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David Hackworth
Hackworth in Zagreb, Croatia in December 1995
Birth nameDavid Haskell Hackworth
Born(1930-11-11)November 11, 1930
Ocean Park, California, U.S.
(now Santa Monica, California, U.S.)
DiedMay 4, 2005(2005-05-04) (aged 74)
Tijuana, Mexico
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Merchant Marine
United States Army
Years of service1945 (U.S. Merchant Marine)
1946–1954, 1956–1971 (U.S. Army)
Commands held
Other workAuthor, journalist and restaurateur

Colonel David Haskell Hackworth (November 11, 1930 – May 4, 2005) was a United States Army officer and journalist, who was decorated in both the Korean War and Vietnam War. Hackworth is known for his role in the formation and command of Tiger Force, a military unit from the 101st Airborne Division that used guerrilla warfare tactics against Viet Cong in South Vietnam.

He was youngest US colonel in Vietnam at the time of his promotion. He was described by General Creighton Abrams, who commanded all US military operations from 1968 to 1972 in Vietnam, as "the best battalion commander I ever saw in the United States Army."[1]

In 1996, Hackworth accused Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Boorda of wearing two unauthorized service ribbons on his uniform denoting valor in combat. Boorda committed suicide during Hackworth's investigation. In 1997 Hackworth was accused himself of wearing unathorised decorations: an extra Distinguished Flying Cross and a Ranger Tab.[2] An audit later proved it was a US Army administrative error and not the fault of Hackworth.

Early life

Hackworth was born in Ocean Park, California (now part of Santa Monica), on November 11, 1930, the son of Leroy E. Hackworth and Lorette (Kensly) Hackworth.[3] His parents both died before he was a year old, so he and his brother and sister were raised by Ida Stedman, their paternal grandmother.[4]

The family had to rely on government aid during the Great Depression, and his grandmother, who had been married to a Colorado gold miner, brought them up on tales of her Old West experiences and her Revolutionary War ancestors.[4] While attending school in Santa Monica, Hackworth and a friend earned money by shining the shoes of soldiers stationed at bases in the area.[5]

Military career

Imbued with a sense of adventure, at age 14, Hackworth lied about his age and paid a transient to pose as his father so he could claim to be old enough to join the United States Merchant Marine with parental consent.[4][5] In 1945 he served aboard a Merchant Marine ship in the South Pacific Ocean during the final months of World War II.[6] After he returned home to California he decided to join the United States Army. In 1946, he used his Merchant Marine documents to enlist for three years.[6] After completing his initial training, he was assigned to post-war occupation duty as a rifleman in the 351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division. Based in Trieste, his unit was part of Trieste United States Troops. While serving in Trieste, Hackworth earned his General Educational Development high-school equivalency diploma.[7]


Hackworth fought with the 25th Reconnaissance Company and the 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division during the Korean War. He gained a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant in 1951 and was awarded three Silver Stars for heroism and three Purple Hearts. After a successful raid on Hill 1062 and battlefield promotion to first lieutenant, the commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment offered Hackworth command of a new volunteer raider unit. Hackworth created the 27th Wolfhound Raiders and led them from August to November 1951. He subsequently volunteered for a second tour in Korea, this time with the 40th Infantry Division. Hackworth was promoted to the rank of captain.[8]

Cold War

External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Hackworth on About Face, May 7, 1989, C-SPAN

Hackworth was demobilized after the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1954. But he quickly became bored with civilian life, so after two years of college he re-joined the U.S. Army as a captain in 1956.

When Hackworth returned to active duty, the Cold War substantially changed the structure of the army from what he had known. Initially posted to 77th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in Manhattan Beach, California, Hackworth was eventually assigned to Germany, initially in staff roles, but returning to infantry in the early 1960s as a company commander under Colonel Glover S. Johns. He was involved in a number of fire drills around the Berlin Crisis of 1961. He recounted his experiences with the Soviet guard and his views on military history in his book About Face.

