On January 2, 2008, Jerry Temple, right, met Retired General Hal Moore, Battalion Commander of the
1st Battalion, 7th Calvary in 1965 in Vietnam and co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young"
Last Summer I was contacted by Leo Orlowski, a UPS Airline Captain from Granbury, Texas. Granbury is an hour's drive west of DFW.
Leo was interested in my selling his Cessna 340A. Jerry Temple Aviation is the leading Twin Cessna Sales Specialist in the world and I eventually listed and sold Leo's airplane.
Leo had read that I had been a helicopter pilot in the First Calvary Division in Vietnam. He asked if by any chance I knew Hal Moore. I responded with, "Do you mean Lt. General Hal Moore?" General Moore is Leo's Father-in-Law and to all Vietnam Veterans, especially First Calvarymen plus Vietnam history followers, Hal Moore is the Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, the Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry in 1965.
The historic three day battle at LZ X-Ray lasted from November 14th to 16th, 1965 and was the beginning of the Ia Drang Campaign. X-Ray was the first major battle between major US and North Vietnam forces.
Hal Moore's exploits and those of his troopers, the pilots and crew members of the supporting 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion were told in the book, We Were Solders Once ... And Young, that he co-wrote with UPI Reporter, Joe Galloway. The book covers the Battle at X-Ray and the subsequent ambush and battle at LZ Albany. In the movie version, Lt. Col. Moore was played by actor Mel Gibson. In 1990 ABC Television's 20/20 program dedicated an episode on the Battles at X-Ray and Albany and the meeting that year of American and North Vietnamese Commanders in Hanoi.
I graduated from Flight Training in December 1966 and was a replacement pilot for the pilots that went to Vietnam's Central Highland's when President Johnson deployed the Army's first Air Mobile Division in 1965.
I flew transport aircraft for three months and being an indestructible 21 year old, qualified for and transferred to the Armed Gunships where I made their statistics look bad. I was wounded in my second week on the job and spent the next four months in hospitals before returning to Flight Status and instructing.
I asked Leo if the General ever visited Granbury and advised him that I would be there in a heartbeat to meet the General. Over the years, I have written letters and cards to General Moore and he was always kind enough to write back and sign books.
Last month Leo advised me that General Moore would be visiting for the Christmas/New Years' holiday. Having seen an advertisement in a Veteran's Magazine for William J. Phillips new paining "First Boots on the Ground" which immortalizes the "First Lift" touching down in X-Ray, I had a print rushed to me. The cardboard tube arrived at the Frisco Post Office the morning of the day I was to drive to Granbury to meet General Moore. Coincidence?
On January 2nd, I collected my photographs and a few items I thought the 84 year old soldier would enjoy seeing.
Leo introduced me and I saluted. I had not saluted a General in a long while. Leo and Julie, his wife, left the room and it was just an old grunt and an aging Huey Pilot sitting on the sofa talking about places called Happy Valley, Bong Song, LZ Dog and Flight School. The General attended Flight School in 1969. It was a very special honor.
After a short visit and a photo, the General signed First Boots on the Ground to Rattlesnake 39, my call sign, and discussed the assault portrayed in the painting.
One lasting thought. General Moore thanked me several times for "my service over there." Think about it. He's thanking me.
First Boots on the Ground hangs proudly in my home.