We Were Soldiers movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was We Were Soldiers filmed?

2002

About We Were Soldiers

The American war movie We Were Soldiers hit theatres in 2002, starring Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, and Madeleine Stowe. The film was directed by Randall Wallace and depicts the Battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War. Gibson plays Lieutenant Colonel Hal, who leads the American soldiers into battle. We Were Soldiers focuses on a small group of characters throughout the battle, a storytelling tactic that is popular in many war-centered movies. The opening scene of the movie shows the Viet Minh attacking a platoon of French soldiers before the film jumps to the year 1965. Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore will be leading the 7th Cavalry, and there are several scenes of him training and bonding with the soldiers under his command.

Moore and his unit are quickly sent to the Ia Drang Valley where they discover a base camp has been established for a unit of North Vietnamese Army soldiers. There are around 400 American soldiers and 3000 Vietnamese soldiers, fighting over the course of a two-day long battle. A platoon led by Lt. Henry Herrick is ambushed, and Sgt. Ernie Savage has to take over the command to keep enemy soldiers at bay. Throughout the first day of the battle, United States helicopters drop in more soldiers. The commander of the Vietnamese unit, Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu An, leads a large attack against the American soldiers.

Moore then has to call in an emergency, Broken Arrow, who asks for air attacks against all enemies. The Broken Arrow call will also attack enemies that are close to American lines. Moore and a few soldiers lead the last charge against An and are helped at the last minute by reinforcements in helicopters. This leads An to retreat. Once American soldiers left the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the war, the landing zone fell back under North Vietnamese control.

While filming, the audience also gets a look at the families of the soldiers, particularly their wives. The movie was based on the 1992 book written by Hal Moore himself, who spent 32 years in the army. The full title of the book is We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.

City Locations

Fort Benning, GA. Columbus, GA, Morro Bay, CA. Fort Hunter Liggett, California

Location Types

Apartments, Warehouses

Location Styles

Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Rustic

We Were Soldiers Locations

We Were Soldiers Locations

We Were Soldiers was filmed in two Georgia cities, Columbus and Fort Benning. Places in Morro Bay, California were also used in some scenes, such as some of the scenes filmed in the apartments and homes of the soldiers’ families. The military fort located in Fort Benning, Georgia was used for much of the filming for the movie. This Fort has been used in numerous war movies over the years, bringing big-time stars and productions to Georgia. Streets in Fort Benning were used, in addition to military hangers. The scenes that depict the battle in Vietnam were filmed in Fort Hunter Liggett, California. The area is meant to be the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where the actual battle took place. Fort Hunter Ligget is an army training area covering over 160,000 acres. Places in Fort Benning were used for the scenes of Moore training his unit for battle. Both of these places can still be seen today, and Fort Benning has appeared in other films over the years.

We Were Soldiers is around two hours long and is full of scenes of bloody fighting, broken up by glimpses of worried and grieving family members.

Moore trains his men scene in We Were Soldiers

Location: Fort Benning, GA

In one of the first scenes of We Were Soldiers, the audience is introduced to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he arrives to train his new unit of soldiers. Moore is preparing the men to fight in the Vietnam War. This is 12 years after the opening scene, in which a group of French soldiers are killed by Vietnamese soldiers. Many of the opening scenes are narrated by Joe Galloway. Just before we watch Moore meet his men, Galloway delivers one of the most memorable quotes of the entire filming.

He says, “We who have seen war, will never stop seeing it. In the silence of the night, we will always hear the screams. So, this is our story, for we were soldiers once, and young.”

Galloway delivers narration about the men who fought in the bloody Ia Drang Valley battle. He reveals that the soldiers were sent to fight for their countries, but at the height of battle, they were just fighting for each other.

“Some had families waiting. For others, their only family would be the men they bled beside. There were no bands, no flags, no honor guards to welcome them home. They went to war because their country ordered them to. But in the end, they fought not for their country or their flag, they fought for each other,” Galloway narrates.

The training scenes of Moore and his men were filmed in Fort Benning, Georgia. This same location has appeared in numerous wartime movies and is still visited by tourists today.

Moore’s speech before battle scene in We Were Soldiers

Location: Fort Hunter, Liggett, California

One of the best scenes in We Were Soldiers comes right before the final battle when Moore gives his men an inspiring speech. This speech contains some of the most quoted lines from the film, and still inspires viewers today.

Moore makes the promise to be the first soldier on the battlefield and the last off.

“I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God,” Moore tells his soldiers.

