[book][film][doug]Seems to be a good week for finishing books. We Were Soldiers Once … and Young—Ia Drang: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway, is the book on which the film We Were Soldiers is based.
The film, although gritty and graphic, is probably one of the finest war films ever made, and actually does a better job of integrating the stateside events and human drama with the events on the battlefield than does the book. The book, of course, is more detailed than the film, although I was surprised at the high level of accuracy the film obtained—many historically-based films tend to sacrifice accuracy for drama.
The book covers the events portrayed on screen, including a second (or perhaps continuing) battle that happened nearby shortly after the primary battle ended.
Both book and film are excellent, illustrating the importance of training, leadership, and coordination of forces that are vital to a successful campaign. The book included a criticism that was not in the film—Due to President Johnson’s failure to declare a state of emergency and extend the active-duty tours of draftees and reserve officers, any soldier who had less than 60 days to serve on his enlistment would not be deployed with the First Air Cavalry. This left them both understaffed and cost many of their best-trained men.
There were other Presidential errors as well—the North Vietnamese were allowed to retreat as needed into nearby Cambodia; US forces were forbidden to follow. Overall, though, these are mentioned more for historical background than anything else.
Due to the improved emotional story of the film, I would actually recommend seeing the film before reading the book—something I would rarely prescribe.