Reel Hero Vs Real Hero

The third edition of a popular book on the Vietnam War - with actor Mel Gibson instead of the real-life hero on the cover - is at the top of The New York Times best-seller list for paperbacks.

The latest mass-market edition of "We Were Soldiers Once... And Young" has a cover photo of Gibson as he appears in "We Were Soldiers," a film based on the book by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and journalist Joseph Galloway.

Both tell the story of the 1965 battle of the Ia Drang Valley, where Moore commanded U.S. 7th Calvary troops in the first major battle involving American and North Vietnamese forces, and Galloway was a reporter for United Press International. Gibson portrays Moore in the film.

Buy "We Were Soliders Once".

"Publishers always do that with a movie tie-in," said Dee Dee DeBartlo, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, which published both the trade paperback at $16 in 1993 and the latest mass-market edition at $7.99.

The original hardcover book, published by Random House in 1992, had a cover photograph of Cyril "Rick" Rescorla, a soldier who performed heroically at Ia Drang.

Rescorla was a hero again Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, where he was chief of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. He died helping hundreds of people escape from the burning towers.

The original cover photo - taken by Peter Arnett, then an Associated Press war correspondent - appeared on the 1993 trade paperback version of the book, which also made the best-seller lists.

"That original picture was iconic - very well-known," DeBartlo said. "When we bought the paperback rights we kept it on the cover." But with the mass-market edition, she said, "We give the readers more choice."

Except for the cover and a more compact size, she said, the mass-market version of the book is the same as the two earlier editions.


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