US colonel sought solace on Tweed
ONE of the United States military's most decorated soldiers - and one of its harshest critics - retired Colonel David Hackworth, who lived on a farm near Uki for about 10 years, has died in Mexico, aged 73.
Mr Hackworth, who was the youngest full colonel in the US Army and the recipient of some of that country's highest honours, died on May 4 in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was being treated for bladder cancer.
He resigned from the army in 1971 after criticising his country's Vietnam war effort.
"I was broken hearted because the army was my family," he said in 1990.
In the mid-1970s he moved to Australia which he described as "the farthest place from the US I could find and still speak English".
He bought a farm at Chowan Creek near Uki which was known by locals as "The Duck Farm" because of the breeding of ducks for the restaurant industry and also was involved in a top Brisbane restaurant called Scaramouche with a former wife.
He lived at Uki for the best part of 10 years, employing locals on his farm.
Mr Hackworth was, in the words of the Washington Post Book World, "an exceptional warrior ... and a soldier's sol- dier", an accomplished war hero whose quarter-centurylong military career included World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the 25-year-long Cold War.
He was also a talented author, military reporter and columnist, drawing on his extensive experience as both soldier and journalist to write his first novel, The Price of Honour.
In profiles which accompanied publication of some of his various books, it was occasionally claimed that he was the model for Colonel Kurtz, Marlon Brando's character in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
He apparently wasn't, but the Robert Duval character in that movie, the cigar-chomping surfer (Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Kilgore) - who famously says "I love the smell of burning napalm in the morning" bore a strong resemblance to David Hackworth.
While living at Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Hackworth co-wrote a book about his military exploits called About Face: Odyssey of an American Warrior, published in 1989, which was an international bestseller.
In the introduction to the book, author Ward Just described his first meeting with the hard-driving officer known to his men as "Hack" and was impressed by his "enthusiasm, his magnetism, his exuberance, his invincible cheerfulness".
His decorations included two distinguished service crosses, the second-highest US award for valour, 10 silver stars, eight bronze stars and eight purple hearts.
Mr Hackworth covered the first Gulf War (Desert Storm) for Newsweek magazine and in recent years he used a website to expose deficiencies in the command and equipment of the US armed forces.
Last year he revealed that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign letters to the families of the servicemen and women killed in Iraq.
Rumsfeld was forced to apologise and promise personally to sign every letter in future.
Roger Charles, the president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group that Mr Hackworth chaired, said "Hack never lost his focus".
"That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try and give them a better chance to win and come home - that's one hell of a legacy," Charles said. - Luis Feliu