We Were Soldiers

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We Were Soldiers is a 2002 film about the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in November, 1965 — the first clash between a force of US troops and the People's Army of Vietnam and the start of America's commitment to the Vietnam War.

Directed by Randall Wallace. Screenplay by Randall Wallace. Based upon the book "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young" by Harold G. "Hal" Moore and Joseph L. Galloway.
Starring Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliot, and Madeleine Stowe.

Dialogue

Joe Galloway: (voice-over) These are the true events of November, 1965. The Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, a place our country does not remember in a war it does not understand. This story is a testament to the young Americans who died in the Valley of Death, and a tribute to the young men of the People's Army of Vietnam who died by our hand in that place.

[In a flashback sequence: after ambushing a French column, Viet Minh troops stand over the wounded survivors.]
Viet Minh soldier: (in subtitles) Do we take prisoners?
Lt. Nguyen Huu An: (in subtitles) No. Kill all they send, and they will stop coming.

General: The White House anticipates a buildup and wants a victory... over cavemen in black pajamas.
General Kinnard: We wouldn't be there if they hadn't already beaten the French Army.
General: The French Army? What's that? The problem in Vietnam is terrain — jungles, mountains, rivers. Maneuver's a nightmare. That's why we came up with a plan to use helicopters. Leap in and out of battle.

[Lieutenant Colonel Moore chooses the pilots for his Air Cavalry unit.]
Hal Moore: So, your men call you "Snakeshit".
Bruce "Snake" Crandall: That's an affectionate appelation from my comrades-in-arms, sir, 'cause I fly lower than snake shit.
Moore: Well, I got a problem, Snakeshit, and I think you're the solution.
Crandall: I've been called a lot of things, Colonel. Never a solution.
Moore: You know what "Air Cavalry" really means? You fly into hostile territory, outnumbered, ten thousand miles from home. Sometimes the battleground's no bigger than a football field. And if the choppers stop coming... we all get slaughtered. Now, I figure chopper pilots won't fly into hell for strangers, so — I'm Hal Moore. (they shake hands)
...
Moore: They want to fly with you for some reason. I guess it's 'cause they think you're the best.
Crandall: That's 'cause I only recruit the dumb ones, sir.

Sergeant Savage: Good morning, Sergeant Major!
Sergeant Major Plumley: How do you know what kind of god-damn day it is?

Hal Moore: Neither the new technology nor your status as officers will keep you above the danger. Sergeant Major Plumley and I come from the paratroopers, where the officer is always the first man out of the plane. Because to follow your instincts and inspire your men by your example, you have to be with them — where the metal meets the meat.
...
Moore: Now, I hope you men like training, 'cause me and the Sergeant Major... we love it!

Moore: You learn the job of the man above you, and you teach your job to the man below you in rank. That goes for every man in this outfit. Understood?
Troops, in unison: Yes, sir!
Moore: We'll be landing under fire, gentlemen. Men will die.

[Hal Moore is saying bedtime prayers with his five children.]
Moore: Cecile? I don't hear you praying, honey.
Cecile: I don't wanna be a Catholic! I wanna be a Nethodist like Mommy!
Moore: A-and why's that?
Cecile: So I can pray whatever I want.
Older Brother: That's a sin!
Moore: Oh, no-no-no, that's not a sin. God just made you hard-headed. It's not a sin. Uh, I'll tell you what. You wanna, you wanna pray and thank God for our family?
Cecile: Yes, sir.
Moore: That's good. Well, then, let's do it.
Moore & kids: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...
...
Hal Moore: I can hear you laughing, you know, even in here.
Julie Moore: I'm not laughing, I'm marveling.
Hal: Marveling? At what?
Julie: That you can find stubbornness in your children and think it comes from anybody but you.

Sergeant Savage: Beautiful morning, Sergeant Major.
Sergeant Major Plumley: What are you, a fuckin' weatherman now?

Sgt.Maj. Plumley: Sent us another bunch of officers. Real green. Gotta train 'em up.
Lt.Col. Moore: Uh-huh. Makes me think I'm starting a new unit.
Plumley: They sent new rifles, too. The M-16.
Moore: That's supposed to be a pretty good weapon.
Plumley: Aaah — lot of plastic. Feels like a BB-gun to me. Believe I'll stick with my pistol.
Moore: You think we're gonna get close enough to the enemy to use that?
Plumley: What do you think, sir?

