William Lorance Dent

First Lieutenant
Army of the United States
04 February 1947 - 21 March 1969
Hillsboro, North Carolina
Panel 29W Line 097


Distinguished Service Cross

Combat Infantry

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for William Lorance Dent

12 Apr 2008

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,

John Dent
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The 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
  • 1LT William L. Dent, Hillsboro, NC (Dist Svc Cross)
  • SP4 Johnny L. Edwards, Downey, CA
  • CPL Ronnie R. White, Ash, NC
  • PFC Walter T. Bryant, Knoxville, TN

APO San Francisco

27 June 1969



1. TC 320. The following AWARD is announced posthumously.

William Lorance Dent, First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army
Company B, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry

Awarded: Distinguished Service Cross
Date action: 21 Mar 1969
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
Reason: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to William Lorance Dent, First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). First Lieutenant Dent distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 21 March 1969 while conducting a reconnaissance-in-force mission near the A Shau Valley in the province of Thua Thien. As his company moved along a mountain ridge, the point element encountered hostile sniper fire. He at once set up a defensive formation, ordering two machine guns to be brought forward. Suddenly the enemy opened fire with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms. Lieutenant Dent moved out under the intense fusillade to retrieve several casualties. When a machine gunner fell wounded, he manned the weapon, providing suppressive fire as he directed his men to move back. He operated the machine gun until it malfunctioned. Then he grabbed his M-16 rifle and continued to deliver lethal volleys on the enemy, until he was wounded in the head. Having supervised the withdrawal of his men to safety, he followed but was wounded again. Only after all of his men had reached a secure position, he relinquished command and later succumbed to his wounds. First Lieutenant Dent's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1918.

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
his brother,
John Dent
E-Mail may be forwarded via the

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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