The speech was filmed at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, which was used for most of the battle scenes in Vietnam. There is another moving moment before the battle when Moore prays for protection during the battle to come.

“Our Father in Heaven, before we go into battle, every soldier among us will approach you each in his own way. Our enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and for victory. And so, we bow before your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers as best we can. I pray you watch over the young Jack Geoghegan. That I lead into battle. You use me as your instrument in this awful hell of war to watch over them. Especially if they’re men like this one beside me, deserving of a future in your blessing and goodwill. Amen.”

Julie receives a telegram scene in We Were Soldiers

Fort Benning, GA

One of the most emotional scenes of the movie comes when Moore’s wife Julie is at home and watches a can pull up. A man gets out with a telegram, and during the war this was a common site when women would receive news of husbands being killed at war. Julie assumes she’s going to hear her husband has died, but the cab driver instead needs help to find an address. After first being angry, Julia tells the man that the cab should send any more telegrams to her, and she will deliver the news to the wives. The house and neighborhood shown in the scene were in Fort Benning, Georgia.

“Tell the cab company if there are any others, just bring them to me,” Julie tells the cab driver as she takes the telegram from him. This is the start of her becoming the head of the wives of the army base.

The “Broken Arrow” call scene in We Were Soldiers

Fort Hunter Ligget, California

We Were Soldiers is full of action scenes depicting the blood battle in the Vietnam War. When the battle becomes too much for the American soldiers, Moore has to make the “Broken Arrow” emergency call. This means there will be an air strike near enemy soldiers, even if those soldiers are close to Americans. This call is considered a last resort because of the high chance of American soldiers being close to the blasts.

When Moore sees all of the enemies surrounding them and grabs his radio to frantically call, “Broken Arrow! Broken Arrow!”

Just Iike other scenes showing the Central Highlands of Vietnam, this scene was filmed at the Fort Hunter Ligget, California army training area. It is one of the most intense moments of the movie, as Moore and his men are being overtaken by enemy soldiers. Once the call is made, the air strike comes in, with a range of blasts and explosions that have the enemies retreating.

French infantry attack scene in We Were Soldiers

Fort Hunter Liggett, California

Another scene filmed in Fort Hunter Liggett; California was the opening scene when a French platoon is ambushed by a group of Vietnamese soldiers. This is the first scene of We Were Soldiers and takes place 12 years before the events that take place throughout the rest of the movie. The attack on the French soldiers is brought not long after the opening scene when Major General Henry Kinnard is talking to another General at a U.S. Army base. They are talking about the current fighting taking place in Vietnam.

The other General tells Kinnard, “We wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t already beaten the French Army.”

Kinnard responds by asking, “French Army? What’s that?”

The opening scene of We Were Soldiers is the first look at the bloody fighting that will take place throughout most of the film shoot.

The final battle scene in We Were Soldiers

Fort Hunter Liggett, California

The final battle is one of the most intense scenes in We Were Soldiers. It is considered one of the best action scenes of any war movie, and is full of unforgettable shots, bloody fighting, and air strike explosions. This battle was filmed at the 16,000-acre Fort Hunter Liggett training area in California. This area was used throughout several scenes in the movie to represent Vietnam and the site of the days-long battle.

It is right before this battle that Moore makes his famous and inspiring speech, promising, “I will be the first man to walk onto the battlefield, and the last to walk off!”

It is also during this battle that Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu An calls for his men to have a final siege against the American soldiers.

An tells his men, “Those who are about to fight and die, I am grateful.”

There are numerous scenes of An and his men throughout We Were Soldiers, and there are subtitles to translate what is being said. The war film has received good reviews for the way it humanizes the opposing side in a war.

The movie did not paint Vietnamese soldiers as evil villains, just other soldiers fighting for their country. This stance is also seen in one of the earlier scenes of the movie when Moore answers his child’s question about what war is.

Moore’s answer is, “War is something that shouldn’t happen, but it does. It’s when one country tries to take the life of another country. And then soldiers like your daddy—it’s my job to go over there and stop them.”

Conclusion

The movie We Were Soldiers is based on the novel that was written by retired General Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway. The book was based on the true events of the actual battle, and both men were actually there. Some of the lines spoken by dying soldiers were actual last words from soldiers who died during the fighting. Mel Gibson stars as Moore, and the movie was directed by Randall Wallace. It is full of action scenes showing the bloody battle, and numerous scenes show how the wives and family members of the soldiers are dealing with their loved ones being overseas.