Moore: When Crazy Horse was a baby, he nursed at the breast of every woman in the tribe. The Sioux raised their children that way. Every warrior called every woman in the tribe "Mother". Every older warrior, they called him "Grandfather". Now, the point here is that they fought as a family. Take care of your men. Teach them to take care of each other. 'Cause when this starts... each other is all we're gonna have. (Moore goes aside with new radio operator)
Plumley: Any of you sons-of-bitches calls me "Grandpa"... I'll kill ya.

Moore: Now, that young man's a leader! (indicating Lt. Geoghegan)
Plumley: Yes, sir. But that other feller — that big strong one there? (points at Lt. Herrick) He wants to win medals.

[Julie Moore is hosting a meeting of officers' wives.]
Catherine Metsker: The laundromat in town's okay, but they won't let you wash your colored things in their machines.
Barbara Geoghegan: At a public laundromat?
Cathy Metsker: Didn't make any sense to me either, but I'm telling you — they have a big sign right in the window, says "Whites Only". (an awkward silence) What?
Alma Givens: Honey, they mean white people only.
Cathy Metsker: That's awful. Your husband is wearing the uniform of a country that alllows a place to... to say that his laundry's not good enough, when he could die for... I'm sorry, I just —
Alma Givens: That's all right, honey. I know what my husband's fighting for, and that's why I can smile. My husband will never ask for respect, and he'll give respect to no man who hasn't earned it. The rest of his family's the same way. And anybody who doesn't respect that can keep his goddamn washing machine, 'cause my baby's clothes are gonna be clean anyway!
Julie Moore: (amid general laughter) Well, I guess that takes care of item number two!

[Hal Moore joins Lt. Jack Goeghegan, a new father, in the chapel.]
Jack Geoghegan: What do you think about being a soldier and a father?
Hal Moore: I hope that being good at the one makes me better at the other.
...
Hal Moore: (praying) Our Father in Heaven, before we go into battle every soldier among us will approach You, each in his own way. Our enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and for victory. And so we bow before Your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers as best we can. I pray that You watch over the young men like Jack Geoghegan that I lead into battle; You use me as Your instrument in this awful hell of war, to watch over them. Especially if they are men like this one beside me deserving of a future in Your blessing and good will. Amen.
Jack Geoghegan: Amen.
Hal Moore: Oh, yes, and one more thing, dear Lord — about our enemies? Ignore their heathen prayers and help us blow those little bastards straight to hell. Amen again.
Jack Geoghegan: Uh... Amen.

Cecile Moore: Daddy, what is a war?
Hal Moore: A war is, uh... Well, it's — it's something that shouldn't happen, but-but it does. And, um, it's when some people in another country, o-or any country, try to... take the lives of other people. And then soldiers like your Daddy have to, you know, it's my job to go over there and stop them.
Cecile: Are they gonna try to take your life away, Daddy?
Hal: Well... yes, Cecile, they're gonna try. But I'm not gonna let 'em. Okay?
...
[Late at night, Hal Moore is studying French operations in Indochina.]
Julie Moore: Can't sleep?
Hal: Ah, the men are so young, and now they sent me a new crop even greener. When I look at them, I... see our boys.
Julie: Well, then, you're just the man to lead them.
Hal: I guess.

Pres. Lyndon Johnson: (on television) We intend to convince the Communists that we cannot be defeated by force of arms. I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me, and we will meet his needs. (from an actual address of July 28, 1965)

[President Johnson, on television, has announced deployment of the Airmobile Division to Vietnam.]
Julie Moore: Get out your best dresses, ladies. They're gonna want to celebrate.

Major General Kinnard: By the way, Hal, since we're being deployed, they're renumbering the units. You're now the commanding officer of the First Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry.
Hal Moore: The Seventh. The same unit as Custer. Thank you, sir.

[Colonel Moore addresses his troops on the parade ground.]
Hal Moore: Look around you. In the Seventh Cavalry, we got a captain from the Ukraine. Another from Puerto Rico. We've got Japanese, Chinese, blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indians, Jews and gentiles — all Americans.
...
Moore: We're moving into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours. And you won't care what color he is or by what name he calls God. They say we're leaving home. We're going to what home was always supposed to be.
...
Moore: I can't promise that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together.

