A couple of questions about We Were Soldiers

I watched this movie when it came out in the cinema and remember being distinctly unimpressed but watched it again last night and it was significently better than I recall, it did raise a couple of questions for me though:

Were death-messages really delivered by taxi as depicted, who in their right mind thought that would be a good idea? How are they delivered these days?

Were the messages really delivered while the battle was still ongoing, or was that a little poetic licence, seems overly efficient.

The ending of the movie, it seemed to go from the Americans being basically overwhelmed to them suddenly almost taking the Vietnamese command post in an unexpected counter-attack, I realise this film was based on real events, is that what occurred?

Its implied that Colonel Moore sent the dead soldiers diary (the one who almost bayoneted him) with a note attached to his wife, would that have been possible in the context of the war?


I read the book, and I recall the delivery of death notices to be pretty much as described.

I didn’t see this film when it came out and haven’t had the opportunity since then. I read James B. Stewart’s Heart of a Soldier about Rick Rescorla, who evacuated 3700 employees from the WTC and died when he went back inside to make sure he had gotten everyone out.

Rescorla appeared on the cover of the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, but I understand he was just part of a composite character (probably understandable, given the difficulty of explaining what a man from Cornwall was doing in the US Army).

From the book:

Yes, the telegrams informing next of kin were delivered by cab drivers. And yes, Col. Moore’s wife did go to each wife’s house as soon as they received a notice.

The telegrams were being sent as soon as a soldier was confirmed KIA, so some of them did arrive while the battle was still in progress.

The ending was pure Hollywood. The Americans got reinforcements, so the NVA withdrew, having suffered high casualties. The same NVA units ambushed one of the American battalions 2 days later and clobbered them. See the Wikipedia article on the battle.

No idea on the diary.

In regards to casualty notifications, the Army and Marines have adopted a different set of procedures since the battle.

If I understand it correctly, in WW2, notification was done by telegram only.

The Messenger is currently in heavy rotation on premium cable right now. Worth a look.