their orders. "Hack" as he was known, succumbed to the ravages of cancer on May 4,2005. Those who were fortunate enough to serve under him and those of us who simply admired his bravery and insight, will never forget him.
Colonel David Hackworth was born on Armistice Day in 1930. He became an orphan before the age of one. The only thing he wanted to do was become a soldier. At the tender age of 14, he convinced a stranger to pose as his father and escort him into a recruiting center, where the two lied about his age. In 1944, Hackworth was sailing with the U.S. Merchant Marine in the Pacific. When he turned 15, he joined the U.S. Army and his incredible career began.
Colonel Hackworth served in Europe during World War II, the Korean war, and Vietnam. During the Korean War, he received a battlefield commission and before war's end became the youngest captain in the U.S. Army. While serving in Vietnam, Hackworth became the youngest full-bird Colonel in that war.
While in Vietnam, Colonel Hackworth led a rescue mission to extract several of his own men. The soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire and would have undoubtedly faced death. Hackworth stood on the strut of his helicopter and personally pulled the men to safety, all the while facing heavy NVA fire. The men who he saved that day recommended him for a Congressional Medal of Honor (one of three submissions).
In 1971, Colonel Hackworth appeared on the ABC network show "Issues and Answers." In his typical fashion, 'Hack' pulled no punches. He proclaimed to the nation: "Vietnam is a bad war...it can't be won. We need to get out." He went on to predict that the city of Saigon would fall to the communist forces of North Vietnam within the next four years. The Colonel had earned the right to say anything he pleased and his prediction was right on the money.
Of course, Hackworth's honesty and candor angered President Nixon and his band of 'yes men' which comprised the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Due to Hackworth's incredible military service, unquestionable character, and overwhelming heroism--neither the President nor the Pentagon could mount a legitimate defense to the colonel's claims. However, following his appearance on "Issues and Answers," he retired from the Army and left the country for Australia.
While in Australia, Hackworth worked tirelessly against nuclear proliferation and for his efforts received the United Nation's Medal for Peace. He returned to the U.S. in the 1980's.
Hackworth was constantly sought out for his great insight on military issues. He became a correspondent and analyst for Newsweek as well as CNN.
As a journalist, 'Hack' was just as outspoken as he had been while in uniform. While giving a speech on his experiences covering the first Gulf War, the retired colonel said: "I didn't see any Japanese soldiers. I didn't see any German soldiers." He complained that American young men were fighting and dying for oil that was "fueling their economy, fueling their industry that's ripping our chops!"
Hackworth was the author of seven books and thousands of hard-hitting articles. For his reporting skills, he earned the prestigious George Washington Honor Medal.
Hackworth wrote a regular column for World Net Daily entitled "Defending America." The column was devoted to exposing wasteful military spending, useless politicians and top military brass, and the lack of military preparedness.
Hackworth described the "battle cry" of his column to be: "No more Vietnams. No more Somalias. No more Koreas. No more fights that see unprepared forces flung onto foreign battlefields to be chewed up like hamburger in a lion's den."
The colonel was also the founder of Soldiers For The Truth. SFTT is a veterans organization which fights for the rights of our men and women in uniform. One of the important causes on which that group is still battling our government is the recognition of Vietnam veterans who are suffering from the affects of Agent Blue. While the Pentagon finally admitted the dangers to which so many soldiers were subjected by the use of Agent Orange--exposure to Agent Blue while just as dangerous, remains officially unrecognized.
Colonel Hackworth himself was exposed to Agent Blue in Vietnam and died of bladder cancer. Many Vietnam veterans are suffering from the same form of cancer due to their exposure to the deadly chemical.
Colonel David Hackworth was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, as well as ten Silver Stars, eight Purple Hearts, eight Bronze Stars, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Of all the medals and accolades Hackworth received, he said that he was most proud of his Combat Infantry Badge.
Hackworth's dedication, toughness, and his soldier's heart distinguished him as one of America's greatest heroes. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
To Colonel David Hackworth: Thank you for your fierce loyalty and determination. We will never forget you. Nor are we likely to ever see the likes of you again sir!...Godspeed.
'Hack' often referred to most of this nation's generals as "Perfumed Princes." Though he retired a full Colonel, he was truly a 'soldier's soldier,' and his heart always remained with the enlisted men he loved so.
completing two years at Tidewater Community College, Dave Gibson became
a Virginia Beach Deputy Sheriff. He has since left the department and now
owns a small business in the city of Chesapeake, Virginia. An active volunteer
in many animal organizations, he has worked at the Virginia Zoo, the Norfolk
SPCA, and currently works for the K-9 New Life Center based in Virginia
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to David H. Hackworth, Major (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
On 7 February 1966, Major Hackworth's unit was assigned the mission of relieving elements of a friendly rifle company which had been pinned down for four hours.
Upon arriving at the beleaguered unit's position, Major Hackworth moved forward, by himself, to conduct a reconnaissance of the area. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, he moved across an open field through small arms fire, crossed a bridge which was raked by intense hostile machine gun fire, and ran across another open field through heavy fire to the embattled company s position. Major Hackworth then crawled to within twenty meters of the insurgent positions in the face of heavy machine gun fire. Upon completion of his reconnaissance mission, he returned to his command post and again, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the attacking force across the bullet swept fields to the insurgent positions. He then led a group through intense fire to a position only forty meters from the opposing force's battle positions.
From this point, under fire for approximately six hours, Major Hackworth calmly and effectively maneuvered his units to close in on the entrenched and determined Viet Cong. Continuously, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he exposed himself to intense fire to personally inspire and direct the attack.
As one of the attacking units began to falter,
without hesitation, Major Hackworth left his position to rally the attackers
and lead them into the Viet Cong positions. During the final phase of the
attack, Major Hackworth again exposed himself to heavy fire in order to
direct an air strike on the Viet Cong. Major Hackworth's extraordinary
heroism and gallantry in action were in keeping with the highest traditions
of the United States Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the
The Distinguished Service Cross (First Oak Leaf Cluster) is presented to David H. Hackworth, Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Hackworth distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period of 23 to 25 March 1969 as battalion commander while his unit was engaged with elements of two Viet Cong battalions.
After one of his companies came under attack from a numerically superior hostile force, Colonel Hackworth landed his command and control helicopter amid heavy enemy fire to resupply the unit with ammunition and to evacuate casualties. Remaining with his forces on the ground, he led a patrol in pursuit of the withdrawing enemy and, after learning the enemy's withdrawal plan from a captured soldier, directed the insertion of other elements of his battalion into blocking positions.
As the conflict developed into a large scale battle, he again took to the air and flew through intense antiaircraft fire to adjust artillery fire and direct the movement of his men. He repeatedly landed to coordinate with his ground commanders, lead assaults against hostile positions, and evacuate casualties.
When a friendly scout element sustained several casualties and became pinned down near the communist emplacements, he disembarked from his helicopter to maneuver through the hostile fusillade and assist the wounded men to his aircraft. When he had insured that the injured were being evacuated, he adjusted supporting fire on the enemy fortifications until the enemy was soundly defeated and their weapons and supplied confiscated.
Lieutenant Colonel Hackworth's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
HACKWORTH, DAVID H
Posted: 5 May 2005 Updated: 6 May 2005 Updated: 10 May 2005 Updated: 18 December 2005 Updated: 10 July 2007