Legendary combat leader and New York Times Bestselling author, Lieutenant General Harold (Hal) Gregory Moore Jr, passed away peacefully at age 94 on February 10, 2017.
Hal was born on February 13, 1922, in Bardstown KY to Harold and Mary (Crume) Moore. Hal started a 32-year military career upon entry into the United States Military Academy in 1942, convincing a Congressman from Georgia to swap Hal’s Kentucky appointment to the Naval Academy for one to West Point. Upon graduation in 1945, he served on occupation duty in Japan; he returned to Fort Bragg where he met and married the great love of his life, Julie Compton. He tested parachutes, surviving multiple malfunctions to include being hung up and towed behind a plane. Deployed to the Korean War in 1952, he commanded an Infantry rifle and heavy mortar company in the 7th Infantry Division and was awarded two Bronze Star Medals for Valor.
Subsequent assignments included teaching tactics at West Point, developing airborne and air assault equipment in the Pentagon, and a tour of duty in Norway where he planned the ground defense of northern Germany, Denmark, and Scandinavia. Upon completion of the course of study at the Naval War College, Hal took command of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry at Fort Benning, GA. Fourteen months later, the unit was designated the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry (Custer’s old outfit) and deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division in 1965.
Hal is best known for his leadership in the first major battle between the US and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) that occurred in the remote Ia Drang Valley of the Central Highlands in November 1965. Within 20 minutes of the first shot, the 7th Cavalry, vastly outnumbered, was assaulted by hundreds of enemy furiously determined to over-run it. After a three-day bloodbath, the enemy quit the field leaving over six hundred of their dead littering the battleground. Hal was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor, for his actions during the fight. Hal then assumed command of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division and led it through several major campaigns in 1966 earning another Bronze Star Medal for Valor for carrying wounded to safety under “withering small and automatic weapons fire.”
In 1968, Hal pinned on his first star and led the planning for the Army’s withdrawal from Vietnam. He returned to Korea in 1969 and was promoted to Major General and given command of the 7th Infantry Division to “straighten out that Division” after it was fractured with insubordination and riots. Over the next year, Hal rebuilt the Division back into an effective fighting force. In 1971, he took command of the Training Center and Fort Ord, CA in the era of the Vietnam antiwar demonstrations, associated drug problems, continuing racial tensions and the transition to the “modern volunteer Army.” He applied lessons learned from the 7th Infantry to create another successful outcome. In 1974, Hal was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned to the Pentagon as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel for the Army where he was most proud of actions he took to rebuild an NCO Corps almost destroyed by the Vietnam War.
Following retirement from active duty in 1977, he worked as the Executive Vice President of the Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. In 1981, working with his co-author, Joe Galloway, he turned his attention to the research that underpinned their 1992 New York Times Bestselling book on the Ia Drang battles, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young. In 2002, the book was the basis of the acclaimed movie, We Were Soldiers, where Mel Gibson portrayed Hal. After being devastated by the loss of his wife, Julie, in 2004, Hal withdrew from public life but worked with Joe Galloway to produce the 2008 sequel to the first book; We are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam.
Hal was a dedicated outdoorsman who loved to ski, hike, camp, and fish and was most proud of the fact that he “infected” all his children with the same passion. Hal was fishing in a local bass fishing tournament in 1952 on the morning his son, Steve was born. He always claimed he had permission to go - something Julie disputed. The fact that Hal won a nice Shakespeare reel did nothing to mitigate the trouble he was in upon his return.
Hal was known for his finely tuned sense of humor; earning the nickname of “Captain Fun” from his grandchildren. He would routinely send funny postcards of “jackalopes” and hide small toys around the house in anticipation of visits.