updated 5/5/2005 2:57:09 PM ET 2005-05-05T18:57:09

Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.

Hackworth died Wednesday in Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer. His wife, Eilhys England, was with him.

Hackworth, a syndicated columnist for King Features, advocated a streamlined military and improved conditions for troops. He wrote several books including “The Vietnam Primer,” “About Face,” and “Hazardous Duty.”

“Hack never lost his focus,” said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group for which Hackworth served as chairman. “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 to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That’s one hell of a legacy.”

Hackworth served four tours of duty in Vietnam and was one of the first senior officers to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War. He was nearly court-martialed before he retired from the military in 1971 and gave up his medals in protest.

He moved to Australia and made millions in a restaurant business and a duck farm. His medals were reissued by Brig. Gen. John Howard in the 1980s and he returned to the United States.

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