Joseph Galloway, the war correspondent and author whose career took him to the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 and the First Gulf War in 1991, died on Wednesday from complications following a recent heart attack. He was 79.
Galloway was born in Refugio, Texas, and began his journalistic career working for the Victoria Advocate. He then moved to the United Press International (UPI) before moving up to become the bureau chief for UPI covering Tokyo, Vietnam, Jakarta, New Delhi, Singapore, Moscow, and Los Angeles.
He worked four tours in Vietnam and later worked for U.S. News & World Report magazine and Knight-Ridder newspapers in several overseas roles, including reporting from the Persian Gulf in 1991. Galloway also provided critical coverage of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
In the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, LTC Hal Moore and the men of the 7th Cavalry faced off against a numerically superior North Vietnamese force in one of the first major combat engagements of the war. In 1990, Galloway and Moore collaborated on the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young recounting the events of the battle. The book became a best seller and in 2002 was made into a major motion picture starring Mel Gibson as Moore and Barry Pepper as Galloway.
The Only Civilian to Receive a Combat Decoration During Vietnam
Joe Galloway was considered a “soldier’s reporter.” He often sought insight from the sergeants and privates fighting the war rather than from the generals who were far away from the action.
In 1998, he was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for his attempts at saving a cavalry trooper’s life during the Ia Drang battle. He was the only civilian honored with a combat decoration during the Vietnam war.
In 1991, during the first Gulf War, he was sent to the desert. There, he met with General Norman Schwarzkopf and asked him for “the best seat in the war.” Schwarzkopf sent Galloway to the 24th Infantry Division, then-commanded by MG Barry McCaffery.
MG McCaffery showed Galloway the entire plan for the attack on the Iraqi forces. Yet, the information wasn’t released until the troops began the assault.
McCaffrey gave Galloway the green light to go anywhere he wanted. The general later recalled what ensued,
“The next time I saw him was on the back ramp of my M113 in the Assault Command Post as we plunged into the Euphrates River valley well behind the Iraqi Army. I gave Joe an update with a giant battle going on against the stunned and disoriented Republican Guards,” he said.
“Joe, as usual, was upfront with combat soldiers where the action was.”
Following the combat operations, Galloway co-wrote Triumph Without Victory: The History of the Persian Gulf War.
Joseph Galloway and the Trolling of Donald Rumsfeld
Joseph Galloway was very critical of the Bush administration and in particular of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for their insistence on invading Iraq in 2003.
Rumsfeld asked Galloway to meet with him alone in his office. When he arrived, Rumsfeld was seated with several other high-ranking Pentagon officials. Rumsfeld complained that all of Galloway’s reporting was based on retired or former members of the military.
Galloway rejected the claim, adding that most of his sources were on active duty and that some of them “might even be in this room.”
Later, a friend of his asked him if that was true, “No, but it was fun watching ’em sweat like whores in church.”
“It was a privilege to work with Joe, one of the great war correspondents of all time,” said Clark Hoyt, former vice president of news and the Washington editor of Knight Ridder.
“He earned the trust and respect of those he was covering but never lost his ear for false notes, as shown by his contributions to Knight Ridder’s skeptical reporting on the run-up to the Iraq war.”
His wife Gracie Galloway speaking with the AP said that “he was the kindest, most gentle and loving man. He loved the boys and girls of the U.S. military. He loved his country.”
Joseph Galloway leaves behind his wife, two sons, and a stepdaughter.