By: Gabe Griffith
Last month, NHS students went to visit a famous Vietnam War journalist, Joe Galloway. Galloway reported side by side with American troops who came to love him for his dedication to stick with them in the worst of it.
History students were given the distinct honor of meeting Joe Galloway, Vietnam War journalist, at the Atlanta History Center.
On November 18th, 1965, a major battle occurred in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, and as the battle continued, Galloway rushed to cover the conflict, taking pictures and producing an account of the action he was witness to.
This famous battle at Ia Drang Valley was depicted by the film “We Were Soldiers.” “We Were Soldiers” helps America’s youth understand how the American soldiers were surrounded in an active conflict in the valley, but Galloway’s personal presence was mesmerizing.
The movie’s powerful message of the struggles of the Vietnam war could not have been done without the help of those who lived through that horrific battle of the Ia Drang Valley, like Galloway. During the heat of the battle a lone journalist took a Huey to Ia Drang. That man would be known in real life as Joe Galloway.
With a character in the film based off of his actual life experience, Galloway’s influence on the film is evident.
“I was not as much of a greenhorn as the film shows me as,” Joe Galloway commented during a class discussion of his experience reporting during the Vietnam War.
Contrary to the character in the film, Galloway was in Vietnam for a considerable amount of time before the battle. He was previously reporting about Marines stationed in Vietnam.
Galloway went directly into the field with the soldiers and had a way of blending in.
Galloway recalled, “As we were resting from marching I remember a soldier looking over to me and asking, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m a reporter,’ and he said, ‘Man, they must pay you a lot of money.’ I told him, ‘No, not really. I work for United Press, the cheapest newspaper in the world.’ Another soldier would look over and say: ‘Who is that,’ and the soldier would say: ‘That’s our crazy reporter.’”
At the time, he was working for UPI, United Press International. He was not the only journalist in Vietnam, so he was constantly in competition with other journalists. When he heard of a battle going on with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, he did not hesitate to beat his rival to the heat of the action.
“In reporting if you missed a story, you would be chewed out by your paper, and you could be fired. So, I did not wait for the chance,” he said.
He was flown to Landing Zone X-Ray, the site of the battle, where he would write about one of the most pivotal battles in Vietnam.
“I look at the battlefields I was on and find it miraculous that I was not wounded or killed,” Galloway reflected. He went on to be awarded the Bronze Medal Star for helping carry a soldier wounded by napalm, a powerful anti-infantry weapon, during the battle of the Ia Drang Valley.
The students of NHS’ Vietnam War class were moved by his story and grateful to have met Galloway and hear his story.
Robert Estes, NHS senior in the Vietnam War class, was greatly appreciative of the opportunity.
“I feel like it was amazing to be able to hear from somebody who had first hand experience of the Ia Drang Battle,” he said. “After I heard him speak, I had a new respect for combat reporters.”
After meeting Galloway and the trip to the Atlanta History Center, NHS students travelled home with a new appreciation for how one man’s story can help define and preserve history for future generations.