|David H. Hackworth|
|November 11, 1930– 4 May 2005 (aged 74)|
Hackworth in Zagreb, Croatia, December 1995. Photo by Dale Cruse.
|Place of birth||California|
|Place of death||Tijuana, Mexico|
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1945–1971|
25th Infantry Division
40th Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division
|Commands held||Tiger Force|
Service Cross (2)
Silver Star (10)
Legion of Merit (4)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star with "V" Device (8)
Purple Heart (8)
Air Medal (33)
Combat Infantryman Badge
David Haskell Hackworth (November 11, 1930 – May 4, 2005) known also as "Hack", was a highly decorated United States Army colonel and prominent military journalist. During his time as a journalist, Hackworth investigated many subjects, including an assertion into the accused improper wearing of ribbons and devices by Admiral Mike Boorda, an investigation which is speculated to have driven Boorda to committing suicide.
Hackworth is also known for his role in the creation and command of Tiger Force, a military unit formed during the Vietnam War to apply guerilla warfare tactics to the fight against Vietnamese guerrillas.
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. After the war, he lied about his age again to enlist in the United States Army. He was assigned as a rifleman to the 351st Infantry, 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 a non-commissioned officer and as a commissioned officer, including his belief that U.S. units should never be placed under operational control of foreign militaries. It was under the tutelage of Sergeant Steve Prazenka that Hackworth would learn the value of hard training and the quest for perfection. In the Korean War he became a Sergeant, volunteering again for service.
In Korea, Hackworth fought with the 25th Recon Company, the 8th Rangers, and then the 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division (Light), earning a battlefield commission as a lieutenant and several medals for valor along with multiple Purple Hearts for being wounded several times. After a successful raid (Hill 1062) and battlefield decoration and promotion to 1st Lieutenant, Col. Sloan (CO 27th Inf Rgt) offered Hackworth a new volunteer Division-level raider unit. Hackworth formed the new 27th Wolfhound Raiders, leading them from August to November 1951. He subsequently volunteered for a second tour in Korea, this time with the 40th Infantry Division. For his bravery in combat, Lieutenant Hackworth was further rewarded with a promotion to the rank of Captain.
Demobilized after the cease-fire in Korea, Hackworth quickly became bored with civilian life after finishing two years of college and reentered the Army in 1956 as a Captain.
Captain David Hackworth returned to the Army- the expanding "Cold War" model U.S. Army, which had changed substantially from the army he had known. Initially posted to 77th antiaircraft artillery battalion in Manhattan Beach, California, Hackworth was eventually assigned to Germany, initially in staff roles but returning to infantry in the early 1960s as an Infantry company commander under Colonel Glover S. Johns, and learned a great deal of the skills that were needed to be an effective officer from this veteran. 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. 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, Washington, and then returned to Vietnam to lead elements of the 9th Infantry Division, turning his theories about guerrilla warfare and how to counter it into practice with the 4/39 Infantry in the Mekong Delta, an under performing unit made up largely of conscripts which Hackworth transformed into the counterinsurgent "Hardcore" Battalion (Recondo) from January to late May 1969.
Hackworth next served as a senior military adviser 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 June 27, 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 establishment.
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. He was allowed to retire, in order to avoid a court martial, at the rank of colonel, and in an effort to rebuild his life, Hackworth moved to Australia.
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 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" 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 United States government to have the substance labelled a known carcinogen like the more famous Agent Orange.
Hackworth died on May 4, 2005 at the age of 74 in Tijuana, Mexico. He is survived by his wife, Eilhys England, a stepdaughter, and four children from his two previous marriages. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
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 earned over ninety decorations, 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 sportsjackets in retirement.
|Distinguished Service Cross (with oak leaf cluster)|
|Silver Star (with one silver and four oak leaf clusters)|
|Legion of Merit (with three oak leaf clusters)|
|Distinguished Flying Cross|
|Bronze Star (with 1 silver and one gold oak leaf cluster and Valor Device)|
|Purple Heart (with one silver oak Leaf Cluster & two oak leaf clusters)|
|Air Medal (with Valor Device & Numeral 34, one for heroism and 33 for aerial achievement)|
|Army Commendation Medal (with Valor Device & 3 oak leaf clusters)|
Hackworth wrote articles for:
Hackworth was also a founder of Soldiers for the Truth, an advocacy group focused on military reform, both in terms of capability and treatment of personnel.