William Clyde Stinson
West Point, 1953
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by William Cox on May 23, 2011:
Lieutenant Colonel William Clyde Stinson, Jr., Infantry, US Army, served as Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 52d Infantry Regiment, from mid-1968 until he was killed in action on March 3, 1969, while delivering badly needed amunition to me and picking up our two dead in his command and control helicopter.
I served under Colonel Stinson as a rifle and weapons platoon leader, Second Lieutenant, in Alpha Company, one of five companies in our Battalion.
Colonel Stinson received two Silver Stars, the Soldiers Medal, and two Purple Hearts for his combat service, and he was a hero to his officers and men long before he was killed valiantly coming to our rescue one last time. The Colonel is buried on the grounds at West Point, the United States Military Academy (USMA). Such burial is reserved for officers held in the highest esteem by the United States Army.
Colonel Stinson was graduated from West Point (USMA) in 1953. He'd initially joined the army during WWII and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant before the army discoverd he was only 16 and discharged him. As soon as he turned 18, he enlisted again and applied for a Regular Army appointment to West Point, which he received in 1949. Ten years after graduation from West Point, Captain Stinson served as an infantry advisor in Vietnam, where he earned his first Silver Star and Purple Heart, and returned home with 3 enemy bullets in his leg.
I had opportunity to work directly for the Colonel on many occasions, and many times I and my men were either saved by the Colonel's personal heroic actions, or we were enabled to achieve victory because of his personal tactical or logistical assistance, at great personal risk to himself. The colonel often picked up our wounded with his command and control helicoper before a medevac chopper could make it to our area, usually under heavy enemy fire, and each time the Colonel's chopper took hits. This was not a deterant to our brave Colonel. Several of our badly wounded soldiers survived only because the Colonel risked his life to get them out of the jungle quickly and to a field hospital.
Colonel Stinson was always a visible presence on our battlefields, flying low so he could see and coordinate our positions and movements with those of the enemy. His helicopter often took hits on these flights, also, because in order to be effective in maintaining command and control, he had to get close. He was fearless. The Colonel demanded success when we met the enemy, and he personally demonstrated for his soldiers, in full view of everyone on our battlefields, the courage and skill necessary to achieve victory.
Below is a quote from the USMA alumni magazine from an article about his death in combat in Vietnam:
"His courage, daring and compassion are marked by his being awarded two Silver Stars for valor, a Soldiers Medal for courage in rescuing wounded comrades and the Air Medal for achievements in aerial flights. It was during the last month of his command (3 Feb-3 Mar 69) that his battalion faced its most bitter combat. While providing protection to the Vietnamese villagers in the Hau Duc Valley of Quang Tin Province and attempting to relieve enemy pressure on a Special Forces camp, two of his companies became heavily engaged with a Regular North Vietnamese Regiment. On the third of March 1969, a lull appeared in the conflict and Doc moved in his helicopter to perform that same act of mercy that had earned him the Soldiers Medal . . . On this occasion his aircraft met a fusillade of enemy small arms fire . . . he would probably feel most moved by the words sent to his family by Major Thahn, the Vietnamese Chief of Hau Duc District: 'Your husband had a very good heart and was able to care for his soldiers and give help to the people in Hau Duc, and we want to say that your loss was felt by us also. We cannot forget his works and his great sacrifice.'"
Colonel Stinson was 40 years old when he was killed bringing ammo to me and picking up my two dead soldiers. His chopper came in during a short lull in the fighting and hovered at the edge of a rice paddy where I'd just gotten our wounded out on a medevac chopper. I'd told the colonel after our wounded were picked up that we'd beaten the enemy back, but we couldn't hold on now without more ammo, and we needed two KIA's choppered out because we were fearful of loosing them if we were overrun. He told me he'd take care of it, and within 15 minutes, there he was at the edge of the paddy, kicking ammo boxes out into the shallow, muddy water of the paddy. I and a volunteer ran to the chopper carrying the dead soldiers, and handed them up to the Colonel. His last words to me, as I handed off my dead soldier to him, were: "Good work, Cox!" My last words to the Colonel were "Thank you, Sir!" As his chopper lifted off, the enemy opened up on the chopper with a .50 caliber machine gun, and a single round struck the Colonel high in the thigh and exited his neck.
At the time the Colonel was hit, he was leaning out the chopper holding onto the body of one of our dead soldiers, SGT Bruce Wayne Thompson, which was falling out of the chopper because of the intense maneuvering the pilot did to avoid the enemy anti-aircraft fire. The Colonel's last act was keeping that soldier's body from falling--he expired after bringing it back into the chopper.
I was shot twice by enemy machine-gun fire three days later, and left the army as a Captain of Infantry a year and a half afterwards.
More information about Colonel Stinson's service and heroism and the combat actions associated with his death can be found at my personal Web pages at http://www.williamcox.org