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I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, so that I may save their blood tomorrow.

-- General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

Steel My Soldiers' Heart by David Hackworth

Steel My Soldiers' Heart is an account of Lt. Colonel David H. Hackworth's command of the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry from January, 1969 to May, , 1969. Assigned to an infantry battalion that has lost its fighting edge, Lt. Colonel Hackworth transformed 4/39 into an efficient fighting unit. Hackworth discovered shortly after stepping off the chopper at the battalion command post that the battalion was not combat ready. Soldiers were sloppy in appearance, no helmets, no weapons, no discipline (ragged uniforms, hippie beads, graffiti on helmets). Leadership was lacking. Under the command of Lt. Colonel Frederick Lark (a pseudonym), the base camp was built around a VC mine field. Troops were being killed and wounded within their own secure lines. Hackworth begin the re-building of the battalion by bring in Sergeant Major Robert Press to shape up the NCOs, while Hackworth fired incompentent officers and brought in compentent replacements. Next, he moved as many companies out of the command base into the field, and they began on-the-job training. The key to his success was being seen by the troops in the field. Soldiers saw the Batallion CO sleeping in the field, eating the "C" rations, and taking the risks in the field with them. He did not direct the action from the safety of his helicopter. From the success of patrolling, night ambushes to company size actions, the 4/39th became a fighting batallion on the Plain of Reeds. Lt. Colonel pioneered new concepts in attacking the VC and North Vietnamese Regulars (NVA). He used his batallion snipers as an independent unit. One company operated as a Ranger company, another company was a "jiterbug" - chopper in, sweep the area, chopper out to a new area, another was patrolling and establishing night ambushes, and another was the fire base security. From the poorly led battle at Thanh Phu (11th & 12th March, 1969) directed by Colonel Ira Hunt (pseudonym) to a major VC/NVA defeat in the Giao DucDistrict (12 May, 1969), Hackworth is telling the story of the American citizen-soldier. Young American men who did their job in the Mekong Delta. Not the media's portrayal of drug using, frag throwing American soldiers. The difference the 4/39th was well-led, well-trained, and well-motivated.


Added:  Sunday, April 11, 2004
Reviewer:  usmcsgt65, Hayward H
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Language: eng

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