William Lorance DentFirst Lieutenant
B CO, 1ST BN, 502ND INFANTRY, 101 ABN DIV
Army of the United States
04 February 1947 - 21 March 1969
Hillsboro, North Carolina
Panel 29W Line 097
The database page for William Lorance Dent
I remember reading a personal letter written by my brother Bill in February of 1969. He was assigned to B Company in either the 101st or 82nd Airborne at the time, I'm not certain. He wrote about some older Top Sergeant who he respected so much and how listening to him might help save him in the end. Well, that Top Sergeant lives in Fayetteville, NC and I got to talk to him today about my brother nearly 40 years after the fact of Bill's being killed in Vietnam. Royce was 34 years old in 1969, which would have made him ancient by a 23 year old Lt. Dent's standards. Royce was the last person to talk to Bill during the helicopter evac in the A Shau Valley on that fateful day in March. He said Lt. Dent was wounded by machine gun fire, but was coherent as he was loaded in the sling for his medevac flight out. His last words were to ask "Top" to secure his Ranger knife, which was a custom Randal knife made for him in Orlando. It was a gift from our father and never returned with the body. That his last thoughts were about his knife indicates to me that he didn't really understand the severity of his wounds. The blood loss would overcome him in the end. The intelligence report of the action that cost my brother his life was secured by our father who was at the time a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force and stationed in Saigon. The report was wrong if Top was right, but it doesn't matter as the end result was the same.
According to Top there were 7 soldiers lost in that ambush and over 30 lost in the Valley in that campaign. Six out of seven LTs were killed with my brother being one of them. Talking to Top it would appear Bill did his job well and that he was admired by those who knew him. Bill loved the Army, but being in the Airborne he knew his chances of surviving were less than good. His Company's job was simple: search and destroy. Any time you get eyeball to eyeball with the enemy like they routinely did it has to decrease your chances and he knew it. That day the enemy got the upper hand along with the high ground. Bill received his fatal wounds while trying to retrieve his wounded men. For that he received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism and while that's little compensation for losing a friend, a parent's son and a brother it does speak well to his character and the job he did for his country and his men. I'd like to think someone might be alive today due to Bill's actions in the field that day. It would make his personal sacrifice somehow more worthwhile.
My brother 1st Lt. William L. Dent is still missed by all who knew him so very long ago.
Written by his loving brother,
A Note from The Virtual WallThe 1st Bn, 502nd Infantry history contains the following:
"21 Mar - A Co and B Co occupied the LZ at Dong A Tay and searched the surrounding area. A Co captured 1 IW and B Co discovered a bunker and tunnel complex vic YC500977. The base area appeared large enough to accommodate a Bn (-) and contained a quantity of documents identifying the 816 Bn, 5th NVA Regt. At 1230 the security element of B Co at the LZ engaged and killed 1 NVA sniper. At 1310 vic YC502975 B Co encountered an estimated NVA Co in bunkers on a narrow, thickly vegetated ridge. Contact continued until 1810 and resulted in 4 US KIA, 9 US WIA. C Co and Recon conducted RIF to FSB Veghel and assisted D Co in security."The four men from Bravo 1/502 were
The 101st Airborne Division lost 63 men in Thua Thien Province during March 1969, the majority in Operation MASSACHUSETTS STRIKER which began on 01 Mar 1969. STRIKER was a recon in force into the A Shau Valley which paralleled the Laotian border and which had been a North Vietnamese sanctuary for several years. During STRIKER the 1st Brigade, 101st Abn and two ARVN battalions killed a considerable number of NVA troops and caused considerable disruption in the NVA infrastructure; the operation also laid the groundwork for a full-fledged invasion of the A Shau by ARVN, USMC, and US Army forces (Operation APACHE SNOW, 10 May-07 June).
The point-of-contact for this memorial is|
E-Mail may be forwarded via the
Top of Page|
With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 12 Apr 2008
Last updated 04/26/2008