Col. David H. Hackworth, author of "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts," "Price of Honor" and "About Face," saw duty or reported as a sailor, soldier and military correspondent in nearly a dozen wars and conflicts -- from the end of World War II to the fights against international terrorism.More ↓Less ↑
Like most Pentagon critics who dish it out, I get my share of incoming. I
measure the effectiveness of my efforts by the Pentagon’s counter attacks.
“Hack the Quack,” is a sobriquet whispered by some of the star bearers.
But most often it’s, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” or “He’s
battle-rattled — you know, eight Purple Hearts and the first one was a
bullet through the head.” Or, “In Vietnam he ran a whorehouse for his
troops and broke every rule in the book.”
But last May, CBS News hit me below the belt. David Martin, the CBS
Pentagon reporter, zapped me by saying I’d “worn” awards I hadn’t won. It
surprised me how many people in the press piled on and did a “gotcha”
story. Like Martin, many of the scribes eagerly drank from the poisoned
well of stalkers, who’d been working ever since Vietnam to slime my
Dan Rather fell for it and led his story with “Questions of Honor” and
“Accuser Stands Accused.” He was referring to Adm. Jeremy Boorda who killed
himself supposedly because of my pending story that he wore two valor
devices he didn’t deserve.
I was shocked. I initially thought the brass had fed CBS lies about the
medals they’d reissued me in 1988, long after I retired.
My defense was that, “I’d never worn a medal the Army didn’t issue me.”
Fortunately, the publisher of this newspaper accepted my stand: “Why would
I add an award to my resume, when I have over two dozen individual valor
awards? What possible difference would another Distinguished Flying Cross
or a Ranger Tab make?”
When I recovered from CBS’ Sunday punch, I asked the Army to audit my
awards. Last week, Col. John Osweiler, the Army’s chief of awards, said his
audit supported what I’d been saying all along. Any confusion was the
Army’s honest mistake. So, even though I am one of the Army’s toughest
critics, when it comes to honor, the Army stood tall and did the right
The audit also showed that I was entitled to 10 Silver Stars, not the nine
I had listed. I wonder if CBS is going to report that?
When you dish it out, you’ve got to be able to take it. But what hurts is
when good reporters carelessly put out misinformation. To understand why
Rather and Martin got it so wrong, you need a little history.
I’ve been at war with the Pentagon for nearly 30 years now, and for some
reason that still baffles me, these two reporters decided to take the wrong
side. As a result, they got taken for a ride.
Here are the facts. In 1971, the U.S. Army and I got into a serious
firefight. From the trenches of Vietnam, as a new full colonel, I said to
the world, “We’ve lost the war, and the top brass are lying to the American
It was hardly an act to enhance my career or to endear me to Gen. William
Westmoreland. But I didn’t care. I’d seen too many good men get killed
without our leaders — military and political — telling the folks at home
Since then, I’ve continued to be a gadfly of the Pentagon. My motivation is
simple: to ensure those in charge learn from the past so our future
combatants don’t die in vain.
Fifty-two years ago in Italy, I saw my first American soldier die. He was
caught in a minefield that an engineer officer forgot to mark.
This was followed by two years as a grunt in the Korean War, where I saw
hundreds of teenagers blown apart because the brass didn’t handle the war
right. Then followed four years in Vietnam, where so many of the senior
leaders acted like butchers as they worried more about enhancing their
careers than the American teenagers who were filling so many body bags.
In Somalia, another Vietnam on a mini scale, men died again in vain.
Will the folks at CBS apologize? Who knows. But let’s hope that in the
future they’ll be more careful and get the facts before they start
stringing a fellow up.
Thanks to all of you for your faith and support. You’re the ones who keep
As I said in the above piece, Dan Rather and David Martin presented a
three-part series (“Question of Honor”/”Accuser Stands Accused”) on CBS-TV
prime time news portraying me as having “worn” a second Award of the
Distinguished Flying Cross and a Ranger Tab which I was not issued.