After completing an associate of arts degree at Los Angeles Harbor College,[9] and completing additional courses at several other colleges, in 1964, Hackworth graduated from Austin Peay State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in history, after which he attended the Command and General Staff College.[10][11]


When President John F. Kennedy announced that a large advisory team was being sent to South Vietnam, Hackworth immediately volunteered for service. His request was denied, on the grounds that he had too much frontline experience, and that others who had seen less fighting (or none) should have an opportunity to acquire experience in combat.[12]

In 1965, he deployed to Vietnam at the rank of Major, serving as an operations officer and battalion commander in the 101st Airborne Division. In November 1965, Hackworth founded a platoon-sized unit designated as Tiger Force to "out guerrilla the guerrillas".[13] The unit carried out long-range reconnaissance patrol duties, suffering heavy casualties; it was eventually awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.[14] However, after Hackworth was promoted out of Vietnam, the unit committed a series of war crimes, with U.S. Army investigative records estimating that Tiger Force soldiers killed hundreds of noncombatants. Hackworth later stated in an interview with the Toledo Blade that he was unaware of the war crimes the unit carried out and refused to speculate on why they occurred.[15]

Hackworth quickly developed a reputation as an eccentric but effective soldier, becoming a public figure in several books authored by General S. L. A. "Slam" Marshall. Following a stateside tour at the Pentagon and promotion to lieutenant colonel, Hackworth co-wrote The Vietnam Primer with Marshall after returning to Vietnam in the winter of 1966–67 on an Army-sponsored tour with the famous historian and commentator. The book advised counter-insurgency fighters to adopt some of the guerrilla tactics used by Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh. Hackworth described the strategy as "out-G-ing the G." His personal and professional relationship with Marshall soured as Hackworth became suspicious of his methods and motivation.[16]

However, both his assignment with "Slam" Marshall and his time on staff duty at the Pentagon soured Hackworth on the Vietnam War. One aspect of the latter required him to publicly defend the U.S. position on the war in a speaking tour. Even with his reservations concerning the conflict, he refused to resign, feeling it was his duty as a field grade officer to wage the campaign as best he could.[16]

Fire Support Base Danger, Dinh Tuong Province, March 1969: This fire support base was the 4-39th Infantry Battalion headquarters when Hackworth took command of that unit.

Hackworth was assigned to a training battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then returned to Vietnam to lead elements of the 9th Infantry Division, turning his theories about guerrilla warfare and how to counter it into practice with the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment (4-39 Infantry) in the Mekong Delta, an underperforming unit made up largely of conscripts which Hackworth transformed into the counter-insurgent "Hardcore" Battalion (Recondo) from January to late May 1969.

Hackworth next served as a senior military adviser to the ARVN, the South Vietnamese army. His view that the U.S. Army was not learning from its mistakes, and that ARVN officers were essentially corrupt and ineffective, created friction with Army leadership.[16]

In early 1971, Hackworth was promoted to the rank of colonel and received orders to attend the Army War College, an indication that he was being groomed for the general officer ranks. He had declined a previous opportunity to go to the War College, and turned down this one, as well, indicating his lack of interest in becoming a general and demonstrating his discontent with the war and the Army's leaders.[16]


Hackworth's dissatisfaction ultimately culminated in a television interview with ABC. On June 27, 1971, he appeared on the program Issues and Answers and strongly criticized U.S. commanders in Vietnam, said the war could not be won and called for U.S. withdrawal. The interview enraged senior U.S. Army officers at the Pentagon.[16]

He subsequently retired as a colonel. Senior Army leaders investigated Hackworth, who avoided them for several weeks. He was nearly court-martialed for various allegations during his Vietnam service, such as running a brothel, running gambling houses, and exploiting his position for personal profit by manipulating the scrip in which soldiers were paid and the limited U.S. currency available in the war zone. Ultimately, Secretary of the Army Robert Froehlke opted not to press charges, deciding that Hackworth's career accomplishments outweighed his supposed misdeeds and that prosecuting an outspoken war hero would result in unneeded bad publicity for the Army.[17]

Post-military career


After leaving the Army, Hackworth settled on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane.[18] He soon made a fortune through profitable ventures that included real estate investing, a duck farm, and a popular restaurant called Scaramouche.[18][19] He was also active in the Australian antinuclear movement.[19]


Hackworth returned to the U.S. in the mid-1980s and began working as a contributing editor on defense issues for Newsweek. He also made regular television appearances to discuss various military-related topics, and the shortcomings of the military. His commentary on the psychological effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, based on his own experiences in overcoming it, resonated with disabled veterans.[citation needed]

