…..\”He was perhaps the finest soldier of his generation,\” observed the novelist and war correspondent Nicholas Proffit,
who described Col. 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.\”
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………………..