David Hackworth

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David Hackworth
David Hackworth.JPG
Hackworth in Zagreb, Croatia, December 1995
Nickname(s) "Hack"
Born (1930-11-11)November 11, 1930
California, United States
Died May 4, 2005(2005-05-04) (aged 74)
Tijuana, Mexico
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch US Merchant Marine
 United States Army
Years of service 1945–1971
Rank Colonel
Unit 88th Infantry Division
25th Infantry Division
40th Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division
9th Infantry Division
Commands held Tiger Force
4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment

World War II

Korean War

Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Silver Star (10)
Legion of Merit (4)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal (8) with "V"
Purple Heart (8)
Air Medal (34) with "V"
Other work Author, journalist and restaurateur

David Haskell Hackworth (November 11, 1930 – May 4, 2005), also known as "Hack," was a prominent military journalist and a former United States Army colonel who was decorated in both the Korean War and Vietnam War. Hackworth is known for his role in the creation and command of Tiger Force, a military unit which was formed in South Vietnam to apply guerrilla warfare tactics against Viet Cong guerrilla fighters.

Hackworth is also known for his accusation in 1996 of the improper wearing of two unauthorized service ribbon devices denoting valor in combat by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Boorda, on two of his uniform's awards. Although Boorda had served off the coast of Vietnam in the 1960s and was authorized the two war-time decorations for meritorious service, he did not meet what he thought was the Navy's requirements to wear the devices. Boorda committed suicide during Hackworth's investigation.

Early life[edit]

David Hackworth joined the U.S. Merchant Marine in early-1945 at age 14, towards the end of World War II. The following year, he enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 15. He was assigned as a rifleman to the 351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division, and stationed on occupation duty in Trieste. His unit, part of Trieste United States Troops (TRUST), at times served under British command. In the Korean War, he became a sergeant, volunteering again to serve.[1]

Hackworth fought in Korea with the 25th Reconnaissance Company and the 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division. 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.[1]

Demobilized after the Armistice Agreement in Korea, Hackworth became bored with civilian life after two years of college[citation needed] and reentered the U.S. Army in 1956 as a captain.

Interwar service[edit]

When Hackworth returned to active duty, the expanding 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 Russian guard and his views on military history in his book About Face.

After attending college in several locations, 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.[2][3]

Vietnam service[edit]

When President 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 combat experience for the mission.[4]

In 1965, he deployed to Vietnam as a major. He served as an operations officer and battalion commander in the 101st Airborne Division. In November 1965 he founded the platoon-sized unit Tiger Force to "outguerrilla the guerrillas".[5] Tiger Force (Recon) Initially Tiger Force was a highly decorated small unit in Vietnam which suffered heavy casualties[6] and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. However, after Hackworth was promoted out of Vietnam the unit began a string of atrocities and war crimes, with U.S. Army investigative records and interviews by The Toledo Blade estimating the unit eventually killed hundreds of non-combatants.[7] Hackworth has stated he did not know about the atrocities and does not know what caused the unit to spiral out of control.[7]

Hackworth quickly developed a reputation as an eccentric but effective soldier,[according to whom?] 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.[8]

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.[citation needed]

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 4/39 Infantry in the Mekong Delta, an under performing 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 South Vietnamese. His view that the U.S. Army was not learning from its mistakes, and that South Vietnamese ARVN officers were essentially corrupt, created friction with army leadership.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] He soon found himself ostracized in the defense establishment.[citation needed]

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.[9]

At about the time he retired, Hackworth was divorced. In an effort to rebuild his life,[citation needed] Hackworth moved to Australia.

Business activity[edit]

Settling on the Australian Gold Coast near Brisbane, Hackworth soon made a fortune through profitable real estate investing, a lucrative duck farm, and a popular restaurant called Scaramouche. He was also active in the Australian anti-nuclear movement.

Writing career[edit]

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.[according to whom?]

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"[10] (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.

Hackworth's last assignment in a combat/conflict zone was with Newsweek during the initial deployment of US forces into Bosnia & Herzegovina in February 1996. Hackworth joined 3-5 CAV 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 televisions 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." 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[11] (a defoliant used in Vietnam), and are lobbying the United States government to have the substance labelled a known carcinogen like the more famous Agent Orange.

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.[12] He is survived by his wife, Eilhys England, a step-daughter, and four children from his two previous marriages. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.


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.[13][14] 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 military audit, the Executive Producer of CBS News sent a letter to Hackworth that stated:[15]

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:[16]

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.

