Rick Rescorla’s Military Career
Rick Rescorla was born in Hayle, Cornwall, UK, on May 27, 1939. Rescorla’s family was of Celtic descent. He grew up there with his grandparents and his mother, who worked as a housekeeper and companion to the elderly. In 1943, his hometown of Hayle served as headquarters for the 175th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division, largely composed of American soldiers from Maryland and Virginia preparing for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Young Rescorla idolized the American soldiers and wanted to become a soldier because of them.
Rescorla was a natural sportsman, setting a school record in the shot put, and was an avid boxer. When a professional boxing match was scheduled between a British boxer and an American heavyweight contender named Tami Mauriello, his friends backed the Briton. Rescorla stated, “I’m for Tammy” and after Mauriello won the fight everyone in Hayle knew him as “Tammy”.
Rescorla left Hayle in 1956 to join the British military. He enlisted in the British Army in 1957, training as a paratrooper with The Parachute Regiment and then serving with an intelligence unit in Cyprus during the EOKA Cypriot insurgency from 1957 to 1960. He then served as a paramilitary police inspector in the Northern Rhodesia Police (now the Zambia Police Service) from 1960 to 1963, experiences which made him a fierce anti-Communist. It was during the latter post that he met and forged a “life-altering friendship” with American soldier Daniel J. Hill, who inspired Rescorla to join the U.S. Army and fight in Vietnam in order to fight the communists. On returning to London and civilian life, he joined the Metropolitan Police Service.
Rescorla’s British honors included the General Service Medal (1918) with clasp Cyprus.
His tenure at the Met was short lived and he soon resigned and moved to the United States. He lived at a YMCA hostel in Brooklyn until he was able to enlist in the Army. “Rick”, as he would thereafter be known, enlisted in the United States Army in 1963 and after basic training at Fort Dix, he attended Officer Candidate School and airborne training at Fort Benning. Upon graduating Rescorla was assigned as a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Rescorla was sent to Vietnam, where he served under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore. The two participated in the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, which Moore would later describe in a 1992 book he co-authored We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, (from which the 2002 Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers would be adapted); Rescorla is the soldier pictured on the book jacket cover. Co-author Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore described him as “the best platoon leader I ever saw”. Rescorla’s men nicknamed him “Hard Core” for his bravery in battle and revered him for his good humor and compassion towards his men. He is also mentioned in the book Baptism by Larry Gwin who also fought at Ia Drang. The fourteenth chapter of the book Rescorla’s Game describes him as the “Cornish Hawk”. Despite this tough image, according to his second wife and widow Susan Rescorla in her book, Touched by a Hero, music was “so central” to Rick’s life that he sang to his troops in Vietnam to calm them – something he would later employ during 9/11.