By Bud Alley
The GHOSTS OF THE GREEN GRASS tells the story of the ambush near LZ Albany, the second and largely forgotten half of the Vietnam War battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. I was familiar with the battle at LZ Albany prior to reading this book. One of the kids who lived near my grandmother, in Chicago was killed there.
The battle at LZ X-Ray was immortalized in the book WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE…AND YOUNG by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway and was dramatized in the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers” which shows the U.S. troops’ heroic stand at LZ X-Ray. But the far bloodier engagement at LZ Albany followed, when the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was nearly annihilated. Of the roughly 400 soldiers in the battalion, about 70 percent were killed or wounded.
At first glance, this book seemed very interesting to me as it told the story of LZ Albany and the story of Custer and the 7th Cavalry’s defeat at the Little Big Horn. So, I obtained a copy and started to read. And it did not disappoint. He tells both stories expertly. Once I began reading it I was captivated.
“What happened out there was just a shootout in the grass, and man oh man, the enemy was ready for that fight, we were not,” said Joe Galloway.
On the day of the ambush, the battalion was strung out in a long column snaking its way through the jungle and tall grass, Galloway said. When a platoon captured two prisoners, the battalion commander decided to personally interrogate them, and he called all the company commanders and their first sergeants to converge on his position at the head of the column, Galloway said.
That left most of the rest of the soldiers leaderless when the enemy struck, racing through the column, killing anyone they saw. The result was chaos, said Bud Alley, a second lieutenant in the battalion at the time.
“There were no maps, no water; we had not slept for three days,” Alley wrote. “Everywhere one turned, you either stepped on a dead GI or dead NVA. Grenades going off, mortars and artillery coming in, and then jets and napalm.” When asked what memories from the battle are still with him 46 years later, Alley replied,” All of them: The noise, the screams, the confusion, the helplessness, the chaos.”
In all, it is a fascinating book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the battles in the Ia Drang in 1965.
The book can be purchased for $29.99 by visiting the website www.theghostsofthegreengrass.com