It is with great sorrow that I report the death of General Harold G. “Hal” Moore. General Moore passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 10, 2017 – a few days shy of his 95th birthday. Ironically, February 10 was his wife’s birthday. I had the incredible honor of writing General Moore’s biography, Hal Moore: A Soldier Once…and Always, and the forthcoming book Hal Moore on Leadership. I am permanently indebted to General Moore and his family for allowing me to have a small part in their lives.
Harold Gregory Moore, Jr. was born on February 13, 1922 in Bardstown, Kentucky. After high school, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1945. Moore often said that his military career began as World War II was ending. Indeed, the Empire of Japan had surrendered by the time he arrived for occupation duty with the 11th Airborne Division. After serving three years in Occupied Japan, Moore returned to the United States and was posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he served with the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Airborne Test Section. During the latter assignment, he jump-tested experimental parachutes for the Army, Air Force, and CIA.
Also, during his time at Fort Bragg, he met the love of his life, Miss Julie Compton. They married in November 1949 and remained a lovingly devoted couple until her death in 2004. Julie was the very essence of an “Army wife” and took great strides to improve the quality of life for soldiers and spouses under her husband’s command. Her efforts to improve the Army’s casualty notification system during the opening days of the Vietnam War were highlighted in the film We Were Soldiers.
In 1952, Moore deployed to the battlefields of North Korea where he fought in the Battles of Triangle Hill, Old Baldy, and the infamous Pork Chop Hill. Returning home, he later served as an Infantry Tactics Instructor at West Point and a NATO Plans officer.
His seminal role, however, came as the commander of the newly-designed air assault (airmobile) battalion, 1-7 Cavalry. Pioneering the concept of transporting soldiers into battle via helicopter, Moore led his battalion into the first major battle between the US Army and the People’s Army of North Vietnam. The Battle of Ia Drang would become the stuff of legends and serve as case study for battlefield leadership and courage under fire. Moore later wrote of his experiences in the critically-acclaimed book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. Years later, Hollywood turn that book into the critically-acclaimed film We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.
After Vietnam, Moore commanded the 7th Infantry Division, forward-stationed in Korea, and later commanded the Army Training Center at Fort Ord, California, where he helped formulate the policies and programs for the All-Volunteer Army. He retired as a three-star general in 1977.
God Bless General Moore and his family. Our country is a lesser place without him. “Be thou at peace.”