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Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, portrayed by Mel Gibson in 'We Were Soldiers', dies at 94

Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, portrayed by Mel Gibson in 'We Were Soldiers', dies at 94
Retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore salutes the crowd during a standing ovation at the state Capitol during the Spirit of Alabama Awards in Montgomery, Ala., in 2004. (Jamie Martin / AP)

Retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, the American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, has died at the age of 94.

Joseph Galloway, who with Moore co-authored the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," confirmed that Moore died late Friday in his sleep at his home in Auburn, Ala. Relatives said Moore had recently suffered a stroke.

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"There's something missing on this Earth now. We've lost a great warrior, a great soldier, a great human being and my best friend," Galloway said. "They don't make them like him anymore," Galloway said.

Moore was best known for his actions at the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, where he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. His actions were later reflected in the movie "We Were Soldiers" in which actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore. The book tells what happened to virtually every trooper involved in the 34-day campaign and the climactic four-day battle in which 234 Americans died at landing zones X-Ray and Albany in November 1965.

Mel Gibson as Lt. Gen. Hal Moore in the movie "We Were Soliders."
Mel Gibson as Lt. Gen. Hal Moore in the movie "We Were Soliders." (Stephen Vaughan / Paramount Pictures)

Galloway, a former war correspondent for United Press International, said Moore was "without question, one of the finest commanders I ever saw in action."

"Those of us who survived Landing Zone X-Ray survived because of his brilliance of command. I think every one of us thought we were going to die at that place except Hal Moore. He was certain we were going to win that fight and he was right," Galloway recalled.

Galloway and Moore wrote a second book, "We Are Soldiers Still," which he said grew out of a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam 25 years later.

"We went back and walked those old battlefields. At the end of the day, Hal Moore and Col. Nguyen Huu An, the North Vietnamese commander, stood in a circle in the clearing and prayed for the souls of every man who died on both sides."

He said the two shared an "instant brotherhood that grew out of combat."

"When we were discussing the book contract with a lawyer/agent, he asked to see the contract between me and Hal Moore, and Hal Moore said: 'I don't think you understand. This isn't just a matter of money. We have trusted each other with our lives in battle and we have no contract before that.' I absolutely agreed."

Before serving in Vietnam, Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then commanded a battalion in the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division at Ft. Benning, Ga.

Born Feb. 13, 1922, in Bardstown, Ky., he served in the U.S. military for 32 years.

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