Hackworth - No Question of Honor
by Lieutenant Colonel Wes Martin
June 1998

Recently a good friend of the New Mexico Reserve Officers Association, and a very special friend of mine, came under attack by CBS News. Dan Rather and David Martin presented a three-part series, Question of Honor/Accused Stands Accused, on CBS-TV prime time news. They erroneously portrayed Colonel David Hackworth, USA Ret, as having worn decorations he wasn't issued. Specifically, their challenge addressed an oak leaf cluster on his Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and a Ranger Tab.

This media attack was launched exactly one year after the suicide death of Admiral Mike Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations. The leadersjip of the US Navy, to shift attention off themselves, had claimed COL Hackworth drove ADM Boorda to suicide by questioning why a "blue-water sailor" once wore valor devices on his awards. The intent of the CBS-TV prime time show was to create a sensational story by claiming COL Hackworth, America's most decorated veteran, also wore medals he was not authorized.

A thorough investigation of COL Hackworth's service records was recently completed by COL John Osweiler, Chief of Awards and Decorations at US Total Army Personnel Command. Osweiller's official conclusion, contrary to the CBS story, and never carried by CBS, was that the Army had issued COL Hackworth every American decoration he ever wore.

The Army did admit to having made three mistakes on COL Hackworth's awards. It was realized that COL Hackworth was issued nine Silver Stars, the nation's third highest award, when in fact he was entitled to ten! The second mistake concerned issuing three DFC's when only one should have been awarded. The third mistake the Army took responsibility for was inappropriately issuing a Ranger Tab. The Army review supported my belief that a warrior with over one hundred awards didn't need to claim anything he was not authorized.

COL Osweiler's study confirmed COL Hackworth had earned the following awards and decorations:

The Army accepted blame for both failing to provide COL Hackworth awards that he had earned as well as over-awarding tabs and clusters. However, in fairness to the Army, we must examine the time period when these mistakes originally were made. In today's Army, it is common for unit clerks to have college degrees. In the Mid-20th Century, a soldier with a high school education was considered fully educated. As a result, administrative personnel did not have the skills to fully check the requirements.

Military regulations of yesterday were different from those of today. During Hack's time it was very common for soldiers to gain an additional military occupational specialty (MOS) by holding the position for a period of time. Since the age of computers, the processing of awards has become much easier and much more accurate.

Even today, when soldiers receive awards, they don't go running to check the regulations to make sure their commanders are not mistaken. They automatically expect their commanders, unit clerks, and issuing commands to ensure everything is in order. Once an award is presented to a soldier, it goes on the chest and the soldier moves on with other endeavors. During wartime, the primary endeavor is fighting to win. It must be remembered that unlike today's generation of soldiers, COL Hackworth earned most of his awards during long-term combat operations.

During and following the CBS report, despite serious differences, attempts were made to compare COL Hackworth's situation with that of ADM Boorda. Hack spent his combat days covered with blood, sweat, and mud. Boorda's was on a ship in blue water where what North Vietnam had for a navy did not go. Hack's awards were documented. When Hack was asked to discuss the medals issue, he agreed.

Concerning Mike Boorda's suicide, anyone who claims that wearing unauthorized devices was the sole - or even primary - reason for the death doesn't want to face reality. As Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Boorda, an intrinsically decent individual, had been faced with many problems. His biggest was a corps of subordinate supervisors who created one scandal after another. Boodra hoped to fix the ills of the Navy and ended up being consumed by them.

Someone must have figured the easiest way to shut Hack down was to embarrass or discredit him - the old shoot-the-messenger approach. Whoever started this ball rolling doesn't know him. Hack is an outstanding individual who cares about people and especially about service members. He is seen as the one man who has dedicated his life to holding military leadership accountable for their misbehavior. His weekly column Defending America often hits like a battery of heavy artillery. It is this dedication and his exposure of self-serving military and government officials that often make him the subject of personal attack.

It is both ironic and sad that some of the very people who, during their time of need, had received support from COL Hackworth were the first to turn their backs on him when he was under attack. Hack is not only surviving this barrage of accusations, but he is gaining momentum. Even stronger and more energetic than ever, Hack is leading the battle against those who are out for themselves at the expense of those who provide dedicated service. In the true spirit of the American warrior, Colonel David Hackworth is keeping up the fight!