Last week, following a thorough and complete investigation of my service
records, which I requested, Colonel John Osweiler, Chief of Awards and
Decorations at U.S. Total Army Personnel Command, concluded that I had not
worn or claimed an honor that the U.S. Army had not issued to me, contrary
to the slant of the CBS story.
As per Colonel Osweiler’s following documentation, when the Army reissued
my Awards in 1988, they erred by issuing me three Distinguished Flying
Crosses (DFC’s) — when I should have received only one — and they erred
again when they issued me the Ranger Tab.
Colonel Osweiler’s report also says that the Army erred in issuing me only
nine Silver Stars, the nation’s third highest award, instead of the ten I
had in fact earned.
Because I have over 100 Medals, including 26 individual valor awards and
eight Purple Hearts for wounds, it’s difficult to remember exactly how many
awards I earned in each category without the aid of the government.
Especially since some of these medals were earned and awarded over 50 years
For example, I thought I had only nine Silver Stars, and now I’m told I
have ten. In this instance, I understated regarding one of our country’s
most important valor awards.
Regarding the Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Army told me in 1988 that I
had three and issued me the certification and the engraved DFC with two Oak
Leaf clusters accordingly. The same applies to the Ranger Tab which is
awarded by taking a very specialized and tough training course or in
certain instances having served in special units such as Merrill’s
Mauraders and Ranger units during WWII and Ranger units during the Korean
Last year, a Vietnam-era Ranger, an expert on Ranger Tab entitlements,
pointed out to me that in his judgment I was not entitled to wear the
I then asked the Army for verification of all of my Awards and Decorations
including the Ranger Tab and immediately removed this Tab from my list
pending the official Army investigation.
The expert had convinced me that my two week’s service with the 8th Ranger
Co. (the regulation says 30 days in combat or to win the Combat Infantryman
Badge while a member of the unit) and my seven months with the 27th Raiders
did not qualify me for the Tab even though it was awarded by the Regimental
commander after the 10th raid behind enemy lines.
Martin tried to make a case that I had never been in the 8th Ranger
Company, but Kevin Gors, a Private Eye, who on his own hook after listening
to me on a radio show, traced down two Rangers who served with me in combat
in the unit. (Stalkers Attn: Kevin can be reached at: BMF Investigations,
931 Village Blvd, Suite 905-217, W. Palm Beach, Fla. 33409.) Kev has sworn
statements. One of the old Rangers is now a federal marshall and he told
Gors that he was the company operations sergeant and I worked for him.
However, the 75-year-old fellow who was the first sergeant of the company
told Martin I had never been in the company. According to Gor, the former
top kick couldn’t remember the names of the two Rangers that vouched for me
even though both are on the 8th Ranger Co. records. The first sergeant told
me in a taped interview, long before Martin interviewed him “that I could
have been hanging around the company, but I was never assigned” which was
true as I was AWOL from the 25th Recon Co. because my Lieutenant had
refused to fight.
I knew too since Adm. Boorda’s death that at least five stalkers were on my
case and at least one, by his admission to a pal of mine, was working with
or for Adm. Zumwalt and some other Navy admirals in the Washington D. C,
area. They had launched Operation Pay Back before Boorda’s body got cold.
So I took a closer look at all my Awards and decided to remove a second
Distinguished Flying Cross too, since I’d questioned the certification
granting me the Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Oak Leaf Clusters (the
equivalent of three DFC’s) as far back as 1988 in a letter to the Army. In
spite of being assured of being entitled to these awards, I’d previously
chosen to go with my gut and list the DFC with only one Oak Leaf Cluster
(the equivalent of two Awards ) even though the Army said I was entitled to
three such awards. But now I wanted the status of the DFC’s reconfirmed as
well as the story on the Ranger Tab.
It should be noted that I removed both the Ranger Tab and the second DFC
from my web site listing, motivated solely by my desire for accuracy,
before CBS or any other member of the media even started a story. I told
the Ranger expert that I had done this and he innocently let this leak to
the stalkers who were instantly on the phone to David Martin. Rats will be
As I stated in the CBS news piece, now confirmed by official U.S. Army
audit, “I never wore an Award I was not issued by the U.S. Army” and “If
there is a mistake, it is the fault of the Army personnel system.”
