EPILOGUE: Delivering the sad news
The guns were silent at last. But 12,000 miles away, in Columbus, Ga., the sleepy Southern town outside Fort Benning, the tragedy was just beginning to unfold. It was early in the war, and the Army had not yet formed the casualty-notification teams that later delivered and tried to soften the terrible news. The telegrams were simply handed over to taxi drivers to deliver. Some women collapsed at the sight of a cab pulling up outside; others huddled inside, refusing to answer the knock.
Lt. Col. Hal Moore and his men had done their duty in the Ia Drang Valley. Now Julia Compton Moore -- the daughter of an Army colonel, the wife of a future Army general and the mother of two sons who would follow their father to West Point -- would do hers. Julie Moore knocked on too many doors in the flimsy thin-walled apartment complexes and trailer parks around Columbus -- grieving with the women, comforting the children and wondering when the taxicab might come to her door. She never forgot one very young, Hispanic widow, pregnant with a baby who would come into this world fatherless. Julie Moore attended the funerals of all her husband's men who were buried at Fort Benning.
If you want to know the true cost of victory in the Ia Drang, ask Julie Moore.
U.S. News Senior Editor Joseph L. Galloway was the only civilian correspondent at Landing Zone X-Ray. He hitched a helicopter ride to the battlefield on the first night of the fight, riding atop crates of hand grenades. One day past his 24th birthday, the young United Press International correspondent was savoring his only present, a front-row seat at the biggest battle of the war. Galloway left Vietnam in 1966, vowing never to return, but was sent back in 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1990.
Death valley. Remote and inaccessible, the Ia Drang Valley had long been a Communist sanctuary and infiltration route into South Vietnam's Central Highlands. Only a few clearings dotted the tangle of scrub brush, ravines and huge, sun-baked termite hills below the Chu Pong Massif.
Day 1: Moore staves off disaster, Nov. 14, 1965.
U.S. casualties: 27 killed, 69 wounded
Day 2: Charlie Company's trial by fire, Nov. 15, 1965.
U.S. casualties: 46 killed, 25 wounded
Day 3: The North Vietnamese fail, Nov. 16, 1965.
Total U.S. casualties (Nov. 14-16): 79 killed, 121 wounded