In the mid-1990s, Hackworth investigated Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, then Chief of Naval Operations. Hackworth, through his Newsweek articles, questioned Boorda's longtime wearing of two bronze "valor pins"[20] (in the Navy, the "V" device was worn on certain decorations to denote valor in combat or direct combat participation with the enemy) on his Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal service ribbons, generating much controversy. Boorda committed suicide before he could be interviewed by Hackworth, who had received at least one Army Commendation Medal and other decorations with the "V" device from the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War (in the Army, the "V" device denoted valor in combat only). The Navy reviewed the matter and determined afterwards that the two "Combat Distinguishing Devices" (Combat "V"'s) that Boorda had worn on two of his uniform service ribbons since the Vietnam War and until almost a year before Hackworth's and Newsweek's intervention, were both unauthorized despite the fact Boorda and some others serving on Boorda's destroyer had been given verbal authorization for the devices by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt during the war.[citation needed]

Hackworth's last assignment in a combat/conflict zone was with Newsweek during the initial deployment of US forces into Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the Implementation Force in February 1996. Hackworth joined 3rd Battalion, 5th Cavalry of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division near the disputed village of Brcko. Hackworth interviewed a number of officers and enlisted soldiers, reinforcing his historical tenure as a seasoned combat veteran of previous wars and as a well-known and respected journalist.

Hackworth appeared on countless television and radio talk shows and formed his own website, Soldiers for the Truth, continuing to be the self-proclaimed voice of the "grunts" (ground troops) until his death.

King Features Syndicate distributed Hackworth's weekly column "Defending America".[21] Many of his columns discussed the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War and were concerned with the policies of the American leadership in conducting the wars, as well as the conditions of the soldiers serving. Hackworth continued the column until his death from bladder cancer in May 2005. Associates believe that his cancer was caused by exposure to Agent Blue[22][failed verification] (a defoliant used in Vietnam), and are lobbying the United States government to have the substance labeled a known carcinogen like the more famous Agent Orange.



Hackworth wrote articles for:


Hackworth died on May 4, 2005, at the age of 74 in Tijuana, Mexico, as he was searching for alternative treatments for his bladder cancer.[23] He was survived by his wife, Eilhys England, four children from his two previous marriages, and a stepdaughter. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Military decorations and awards

Hackworth earned over 90 U.S. and foreign military awards and frequently wore a CIB lapel pin on his civilian sport jackets.

His military awards include:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Distinguished Service Cross
w/ one oak leaf cluster[24]
Silver Star
w/ one silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters[24]
Silver Star
(second ribbon required for accoutrement spacing)[24]
Legion of Merit
w/ three oak leaf clusters[24]
Distinguished Flying Cross[24]
Bronze Star
w/ "V" Device and seven oak leaf clusters
(seven awards for heroism)[24]
Purple Heart
w/ seven oak leaf clusters[24]
Air Medal
w/ "V" Device and award numeral 34
(1 award for heroism and 33 awards for aerial achievement)[24]
Army Commendation Medal
w/ "V" Device and three oak leaf clusters[24]
Good Conduct Medal[24] World War II Victory Medal[24]
Army of Occupation Medal
w/ Germany and Japan clasps[24]
National Defense Service Medal
w/ one 316" bronze star[24]
Korean Service Medal
w/ one 316" silver star and three 316" bronze stars[24]
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal[24] Vietnam Service Medal
w/ two 316" silver stars[24]
Armed Forces Reserve Medal[24]
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
w/ two 516" silver stars and two 516" gold stars[24]
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal
(1st Class)[24]
Vietnam Staff Service Medal (1st Class)[24]
United Nations Korea Medal[24] Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/ 1960- device[24] Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation (Army)[24]
Valorous Unit Award
w/ oak leaf cluster[24]
Meritorious Unit Commendation[24] Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation[24]
Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation[24] Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (three awards)[24] Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation[24]
U.S. Badges, Patches and Tabs
Combat Infantryman Badge w/ one silver star (2 awards)[24]
US Master Parachutist Badge[24]
Army Staff Identification Badge[24]
101st Airborne Division Combat Service Identification Badge[24]
327th Infantry Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia[24]
Foreign badges
Vietnam Master Parachutist Badge[24]

