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157 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for all Americans
I feel very qualified to review this book as I lived quite a bit of it serving as Col.Hackworth's Battalion Surgeon in Vietnam.Most of the battles occurred on my watch and I was involved in trying to save the casualties,friendly and enemy. Fortunately, under Hack's leadership our KIA's and WIA's plummeted to record low numbers and many of my infantry brothers feel, as I...
Published on April 28, 2002 by byron e.holley,md

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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good War Story -- Could Have Been Better
First and foremost, this book is about David Hackworth. As he describes himself through the book, David Hackworth embodies both the best and the worst of US Army officers. He is hard-charging, mission-oriented, and motivational. He demands excellence from the men under his command and suffers the same hardships as they do. As this book reveals, he is also quite...
Published on January 18, 2005 by Blackstone Gates


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157 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for all Americans, April 28, 2002
By 
byron e.holley,md (brandon, florida United States) - See all my reviews
I feel very qualified to review this book as I lived quite a bit of it serving as Col.Hackworth's Battalion Surgeon in Vietnam.Most of the battles occurred on my watch and I was involved in trying to save the casualties,friendly and enemy. Fortunately, under Hack's leadership our KIA's and WIA's plummeted to record low numbers and many of my infantry brothers feel, as I do, that we are alive today because of his shrewd understanding of the battlefield and how to approach it in a SMART way. Our previous CO clearly lacked the experience and knack for getting it done without lots of unnecessary casualties. Hack's prior tours in Korea and Vietnam were all building blocks which he stacked up in a very creative way to out-G the G (Guerilla). Being aware of lots of details about our combat operations, I was quite amazed at the amount of information Hack and Eilhys gathered over the past 4 years. I am now able to hear directly from the chopper pilots who flew us in and out of battle and to hear straight from the grunts like Tom Aiken who saw his life flash in front of him when he almost tripped a wired booby trap. This classic book, much in the way Hal Moore's We Were Soldiers Once did, looks deep into the memory banks of those of us who were there.What emerges is a captivating book which I believe will be a handbook for all future military operations fought on the ground. It is my privilege to have served under such a brilliant military leader and under a man who loved his men and his country in such a passionate manner. Pick it up and you won't be able to put it down. Byron E.Holley, MD, Battalion Surgeon, 4/39th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, USARV
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam the way it "should have been fought", June 21, 2002
This is the first Hackworth book I have read; sorry I waited so long. Could not put it down once I started. I like his colloquial style of prose (whether his or his wife's, the result on paper was excellent), and the terminology and language rang true to in my memory. He nontheless took great pains to define terminology and explain essentials to the uninitiated, so anyone can and should read and understand this work. It was a narrative, but carried many strategic and tactical lessons in the midst of it. It was a combat saga, but the political and bureaucratic people and actions that adversely effected our war effort at every level in Vietnam received their due. Vietnam combat "lessons learned" did not have to be "relearned" at the expense of more lives under Hackworth's command. While he "led from the front" whenever possible, he also had the correct management/command style in letting his subordinate commanders--company,platoon,squad and fireteam--lead and be responsible at their own respective level and develop along the way. If only other field commanders had led (or been allowed to lead) infantry and combined arms in this manner in Vietnam, we would have "out-G'd the G" (as Hack puts it). His criticism of our military's strategy, innovation, imagination and tactics (or lack thereof) are well justified and have been expensively documented in our blood. Hackworth's emphasis on economy of force, stealth, surprise and violent initiation of action and counteraction (applied accurately and at the right time) were the only way to successfully conduct a war that had no geographic objectives, no ground to hold for any length of time. Attrition tactics can always be questioned, but it is unquestionably better to be well on the "winning" side of the kill ratio. These tactics and success were the hallmark of our Lurp/Ranger operations, particularly after we moved from a primarily reconnaisance role to one of interdiction and ambush--4/39th just applied it on a larger scale. On the ground, for the foot soldier, none of the principals have changed (and have little changed from the time of Sun Tzu). If we fail to understand them and apply them, American lives will again be wasted in future conflicts--whatever the venue or size.