Stalkers names and addresses provided only on special request.
Following is a copy of Colonel Osweiler’s Award’s audit:
Prepared: 27 Feb 98
(AWARDS & DECORATIONS)
(COLONEL DAVID H. HACKWORTH, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED)
Individual Decorations & Service Medals
Distinguished Service Cross (with one Oak Leaf Cluster)
Silver Star (with nine Oak Leaf Clusters) )
Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters) )
Distinguished Flying Cross)
Bronze Star Medal (with “V” Device & seven Oak Leaf Clusters) (Seven of the
awards for heroism) )
Purple Heart (with seven Oak Leaf Clusters) )
Air Medal (with “V” Device & Numeral 34) (One for heroism and 33 for aerial
Army Commendation Medal (w/ “V” Device & 3 Oak Leaf Clusters) )
Good Conduct Medal)
World War II Victory Medal)
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany and Japan Clasps) )
National Defense Service Medal (with one Bronze Service Star) )
Korean Service Medal (with Service Stars for eight campaigns) )
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal)
Vietnam Service Medal (2 Silver Service Stars = 10 campaigns) )
Armed Forces Reserve Medal)
Presidential Unit Citation (with one Oak Leaf Cluster) )
Valorous Unit Award (with one Oak Leaf Cluster) )
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Badges & Tabs
Combat Infantryman Badge (w/ one Star; representing 2 awards) )
Master Parachutist Badge)
Army General Staff Identification Badge
United Nations Service Medal (Korea) )
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device (1960) )
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Gold Stars) )
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with two Silver Stars) )
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (1st Class) )
Vietnam Staff Service Medal (1st Class) )
Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2d Class)
Vietnam Parachutist Badge (Master Level) )
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation)
Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation)
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (with three Palm oak leaf
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, First Class Unit Citation
(with one Palm oak leaf cluster)
Awards and Decorations – Items at Issue:
Silver Star (SS) – The OMPF contains documentation (i.e., an award order
and DD Form 214) that indicates award of the SS (9th OLC) (i.e., ten
awards). However, COL(R) Hackworth’s biography of military awards on the
worldwide web (19 May 97) only reflects Silver Star with eight Oak Leaf
Clusters (i.e., nine awards).
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) – The Official Military Personnel File
(OMPF) substantiates only one (1) award of the DFC. However, subsequent to
individual’s retirement, a full issue of engraved medal sets was authorized
by the Military Awards Branch. In documents dated 25 Sep 72, 2 Jun 76 and 5
Oct 88, the DFC was requisitioned for the individual along with two oak
leaf clusters. However, COL(R) Hackworth questioned the accuracy of this
item in a note to XO, VCSA (in 1988). Sometime in May 97, COL(R)
Hackworth’s biography of military awards on the worldwide web was adjusted
to reflect only one award of the DFC. Air Medal (AM) – The OMPF contains
documentation (i.e., award orders and DD Form 214) that indicates as many
as 48 awards of the AM; however, it appears there were some errors in the
award orders. Orders on file in the OMPF document 34 actual awards of the
AM; one for valor. COL(R) Hackworth’s biography of military awards on the
worldwide web (19 May97) reflected Air Medal with thirty-four Oak Leaf
Clusters.) Ranger Tab – Authorization for the Ranger Tab appears on the
Qualification Record of the OMPF and DD Form 214. There is no record in the
OMPF to substantiate COL(R) Hackworth entitlement to the Ranger Tab.
Authorization for the Ranger Tab appears on the Officer Qualification
Record of the OMPF and may have been based on a reconstructed enlisted
assignment entry that indicated the individual had served in the 5th
Ranger Company in Korea. However, it appears this is an erroneous entry.”
That’s it folks, but stay tuned. There is fireworks planned for stalkers
and bashers before the fourth of July.