Distinguished Service Cross citations

David Haskell Hackworth
Service: Army
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Division: 101st Airborne Division
Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 121 (1966)


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Infantry) David Haskell Hackworth (ASN: OF-103837), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam while serving with 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. On 7 February 1966, Major Hackworth's unit was assigned the mission of relieving elements of a friendly rifle company which had been pinned down for four hours. Upon arriving at the beleaguered unit's position, Major Hackworth moved forward, by himself, to conduct a reconnaissance of the area. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, he moved across an open field through a small arms fire, crossed a bridge that was raked by intense hostile machine-gun fire, and ran across another open field through heavy fire to the embattled company's position. Major Hackworth then crawled to within twenty meters of the insurgent positions in the face of heavy machine gun fire. Upon completion of his reconnaissance mission, he returned to his command post and again, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the attacking force across the bullet swept fields to the insurgent positions. He then led a group through intense fire to a position only forty meters from the opposing force's battle positions. From this point, under fire for approximately six hours, Major Hackworth calmly and effectively maneuvered his units to close in on the entrenched and determined Viet Cong. Continuously, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he exposed himself to intense fire to personally inspire and direct the attack. As one of the attacking units began to falter, without hesitation, Major Hackworth left his position to rally the attackers and lead them into the Viet Cong positions. During the final phase of the attack, Major Hackworth again exposed himself to heavy fire in order to direct an airstrike on the Viet Cong. Major Hackworth's extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the military service.

David Haskell Hackworth
Service: Army
Battalion: 4th Battalion
Division: 9th Infantry Division
Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 2422 (1969)


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry) David Haskell Hackworth (ASN: OF-103837), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Hackworth distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during the period of 23 to 25 March 1969 as battalion commander while his unit was engaged with elements of two Viet Cong battalions. After one of his companies came under attack from a numerically superior hostile force, Colonel Hackworth landed his command and control helicopter amid heavy enemy fire to resupply the unit with ammunition and to evacuate casualties. Remaining with his forces on the ground, he led a patrol in pursuit of the withdrawing enemy and, after learning the enemy's withdrawal plan from a captured soldier, directed the insertion of other elements of his battalion into blocking positions. As the conflict developed into a large scale battle, he again took to the air and flew through intense anti-aircraft fire to adjust artillery fire and direct the movement of his men. He repeatedly landed to coordinate with his ground commanders, lead assaults against hostile positions, and evacuate casualties. When a friendly scout element sustained several casualties and became pinned down near the communist emplacements, he disembarked from his helicopter to maneuver through the hostile fusillade and assist the wounded men to his aircraft. When he had insured that the injured were being evacuated, he adjusted supporting fire on the enemy fortifications until the enemy was soundly defeated and their weapons and supplies confiscated. Lieutenant Colonel Hackworth's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Media apologies over Hackworth reporting

In response to Hackworth's investigation of Admiral Boorda, CNN and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather questioned the accuracy of Hackworth's own military decorations.[25][26] In particular, the reports accused Hackworth of claiming a Ranger Tab to which he was not entitled and an extra Distinguished Flying Cross listed on his website. Hackworth threatened to sue CBS and requested a formal audit of his military records. In response to the findings made from the military audit, the executive producer of CBS News sent a letter to Hackworth that stated:[27]

The Army's audit of its records has determined that the Army made an administrative error back in 1988 when it reissued your medals and awards. Along with numerous other decorations, the Army mistakenly issued you a Ranger Tab and two Oak Leaf Clusters for your Distinguished Flying Cross. The Army has thus verified what we reported as your explanation of the matter.

As far as we are concerned, the Army audit makes clear that you did not at any time wear or claim any military honor not actually issued by the U.S. Army, based on its official records, including the service record you signed and dated. At the same time, CBS continues to believe that our reports did not state or imply that you knowingly wore or claimed decorations not issued by the U.S. Army and that any such inference drawn from the reports would be mistaken.

Similarly, we do not believe our reports in any way equated your conduct with that of the late Admiral Boorda's. Indeed, as we believe we made clear in our reports, by all accounts you are a man who has shown extraordinary heroism in your service to our country, and has deservedly been awarded many of the nation's most coveted awards for valor.