[In Vietnam, Moore gets his first combat assignment.]
Col. Moore: What do you estimate the enemy strength?
Executive Officer: We appraise their numbers as manageable, Colonel.
Moore: You have no idea.
Commanding Officer: We have no idea. Simple orders, Hal. Find the enemy, and kill them.
...
Moore: They attack us, no casualties, they run and hide in the mountains. Naturally we chase them, of course. Smell like an ambush to you?
Sgt.Maj. Plumley: They get close enough to kill us, we'll be close enough to kill them.
Moore: Round trip by chopper's thirty minutes. That means the first sixty men on the ground wil be there a half hour alone. Son of a bitch. Think maybe you oghtta get yourself that M-16.
Plumley: Time comes I need one, sir, there'll be plenty of 'em lying on the ground.

Joe Galloway: (voice-over) It was a Sunday. November Fourteenth, 1965. Before that day the soldiers of North Vietnam and those of America never met each other in a major battle.

[The Air Cav's Vietnamese interpreter interrogates a captured lookout.]
Mr. Nik: He say this is base camp for whole division. Four thousand men.
Lt.Col. Moore: Where?
(A rapid exchange in Vietnamese between interpreter and prisoner)
Mr. Nik: That mountain. Same army destroyed French. And he say they want kill American very badly... just not been able to find any yet.

[Lt. Herrick's men, isolated from the rest of the unit, are under heavy fire.]
Lt. Herrick: Grab the wounded! Break contact! Fall back, get to high ground! Cover fire! Get to high ground, come on! Come on, get up here! Bring the wounded up to the middle! Cover fire, cover fire! (more enemy troops open fire from the rear) Everybody down! DOWN! (after a heavy exchange of gunfire, Herrick jumps to his feet) Come on! I'll get us out of here! AH! (shot, he falls)
Platoon Sergeant: Grab the wounded! We'll make a run — (shot, he falls)
Senior Sergeant: We gotta get out of here — (shot, he falls)
Sgt. Savage: STAY DOWN! Don't anybody move — Bungum, stay down! Form a perimeter, conserve your ammo, and stay down!

[Taxicabs have been delivering death-notice telegrams to military families; when a cab arrives at her house, Julie Moore reluctantly answers the door.]
Cab Driver: (removes his hat) Mrs. Moore? Colonel Moore's wife?
Julie Moore: Yes.
Driver: I need help finding an address. I'm looking for —
Julie: You JACKASS! Do you know what this is?! Do you know what you just did to me?!
(The driver sheepishly walks toward his cab, but stops at the curb.)
Driver: I-I don't like this job, Ma'am. I'm just trying to do it. (continues toward cab)
Julie: Wait. Wait! (runs to the cab) I'll take it to her. (she takes the telegram) And tell the cab company if there are any others, just bring them to me.
...
Barbara Geoghegan: Julie, I juat went by to see Cathy. Everybody knows. No chaplains, or counselors — cab drivers?
Julie Moore: The Army wasn't ready.
Barbara: (sees telegram) I'll go with you.
Julie: Thanks.
...
[After notifying Alma Givens of her husband's death.]
Julie: I thought she would hate me.
Barbara: Your husband didn't start the war. They all knew this could happen, and so did we.
(they arrive at the Moore house; there is a stack of fresh telegrams on the front porch)
Julie: I'll take care of this.
Barbara: I'll come with you.
Julie: W-we'll do one at a time. We won't look.
...
Barbara: Julie... do you think there'll be more telegrams tomorrow?
Julie: (unconvincingly) No.
Barbara: If there are... come and get me.

Voice on Radio: Ancient Serpent Six, this is Trojan Two. You are coming in to a hot LZ! We are taking fire, we are taking fire.
"Snake" Crandall: (as bullets ricochet off his cockpit) No shit!

[A medic is working on the mortally wounded Lieutenant Herrick.]
Lt. Herrick: S-Savage... Savage...
Sgt. Savage: (crawls up beside him) All right. All right, I got you.
Herrick: D-d... (trails off in incomprehensible mumble)
Savage: Sir?
Herrick: D-d-don't let them get the signals codes?
Savage: Roger that, sir. Roger that.
Herrick: I'm glad I could die for my country...

