Gen. Hal Moore, the decorated Army chief whose life was depicted in the 2002 Vietnam film We Were Soldiers based on his own book, has died. He was 94. The film, written and directed by Randall Wallace and starring Mel Gibson as Moore, told the story of the Battle of Ia Drang. The war drama was released by Paramount and grossed $114.6 million worldwide.
“I absolutely love that man,” said Wallace of his friend. “He taught me great things. He had so many ways of teaching in the concise things he’d say. One of the things I rely on every time I direct is something he said to me — ‘In the smoke and noise of battle surrounded by the screams of the wounded and dying, a leader will either contaminate with his cowardice or inspire by his example.’ Every man who followed Hal Moore was a hero. He was the kind of leader who showed men the heroism in their hearts.
The last time I talked with Hal, he told me that all he wanted to do is see his wife Julie again. I bet when Death came for Hal, he looked death right in the eye — and Death flinched.”
Wallace said Moore “lit up” with any show of leadership and recounted a story of when he (Wallace) had a complete rupture of his Achilles tendon while playing basketball with some special forces guys one night after shooting. The filmmaker was in the hospital until 3 AM and then was back on set at 5 AM. Moore heard about the injury and said to Wallace, “I heard you were wounded in action and refused to be medevac-ed. This will inspire the troops.”
Behind the scenes in 2002 and 2003, Moore helped the beloved Vietnamese actor Don Duong, who portrayed the Vietnamese Lt. Colonel (Moore’s nemesis) in the same movie. Moore leveraged his contacts in the State Department to help Duong find refuge in America when the Vietnamese government called the actor a traitor for appearing in the film. In part because of Moore’s help, the actor gained safe passage to the U.S. to live with his family from 2003 until his death in 2011.
Army officials from Fort Benning, GA, confirmed Moore’s death in a statement Saturday evening to the Military Times. He died at his home in Auburn, Alabama. His wife Julie preceded him in death in 2004, but he is survived by three sons, two daughters; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.