In 2002, Hackworth was asked about the controversy in an interview with Proceedings. In the interview, he stated:[28]

I had served in the 8th Ranger Company; later I served in the 27th Raiders of the 25th Infantry Division. On the Raiders' tenth mission, the regimental commander awarded every trooper the Ranger Tab. When all this fell out after the Boorda story, I immediately had my records audited. And they reflected that I was awarded the Ranger Tab. It was on my official records; it's not something I claimed falsely.

Let me tell you how the regulation reads now. To rate a Ranger Tab, you had to have been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) while a member of the 8th Ranger Company. But I got my CIB with Company G, 27th Infantry Regiment. Thus, the 1951 award of the tab did not meet the 1980s criteria. I take all the blame.

All the guys in the 27th Raiders got the Ranger Tab, but they were not Rangers. When the Boorda story exploded, people were looking for chinks in my armor. So I'm a defrocked Ranger. As it turned out, though, in the Army's vetting of my record, they found I had ten Silver Stars, not nine.


  1. ^ McCombs, Phil (May 10, 1989). "The Outspoke Commander". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  2. ^ McIntyre, Jamie (May 16, 1997). "Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case". CNN. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  3. ^ "Dave Haskell Hackworth in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936–2007". Provo, UT:, LLC. September 29, 2004. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Col. David. H. Hackworth, Legendary U.S. Army Guerrilla Fighter, Champion of the Ordinary Soldier, Dead at 74". King Features Syndicate. New York, NY: Hearst Communications. May 5, 2005.
  5. ^ a b "Much-decorated war veteran who became critic of US establishment". The Irish Times. Dublin, Ireland. May 14, 2005.
  6. ^ a b Lieberman, Joseph, Senator (May 26, 2005). Congressional Record: Remarks on the Death of Colonel David Hackworth. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 11535. ISBN 9780160889400.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Hackworth, David (1990). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. Avid Reader Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-1982144043.
  8. ^ See David Hackworth, About Face.
  9. ^ Hackworth pp. 324–25
  10. ^ Hackworth pp. 448–49
  11. ^ "Author, columnist, commentator David Hackworth to speak June 5". Austin Peay State University. Archived from the original on October 11, 2015. Retrieved April 5, 2013., May 20, 2002
  12. ^ David Hackworth, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, 1990, p. 416
  13. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13–14, 23, 224.
  14. ^ Mahr, "Unit's founder Archived January 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine"
  15. ^ Mahr, Joe (March 28, 2004). "Unit's founder says he didn't know of atrocities". Toledo Blade. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  16. ^ a b c d e Sherman, Julie (April 15, 1990). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. California: Touchstone. ISBN 0671695347.
  17. ^ Mahr, Joe (October 31, 2003). "Army brass let Hackworth retire despite host of alleged misdeeds". Toledo Blade. Retrieved April 12, 2009.
  18. ^ a b "US colonel sought solace on Tweed". Tweed Daily News. Tweed Heads, New South Wales, Australia. May 12, 2005.
  19. ^ a b "Skilled soldier was a rebel with a cause". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. May 13, 2005.
  20. ^ "Beneath the Waves". Newsweek. March 13, 2010 [26 May 1996]. Retrieved April 22, 2024.
  21. ^ "Col. David. H. Hackworth, Legendary U.S. Army Guerrilla Fighter, Champion of the Ordinary Soldier, Dead at 74". King Features Syndicate. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2024.
  22. ^ Hackworth, Ellis England. "Bells for a Fallen Hero". Soldiers for the Truth website.
  23. ^ Carlson, Michael (May 8, 2005). "Obituary, David Hackworth: Unorthodox Vietnam commander immortalized in Apocalypse Now". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai "Military Awards". Archived from the original on October 5, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
  25. ^ McIntyre, Jamie (May 16, 1997). "Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case". CNN. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  26. ^ Shenon, Philip (May 16, 1997). "Accuser on Admiral's Medals Faces Scrutiny About His Own". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  27. ^ "Hack's Medal Flap with CBS". Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  28. ^ Hackworth, Col David H. (December 2002). "Look Truth Right in the Eye". Proceedings (Interview). Interviewed by Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Retrieved May 27, 2008.