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03.05.2002

NEARLY FOUR DECADES AFTER THEY FIRST MET IN VIETNAM, DAN RATHER TALKS TO THE U.S. ARMY COMMANDER PLAYED BY MEL GIBSON IN &quot;WE WERE SOLDIERS&quot; - WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6 ON &quot;60 MINUTES II&quot;

In 1965, after the bloody battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley, a young CBS News correspondent interviewed "...one of the toughest and toughest-talking commanders in the war." Nearly 40 years later, that correspondent, 60 MINUTES II's Dan Rather, sits down with that commander, Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, to talk about the men with whom he fought in the Vietnam War and the experience of having actor Mel Gibson portray him in the new film "We Were Soldiers." Rather's interviews with the movie's star, Mel Gibson, writer and director Randall Wallace, journalist Joe Galloway and Moore will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES II, Wednesday, March 6 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

"We Were Soldiers" describes how Moore saved his men from massacre and led them as they routed and defeated thousands of North Vietnamese in the first major American battle of the war. Moore's mission was to carry out a new U.S. military strategy using helicopters to transport hundreds of his Army Rangers to find the enemy in the Ia Drang Valley, a remote area near the Cambodian border. The battle was one of the most savage of the entire war.

Mel Gibson spent a lot of time with Moore in preparation for the film. Gibson tells Rather about the day that Moore took him to Fort Benning's graveyard in Georgia, where many of his soldiers -- men he considered to be his own sons -- were buried. "I'm telling you, I was glad I had shades on because I was... blubbering like a baby under there," says Gibson, "but...he gave me a pretty good sense of the grave responsibility that he was laying on my feet and it was kind of a charitable order to say, 'Don't you mess, don't you ever dishonor my boys,' and so he was serious."

Before the battle, Moore promised his men he would bring them all home -- dead or alive. He says he rejected an order during the battle to leave his men and return to Saigon to brief his supervisors because he refused to leave his men behind. "In two wars [Korea and Vietnam], (the) proudest thing that I have accomplished, I brought back all my dead," says Moore.

Moore co-authored a book about the battle in the Ia Drang Valley, We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, with Joe Galloway, a journalist who covered the war. "We Were Soldiers" is based on Moore and Galloway's grim memories. Galloway recounts a bone-chilling memory of his first night in Vietnam to Rather. "...This voice came out of the darkness and it said, 'Watch where you step, there are a lot of bodies in this grass and they're all ours,' and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck," remembers Galloway. "...I thought maybe we were all gonna die there. It was a thing that I had never seen before."

Jeff Fager is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES II and Tom Anderson is the producer. "We Were Soldiers" was made by Paramount, a sister company of CBS.