Military decorations and awards[edit]

Hackworth earned over 90 U.S. and foreign military awards, including 2 Distinguished Service Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, 8 Bronze Stars, 8 Purple Hearts, and 34 Air Medals. He was proudest of his Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), and frequently wore a CIB lapel pin on his civilian sport jackets.

Hackworth's military awards include:

U.S. Individual Decorations
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross w/ one oak leaf cluster[17]
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster

Silver Star w/ one silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters / Silver Star[17]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit w/ three oak leaf clusters[17]
Distinguished Flying Cross[17]
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star w/ "V" Device and seven oak leaf clusters (seven awards for heroism)[17]
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart w/ seven oak leaf clusters[17]
"V" device, brass.svgAward numeral 3.pngAward numeral 4.png Air Medal w/ "V" Device and award numeral 34 (1 award for heroism and 33 awards for aerial achievement)[17]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal w/ "V" Device and three oak leaf clusters[17]
U.S. Good Conduct Medal and Service Medals
Good Conduct Medal[17]
World War II Victory Medal[17]
Army of Occupation Medal w/ Germany and Japan clasps[17]
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal w/ one 316" bronze star[17]
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal w/ one 316" silver star and three 316" bronze stars[17]
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal[17]
Silver star
Silver star
Vietnam Service Medal w/ two 316" silver stars[17]
Armed Forces Reserve Medal[17]
Merchant Marine Service Medals, World War II
Merchant Marine Pacific War Zone Medal[17]
Merchant Marine World War II Victory Medal[17]
Foreign Individual Decorations
Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class[17]
Award star (gold).png Award star (gold).pngAward-star-silver-3d.pngAward-star-silver-3d.png Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/ two 516" gold stars and two 516" silver stars[17]
Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (1st Class)[17]
Vietnam Staff Service Medal (1st Class)[17]
Foreign Service Medals
United Nations Service Medal (Korea)[17]
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/ 1960- device[17]
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
U.S. Unit Awards
Presidential Unit Citation (Army)[17]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Valorous Unit Award[17]
Meritorious Unit Commendation[17]
Foreign Unit Awards
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation[17]
Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation[17]
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation (three awards)[17]
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation[17]
U.S. Badges, Patches and Tabs
CIB2.png Combat Infantryman Badge w/ one silver star (2 awards)[17]
US Army Airborne master parachutist badge.gif Master Parachutist Badge (United States)[17]
United States Army Staff Identification Badge.png Army Staff Identification Badge[17]
Foreign badges
ViPaBa.jpg Vietnam Master Parachutist Badge[17]


Hackworth was also a founder of Soldiers for the Truth, an advocacy group focused on military reform, both in terms of capability and treatment of personnel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b See David Hackworth, About Face.
  2. ^ David Hackworth, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, 1990, pp. 448–49
  3. ^ Austin Peay State University, Author, columnist, commentator David Hackworth to speak June 5, May 20, 2002
  4. ^ David Hackworth, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, 1990, p. 416
  5. ^ Sallah and Weiss, Tiger Force, 13–14, 23, 224.
  6. ^ Mahr, "Unit's founder"
  7. ^ a b "Unit's founder says he didn't know of atrocities," The Toledo Blade, March 28, 2004, accessed October 25, 2015. Part of The Blade's coverage of Tiger Force which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
  8. ^ Hackworth, David (March 1989). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. pp. 582–86. 
  9. ^ Mahr, Joe (October 31, 2003). "Army brass let Hackworth retire despite host of alleged misdeeds". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  10. ^ Newsweek, Beneath the Waves, 5/26/96
  11. ^ Hackworth, Ellis England. "Bells for a Fallen Hero". Soldiers for the Truth website. 
  12. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/may/09/guardianobituaries.usa1
  13. ^ McIntyre, Jamie (May 16, 1997). "Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case". CNN. Retrieved May 27, 2008. 
  14. ^ Shenon, Philip (May 16, 1997). "Accuser on Admiral's Medals Faces Scrutiny About His Own". New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Hack's Medal Flap with CBS". Hackworth.com. Retrieved May 27, 2008. 
  16. ^ Hackworth, Col David H. (December 2002). "Look Truth Right in the Eye". Proceedings (Interview). Interview with Fred L. Schultz and Gordon Keiser. Military.com. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  17. ^ 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," Hackworth.com, Accessed May 30, 2007.

External links[edit]