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           I watched this film after a friend who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam recommended it as the best film on that war. Starring Mel Gibson as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the film tells the true story of the first major encounter between American troops and North Vietnam. There, in the la Drang Valley ("the Valley of Death"), 450 Americans were dropped by helicopters into a clearing and subsequently ambushed and surrounded by 2,000 Viet Cong from October 23 to November 6, 1965. In addition to capturing the bravery, patriotism, heroism, horror, and idiocy of war, this film is special for at least two reasons. First, it portrays the battles that the families who were left at home also had to fight while their loved ones were 12,000 miles away. The entire first third of the film focuses on the families at home, and the rest of the film repeatedly cuts back to them. Second, the film humanizes the enemy. The enemy must be fought, but they are not "evil." In fact, we learn that they are just like us. There are five prayers in this film, one of which is by a Viet Cong and which, verbatim, could have been uttered by any human being. Similarly, right after watching a young American widow grieve, the film cuts to a young Vietnamese widow crying as she clutches a diary returned from her dead husband (the diary contains her own picture that her husband had carried). The end of this film names the Americans who died at la Drang; it also pays tribute to "the members of the People's Army of North Vietnam who died in that place." There are no winners or losers in this film, or any political statements, for in the last few minutes we learn that these soldiers "fought not for country or for flag but for each other." We Were Soldiers is based upon the book We Were Soldiers Once, and Young (1992) by Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway, a photo journalist who was embedded with the American soldiers for the duration of the battle.

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