The Rockaway Park Philosophical Society was established in 1971 to protect the values of American independence. It began this series of movie reviews to encourage the retelling of the American epic.

We hope to hand down the tradition as it was given to us and to inspire the Author to complete the epic. SALVE FULLOSIA!

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Many of the traditional songs of the US Army were re-worded British songs. The US Army however inherited Gary Owens, the theme of the ill-fated 7th Cavalry regiment, in an unadulterated form from the Royal Irish fusiliers. Some ex-fusiliers resettled in America to serve in the NY 69th Infantry Regiment. After the US Civil War the air was carried into the US regular army by career soldiers.

Gary Owens remained the theme of the fusiliers until their colours were retired in 1922 with Irish Independence. George V acknowledged that they had always served faithfully.

The rainbow crest of the fusiliers continues as the shoulder patch of the NY 42d Infantry Division.

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The Rockaway Park Philosophical Society seeks to promote American culture by celebrating films which portray some aspect of the cultural milieu. The much neglected subject of the Revolution has caused us pause. We hope to inspire some writer to surpass the obstacles and produce an epic.
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We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang -- The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
We Were Soldiers
Once...and Young: Ia Drang -- The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam

The Movie: We Were Soldiers







Staring Mel Gibson
A review by Sir Harrison Alfred Andrews We Were Soldiers (2002)



We Were Soldiers (2002)

Directed by Randall Wallace * Writing credits Joseph L. Galloway and Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (book) Randall Wallace (screenplay) **

Dramatis Personae
Mel Gibson .... Hal Moore
Madeleine Stowe .... Julie Moore
Sam Elliott .... Sergeant Major Basil Plumley
Greg Kinnear .... Major Bruce 'Snakeshit' Crandall
Chris Klein .... Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan
Josh Daugherty .... Ouelette
Barry Pepper .... Joe Galloway
Keri Russell .... Barbara Geoghegan
Edwin Morrow .... Private. Willie Godboldt
Mike White (IV) .... Sergeant First Class Haffner
Jsu Garcia .... Captain Nadal
Mark McCracken .... Ed 'Too Tall' Freeman
Tim Abell .... Army Intelligence Officer
Vincent Angell .... Doc Carrara
Robert Bagnell .... Charlie Hastings
Dan Beene .... Cab Driver
Luke Benward .... David Moore
Marc Blucas .... Lieutenant Herrick
Danny Boyer (I) .... Sergeant
Sean Bunch .... Trooper #4
Brian Carpenter (I) .... Robert McNamara
Doug C. Cook .... Captain Ray Lefebvre
Alan Dale (I) .... General William C. Westmoreland
Don Duong .... Ahn
Cliff Fleming .... Mills
Brendan Ford .... Jump Coordinator
Michael Giordani .... French Lieutenant
Clark Gregg .... Captain Metsker
Jim Grimshaw .... General Kinnard
Jon Hamm .... Captain Dillon
Desmond Harrington .... Beck
Shannon M. Hart .... Army Wife
Blake Heron .... Bungum
Joseph Hieu .... NVA Major
Vien Hong .... Mr. Nik
Nicholas Hosking .... French Captain
Ryan Hurst .... Sergeant Savage
Lyndon Johnson .... Himself

War is Icky
"War is icky!" exclaimed a US super-patriot who flaunts a UNITED WE STAND T-Shirt and drives a car plastered with US emblems. He hasn't volunteered in the current emergency to do anything other than act as a billboard.

Over twenty-five years later, that sums up the general US sentiment. Even in the conservative ex-urbs far removed from the effete centres of banality and liberal thought, the Vietnam War remains such a sore topic that it is hard to make a movie salable to general audiences. Despite the top line billing of Mel Gibson, WE WERE SOLDIERS sadly opened to empty movie theatres here in Eastern Long Island. The tough knot of veterans stayed home. Having seen the live staged action, they had enough.

The newcomers to US patriotism, singing songs, spouting slogans and flying banners didn't come to the movie either. Too gory and violent, they said.

The Vietnam War is a tough topic to handle for cinematography. Unlike other wars fought by soldiers who were required to see it through, the Vietnam War was fought by replacements thrown together. Most units lacked any cohesion. The Army refused to use its trained leadership; instead leadership fell to whoever was around and available, constantly changing. Even on a political level, the agenda and objectives remained ephemeral.

The Man and the Moment
WE WERE SOLDIERS does not try to tell the whole story. It focuses on one battle in a valley in Western South Vietnam fought by the GARY OWENS BRIGADE, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, against a purported North Vietnamese Division in the early part of the war 1965.

The story does not begin in battle but in training of the Air Cavalry inside the US in a training programme designed to adjust Cavalry tactics to the age of the helicopter. The choice for command is LTC Moore (Mel Gibson).

The name for the new fighting force is the GARY OWENS Brigade, famed for having been wiped out in combat with the Sioux Indians.

However as deployment is implemented the President decides against declaring an emergency which will freeze enlistments. Thus the battalion goes into action at about half strength without adequate intelligence as to enemy strengths and dispositions.

Colonel Moore is a mountain of a man willing to make every sacrifice and endure every hardship. However the movie subtlely details the obstacles the Colonel faces. No one speaks Vietnamese other than a South Vietnamese Ranger seen briefly interrogating a captive. No one knows enemy strengths. No one except seemingly Colonel Moore knows that the Viet Minh defeated the French in approximately the same location and under similar conditions. Everything about the proposed operation is thrown together. There aren't enough choppers to carry the whole attacking force in one swoop. The first wave will have to wait almost an hour for backup.

A Moment To Reflect
There is a moment to reflect as the troops board the steel mounts for combat. The breeze of the swishing rotors hides a Gaelic War Cry blending the furies into song. How is it that Gaelic melodies so easily lend themselves to War?

The engagement itself breaches a canon of strategy: never plan an attack without securing your staging area. The landing zone (LZ) is quickly overrun by enemy forces compelling Colonel Moore to improvise another site. As battle is joined Higher Headquarters waffles. The brass even General Westmoreland want to recall Moore the trained tactician and to send in a brevetted replacement. Moore ignores the order and fights on with the men.

Certainly the vignette explains the many brevetted commissions from that war. Were other real life commanders as faithful to the unit and to the men as the story makes claim for Colonel Moore? Who can be sure?

Fighting is toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose. A napalm strike hits US forces. Ultimate success in a temporal sense is won for the Americans who by the touch of a feather put the Viet Cong to flight.

The cost to the US is frightful. Nearly half the Gary Owens brigade and almost all of its officers except Colonel Moore have been killed. General DeGaulle, then President of France, remarked caustically, Americans have learned little from our mistakes.

mail_box But with all the victories of Vietnam, though the field is won, it is quickly evacuated and left to the enemy.

Madeleine Stowe plays Julie Moore, the Colonel's wife, to whom the dirtiest task of the war has been left by the Army, that of informing nearly all other officers' wives of husbands' death in combat.

If Veterans stayed away having first hand knowledge of the cost of war, this movie would be a good one for those whose patriotism is newly found in the politically correct response to current emergencies.     


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