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“We Were Soldiers, Once...”: An Interview with Joe Galloway on His Experience with the Black Rifle

By Christopher R. Bartocci

The M16, or in the early days of the Vietnam War, the XM16E1, had very mixed reviews with the troops. In the early part of the war around 1965 the Black Rifle first went to war with the 7th Cavalry in the battle of the Ia Drang Valley. The rifles were in-country prior to this battle with advisors but this is the first time the rifle would be used by a US military unit in direct combat with North
Vietnamese regular troops.

Joe Galloway was born in Refugio, Texas and is a journalist by profession. He is best known as a United Press International (UPI) combat correspondent who covered the early days of the Vietnam War. He covered the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley where he and now-retired General Hal Moore would eventually write a book titled “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young”. That book would be made into one of the finest war films of all time, “We Were Soldiers.” On 14 November, 1965 approximately 450 soldiers from the 7th Cavalry Air Mobile Division landed in Landing Zone X-ray located west of Plei Me in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam (precisely at the foot step of the Chu Pong massif). They unknowingly landed under a base camp of an entire North Vietnamese Army Regiment (nearly 4000 men). Joe Galloway flew in on a helicopter the 1st night of the attack. Joe Galloway is in a position to give SAR readers his first impression of the rifle, tell from his first hand experience how the rifle performed during the battle as well as the soldier’s perception of the rifle- being this was the first battle not only between US and NVA regular Army forces but also the US forces’ first major battle using the new rifles.

SAR: When did you arrive in South Vietnam?

Galloway: I arrived in South Vietnam early in April 1965 after the 1st Battalion of 9th Marines landed at Da Nang, and was immediately sent to Da Nang...

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