David Hackworth, Vietnam Vet and Military Analyst, Dies at 74

By Matt Apuzzo
Associated Press
Thursday, May 5, 2005; 3:54 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.

Hackworth died Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer.

A Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War, Hackworth worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, often criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

"Most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout," Hackworth wrote in February. "That's not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield."

Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign condolence letters sent to the families of fallen soldiers. Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter by hand.

"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group that Hackworth chaired. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."

Hackworth served four tours of duty in Vietnam and was one of the first senior officers to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War. He was nearly court-martialed before he retired from the military in 1971 and gave up his medals in protest.

He moved to Australia and made millions in a restaurant business and a duck farm. His medals were reissued by Brig. Gen. John Howard in the 1980s and he returned to the United States. Among his books were "The Vietnam Primer," "About Face," and "Hazardous Duty."

He is survived by his wife of eight years, Eilhys England, a stepdaughter and four children from two earlier marriages, the family said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company