This is a must read for military leaders and, just as importantly, for the civilians who lead them or have impact on their operations.
[....]
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A No BS View From The Front Seat, September 1, 2002
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I've heard several comments made about about 'Steel My Soldiers Hearts' saying that Hackworth deals a whole lot with self- aggrandization. My answer is that from my perspective, he deserves every bit of praise and honor possible for writing a very truthful book about how the fighting in Vietnam SHOULD have been conducted.
As a combat veteran of Vietnam, I was most taken with his very truthful and accurate description of the many 'perfumed princes' whose goals were ultimately skewed and self-serving. Many commanders in Vietnam were more concerned about climbing the ladder and 'punching tickets' for future promotions than the welfare of the soldiers who served under them. Give Hackworth the highest of credit for two things: molding a tactically sound fighting force and caring enough about those serving under him that American lives lost were kept to a bare minimum as compared to lives lost by the enemy.
For any conflicts that this country may face in the future, the tactical leadership of this country should take a page from Hackworth's accomplishments and study it hard. Sadly, it appears as though the lessons learned in Vietnam have not made an adequate enough impression upon our current leaders.
A wonderful book written by perhaps one of America's last true warriors.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A terrific Look At Life On The Ground In Vietnam!, May 21, 2002
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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I've been a fan of Colonel David Hackworth's writing since reading his hilarious putdown of hapless, happy warrior Oliver North in a Playboy article entitled "Drugstore Marine". This book handily illustrates why he is held with such regard by his peers, and demonstrates once again that Hackworth is a guy that calls them as he sees them. In "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts", Hackworth recalls his own combat experiences in the darkest days of Vietnam, taking over command of one of the worst units then "in-country". Sent there in an effort by the brass to either prove his newfangled theories of insurgent warfare or shut up, Hackworth attempts to give his theories a fair chance of proving themselves.
However, the job would not be an easy one to accomplish. The troops, demoralized, undisciplined, and literally out of control, were experiencing some of the highest casualty rates in the conflict, and needed drastic intervention to turn them around. Their ability to seek out and successfully engage the enemy was dismal, and they foundered when circumstance suddenly changed, requiring a change in tactics. In the space of a few months, Hackworth wrought a radical transformation, and the statistics of the unit proved it. But to reach his objective of turning the troops around, Hackworth had to take some drastic action, such as firing most of the senior officers and tightening the screws on the troops until they finally heeled.
The results were impressive, and the casualty rates and most other statistics became much more positive. Hackworth had made his point and illustrated the utility of his rather unconventional ideas regarding small unit tactics in Vietnam. This is an entertaining and informative book, and, as usual, Hackworth, who never misses an opportunity to take potshots at conventional military wisdom and the political posturing of the upper echelons of the military, holds forth on his own views here. He also gives us a lot of the gritty details of life out in the bush, from firefights to helicopter landings, from clearing mine fields to avoiding sniper fire from the VC. One finishes the book feeling as though he had trooped along with the unit through the swamps and wetlands of the Mekong Delta, where, twenty clicks out, an enemy patrol is sifting through the brush. This is an entertaining and worthwhile book. Enjoy!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than A War Story., May 18, 2002
By 
Malcolm Y. Quon (Highland Village, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
COL Hackworth's focus on soldiering, even keeping the story line at grunt level, is entertaining and thought provoking on the necessity of good leadership. If you can read in-between the colorful writing of COL Hackworth, you will see the influence of his time in Vietnam with BG S.L. Marshall as an analyst of armed conflict. His applications of Observe, Orient, Decide & Act (OODA) loop cycle reduction to get inside of the decision matrix of his enemy is still relevant today in Afghanistan as it was in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The transformation of 4/39 INF from soft core to Hardcore is worth company level officers and NCO's a read. It relevancy today is that for now and the foreseeable wars to come; it will be fought at the company level with the focus on small unit tactics and training.
