David Hackworth’s Legacy
Colonel David Hackworth had a legendary military career which he followed with decades as an author, commentator, and advocate for the American grunt. Like a lot of old soldiers who comment on military affairs, his views were eventually colored too much by the past and unenlightened by how modernization had rendered some old dogmas outmoded. And, like most pundits, he was a little too full of himself and thought he was even smarter than he really was.
One of the more annoying parts of the Hackworth mythology, though, is that he successfully sold himself as “the most highly decorated soldier in American military history” based on “over 90 decorations, including a Distinguished Service Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, a Silver Star with five Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Legion of Merit with three Oak Leaf Clusters.” Shaun Mullen repeats that description in an “appreciation” post here and here.
It’s simply not true. Hackworth’s career is storied and his heroism in combat undisputed. But no man who has not been awarded the Medal of Honor can be considered “the most highly decorated soldier.” Period. It’s rather like a young Shaquille O’Neal’s comment (before going on to win four NBA titles) that he had won championships at every level, except college and the pros. One doesn’t simply tally up the number of ribbons and who ever has the most “wins.”