Lt.Col. Nguyen Huu An: (in subtitles) We must overwhelm them now, while they are at their weakest! (pointing at map) Attack here, here, and here. Do not let them breathe! Overwhelm the landing zone, and we have choked their route of supply and escape!

[A discussion at headquarters, after Moore has closed the landing zone as "too hot" for helicopters.]
Diplomatic Spook: I don't like it. First time out, a whole battalion massacred?
Army Intelligence Officer: You think this is a massacre?
Spook: I call losing a load of draftees a bad week. Losing a colonel's a massacre.

[Savage and Bungum are the only unwounded members of Herrick's "Lost Platoon" after the latest Vietnamese assault.]
Sgt. Savage: You hit?
Bungum: No, no, I'm o... I'm okay. Our guys are gonna come for us, aren't they?
Savage: Yeah.
Bungum: When?
Savage: Plug his wound.

Maj. "Snake" Crandall: It's the last flight for the night, Colonel — but you need us, you call us.
...
Crandall: You got the BALLS to face me, but not the balls to face the enemy?!
...
Crandall: Tomorrow will be worse. If they make it to tomorrow.

Savage: (on radio with Capt. Nadal) Captain, if you guys are coming you gotta let us know. I don't wanna shoot any of our own guys.
Capt. Nadal: Savage... we can't make it tonight. But don't worry, you're gonna make it. We'll come and get you in the morning.

Air Cav Trooper: We're being overrun!
Lt.Col. Moore: Nah, boys, we're gonna win this fight.

Lt. Charlie Hastings: (on radio) BROKEN ARROW! BROKEN ARROW!
Diplomatic Spook: "Broken Arrow"?
Intelligence Officer: It means an American unit's in danger of being overrun. Calls in every available combat aircraft for support.
Spook: Oh, my God... there's no hiding it now.

[Face-down on the ground under a storm of enemy fire, photographer Joe Galloway gets a combat boot in the stomach.]
Sgt.Mjr. Plumley: Can't take no pictures lyin' down there, Sonny!
...
[Plumley hands Galloway an M-16 and several magazines.]
Joe Galloway: Uh, sir? I-I'm a noncombatant, sir.
Plumley: Ain't no such thing today, boy.
...
[Vietnamese troops are advancing on the termite mound where casualties have been collected.]
Plumley: (chambering a round in his .45) Gentlemen — prepare to defend yourselves!

Lt.Col. Moore: I wonder what was going through Custer's mind when he realized he'd led his men into a slaughter.
Sgt.Maj. Plumley: Sir, Custer was a pussy. You ain't.

Lt.Col. Nguyen Huu An: Such a tragedy. They will think this was their victory. So this will become an American war. And the end will be the same... except for the numbers who will die before we get there.

Soldier on the Radio: Sir! Our Perimeter is collapsing! Alpha and Bravo Company cannont hold, Charlie Company is being overrun!
Lt. Colonel Moore: ...Broken Arrow!

Cast

Mel Gibson - Lt.Col. Hal Moore
Madeleine Stowe - Julie Moore
Greg Kinnear - Maj. Bruce "Snake" Crandall
Sam Elliot - Sgt.Maj. Basil Plumley
Chris Klein - 2Lt. Jack Geoghegan
Keri Russell - Barbara Geoghegan
Barry Pepper - Joe Galloway
Don Duong - Lt.Col. Nguyen Huu An
Ryan Hurst - Sgt. Ernie Savage
Blake Heron - Sp4 Galen Bungum
Mark McCracken - Capt. Ed "Too Tall" Williams
Robert Bagnell - 1Lt. Charlie Hastings
Marc Blucas - 2Lt. Henry Herrick
Josh Daugherty - Sp4 Robert Ouellette
Jsu Garcia - Capt. Tony Nadal
Clark Gregg - Capt. Tom Metsker
Bellamy Young - Catherine Metsker
Simbi Khali - Alma Givens
Lyndon Johnson - himself (archive footage)
Sloane Momsen - Cecile Moore

External Links

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