COL Hackworth's notability as a writer with a public image sometimes "taints" his deep analytical ability and his true heart to train and lead soldiers. Forget about his public image, his colorful phrases, and his so-called "rhetoric" . . . the book in its raw essence has value to help prepare our soldier's for the type of war we will face. Many of men have written about combat for fame or fortune but few have chosen to pass on wisdom. This book is not another war story.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam's Reincarnation of General Grant's Transformation, July 12, 2002
By 
Herbert T. Schwartz (Houston, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
When admonished that it perhaps was inappropriate for President Lincoln to speak so widely of General Grant's magnificent turn-around of the Union Army because of Grant's known fondness for strong whiskey, Old Abe is reported to have said: "If I knew what Grant was drinking I'd order that a case be sent to all of my generals." Those directing the dust-up in Vietnam would have done well to take notice of Lincoln's wisdom regarding the effectiveness of motivating in-the-field combat leaders. That advice is equally applicable today---but that's another story.
Colonel Hackworth's new book, "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts," demonstrates that leadership of men sent to the tip of the spear to carry out national policy changes over the centuries only in proportion to the degree of technological innovations that evolve in the tools of warfare. The means to carry out combat and the killing effectiveness of the weapons available have become reflective of the society producing them. The interests of the nation-states involved have similarly moved along the time-line of evolution parallel to that of international relations. The matters that cause nations to undertake to enforce their will by war illustrate the ideological dynamics of of modern societies. But, the one constant that remains, the ever enduring truism associated with being victorious, the irreplaceable requisite is illustrated by Hack's latest work.
For all those who, during some period of their life, have awakened each day to don the uniform of a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman of this, or any, nation, the theme of "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" is probably a familiar one. There is no, not a single, substitute for leadership from the front that trains troops as they may need to fight, that assumes the military equivalent of the fiduciary duty of placing the welfare, safety and interests of his men above his own and insists that the successful accomplishment of the mission is not an option. Without ambiguity or apology Hack accomplished that in the 1969 time-frame of his command of what once was a timorous and dispicable infantry battalion. His grunts, who could smell a phoney-baloney at fifty klicks from the flagpole, were transformed from sad sack slackers to kick-... warriors. That was no miracle, it was the type of leadership for which the military is miserable lacking today.
While Hackworth admittedly has a blind spot or two--he seems to insist that a "one style fits all" command methodology is the only way to accomplish success, he nonetheless makes 200-plus pages of very good sense. He does so by illustrating the necessity of being a strong, demanding, meticulous and exemplary commander who not only can talk-the-talk with his troops but can, and does, walk-the-walk. At the same time, he casts a bright light on the deadly folly of how policy-making generals seem to lose their sense of how to prepare, fight and win a conflict once they repair to the mahogany corridors of Washington and become the objects of courtship and praise heaped on them by high-tech vendors who are fervent in selling the latest whiz-bang, gee-golly stuff to fight a war that disappeared with the fall of the Soviet Union.
There isn't an ex-GI of any service or branch who should pass up "Steel my Soldiers' Hearts." It's a winner, like Colonel Hackworth.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we should have fought the Vietnam War, May 9, 2003
By 
John Flora (Brookland, AR United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Steel My Soldiers' Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam (Paperback)
Col. Hackworth is abrasive, arrogant, opinionated and most likely absolutely right in his views on how we should have fought the Vietnam War. His memoir is a riveting account of how he changed a unit from disorganized rabble to a razor-sharp instrument that struck fear in the hearts of its opponents. I'd read Hack's autobiography, "About Face," so I had a sense of what this book would be, but this is better than I expected. He did his homework, bringing in accounts from scores of his soldiers to add extra dimension to the engagements he details. You most likely will share his anger and outrage at the way the war was mismanaged and micro-managed by stupid and overly ambitious senior officers who were only there to get their combat tickets punched and who cared little or nothing for the grunts who did the bleeding and dying. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what we might have accomplished in 'Nam.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings out the Best and Worst of the US Army, May 24, 2005
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[I'll preface this review by admitting I had Hack autograph my Amazon purchased copy in 2002-something I've rarely done. Hack died recently - the world will miss his bravery, honor and grit.]

The conflicts most important to the US Army are fought in Washington, DC. The results from these battles - between State and Defense - inter-service - or between military contractors -filter down to the troops - tragically sometimes in combat.

None can deny that the Officer Corps of the United States Army has become (virtually) a political rat hole. Careerism - in my day - started at Colonel - now some Captains and Majors refuse to be risk takers for fear of career ending errors. Additionally, when how war is conducted becomes the focus of Presidential politics - it is only the troops who suffer.

When viewed by civilians - the United States Army is a terrible place to have a career. Low pay, slow promotion, terrible benefits, bad food and housing - and oh ya' - dangerous. So why do we continue to find such strong, smart and larger than life individuals who thrive and succeed in this environment? Young men, such as David Hackworth, volunteer, find themselves and then inspire others to reach their ultimate capabilites and beyond!

The Army of today is all volunteer. Most who enlist do so for personal reasons - this thing about defending our country. During the Vietnam War, Col David Hackworth did not have the luxury of commanding a volunteer force. Like him, I commanded a majority of troops who did NOT want to wear the uniform (in my case a platoon) - and worse - found themselves in a combat zone against their will - impressed into an uncaring system that cheapened their contributions, sacrifices - and even their lives. Unlike me - Hack never had the joys and rewards of command in the all volunteer force.

"Steel My Soldier's Hearts" is a manual in the traits of personal leadership for all organizations - how to make them better and allow contributions from all people - of all capabilities and at every level. Hack was an officer who bent people to his will - fierce determination to succeed and to complete the mission - and to take care of his troops. He let nothing stand in his way to achieve his goals.

Hackworth succeeded where others failed - by inspiring, leading by example, showing results by and for his troops. First, he taught them how to survive - then defeat the enemy by outthinking them at EVERY turn. Hackworth was a military artist - not a military scientist, his lessons learned were personal. Some techniques are transferrable to others - the will and determination - probably not. This is the David Hackworth I admire.

Such personalities collect enemies along the way. Thanks either to fear, intimidation or bad aim - Hack was spared 'fragging' and succeeded building a magnificent fighting force. Criticism of Hack as a self promoting grandstander can probably be justified. He earned the right to do so! He had no tolerance for those he viewed as obstacles. He purged officers - bad and good - deserving and undeserving - happens all the time. Anybody who served on a staff of 'Stormin Norman' Schwartzkopf would make Hack out to be an angel of mercy!

Hack tries to show people the truth of war and military service. Anyone who contemplates wearing the uniform should read all of Hackworth's writings. Those who wear the uniform - or have worn the uniform will be comforted by Hack's confirmation of vanity, glory, selfish enrichment and stupidity by those who led us - and of the government we served.

[Hack - RIP, Mike Horn, LTC, MI, USA, 1970-1996, ret]
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steel My Soldiers' Hearts, September 3, 2002
By 
Richard Kast (Orange County, Ca) - See all my reviews
Being an Navy Corpsman with the 1st MAW in Da Nang in 1969, I can relate to this very compelling story. The lack of discipline, the lack of the top brass to listen to their men and the hardships of the young men in Viet Nam. I was older, 25. Older to the extent of the average age, I believe was approximately 21. The Medic (the Navy's Corpsman) in the Army was so true. Always there, but what I remember is the first time your shoved into conflict and grasping for your Unit 1, the medical bag (kit) to start working immediately.
The discipline by the new people in the service was totally lacking, but it was the attitude within the service at that time. Top brass, was more interested in the happy hour, then they were of the ongoing business at hand. What really caught my attention was the lack of the ARVN whose country they should have been really fighting for was so lacking and just allowing the colition (Australian, South Korean and the American military to fight their battles. The general population was never to be trusted, but the top brass and politicians were so busy to buy the hearts of these people that they used any means to help the Viet Cong. Children receiving candy over the fence and in return a gernade was your thanks.
Colonel Hackworth, would have been the type of officer and a gentleman, you were always looking for in the military, its to bad he and others like him were so few. I was a Corpsman 6 of my 9 years with the Marines and I was gong ho. However, Vietnam was the breaking point with the political aspirations of a few to ruin it for the many. Doesn't that always happen!
Vietnam is in our history books, but this book really brings to life what it really was like in a country and war that no one really cared about, even Washington. Medals were so often given as candy, but for those like Colonel Hackworth and the people he shared in the book who deserved them, I can relate to his honesty and moral attitude to those who lost their lives or was injured.
Colonel Hackworth's book is above all other motion pictures, books and comments as a true and responsible story from the hearts of those who served in Vietnam.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An authentic leader., June 5, 2002
By 
Tim Swain (Peoria, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
�Steel My Soldiers� Hearts� by Colonel David H. Hackworth presents a rare opportunity for the reader to both be entertained and educated. Hackworth, along with Omar Bradley, will be remembered as one of the greatest military leaders of the past 100 years. This is because of his consistent and honest concern for the �common soldier" or grunt. This is because he always "looks out for his troops." Hopefully, Secretary Rumsfield reads the book and implements the visionary suggestion for lightweight state of the art body armor for each infantryman. As a leader, Hackworth is authentic. As a reader of every book written by Hackworth, I found this book one of his best. His irreverent and tongue-in-cheek-in-your-face descriptive writing keep the detailed battle-writing hard to put down. It was my honor and privilege to serve with Major Hackworth in the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, both at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and in Vietnam.
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