William Charles Lawson

Specialist Four
Army of the United States
28 January 1948 - 25 August 1968
Happy Camp, California
Panel 46W Line 017

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for William Charles Lawson

26 Jun 2007

To Uncle Bill

I hold your mother's hand as she looks far away
She doesn't quite know where she is
And it's been a while since she knew our names
She held you as a baby and loved you all your life
She protected you and cared for you
And did her best as a log truck driver's wife.
She's been a Gold Star Mother for more than forty years
I wonder how her life would have been different
If you could have returned safely to her here?
I know so much would have not been the same
If you could hold her hand right now
But Uncle Bill, you should know
That your mother still knows your name.

Specialist William Lawson (86th Transportation Company, 1st Log Comd) was killed in Vietnam on August 25, 1968.

The Army has given our family a couple of different explanations about what happened to him, but my grandmother and grandfather had been told that he had been leading a convoy and in an ambush situation he called off the other trucks behind him and died fighting. He was an expert marksman - he had learned to shoot as a child to help feed his family with venison and rabbit when times were often very lean. He was so loved by his parents and his brother and two sisters that his death broke their hearts and they were never quite the same again. He had learned how to drive a truck early too, working with log trucks on the windy logging roads in our steep mountainous countryside.

I have been to The Wall, and touched his name in the black marble. He was a man who, even forty years later, is still missed.

He had Basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington beginning June 12, 1967. In Vietnam, he served in three different Transportation Companies - he was a light vehicle driver in the 87th Trans Co (22 Oct 67) and in the 261st (03 Mar 68), and finally as a heavy vehicle driver (beginning 31 Jul 68) for the 86th.

From his niece,
Trisha Barnes

A Note from The Virtual Wall

In a guerilla war there are no "rear areas", and there were none in Vietnam. The maneuver battalions and aviation units required tremendous amounts of resupply, and the transportation units delivered it - frequently along roads which were not secure from enemy attack.

On 25 August 1968 units of the 48th Transportation Group were running a resupply convoy from Long Binh to Tay Ninh, where Allied units were heavily engaged with NVA and VC forces. Near Ap Nhi the convoy was anbushed by a reinforced battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. At least seven American troops died in the engagement, and one of them - Sergeant William W. Seay - received a posthumous Medal of Honor. The Citation gives a sense of what occurred:

"As the main elements of the convoy entered the ambush killing zone, they were struck by intense rocket, machinegun and automatic weapon fire from the well concealed and entrenched enemy force. When his convoy was forced to stop, SGT Seay immediately dismounted and took a defensive position behind the wheels of a vehicle loaded with high-explosive ammunition. As the violent North Vietnamese assault approached to within 10 meters of the road, SGT Seay opened fire, killing 2 of the enemy. He then spotted a sniper in a tree approximately 75 meters to his front and killed him. When an enemy grenade was thrown under an ammunition trailer near his position, without regard for his own safety he left his protective cover, exposing himself to intense enemy fire, picked up the grenade, and threw it back to the North Vietnamese position, killing 4 more of the enemy and saving the lives of the men around him. Another enemy grenade landed approximately 3 meters from SGT Seay's position. Again SGT Seay left his covered position and threw the armed grenade back upon the assaulting enemy. After returning to his position he was painfully wounded in the right wrist; however, SGT Seay continued to give encouragement and direction to his fellow soldiers. After moving to the relative cover of a shallow ditch, he detected 3 enemy soldiers who had penetrated the position and were preparing to fire on his comrades. Although weak from loss of blood and with his right hand immobilized, SGT Seay stood up and fired his rifle with his left hand, killing all 3 and saving the lives of the other men in his location. ... SGT Seay was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet."
US forces in the area responded rapidly and violently, with two infantry companies and an armored troop arriving on scene. The ambush became a day-long fight that ended after night fell. Nineteen US soldiers were killed in the incident, eleven from the convoy personnel and nine from the reaction force. They were
    Convoy personnel:

  • 86th Trans Co, 6th Trans Bn, 48th Trans Group
    • SP4 William C. Lawson, Happy Camp, CA
    • SP4 Claude F. Vaughn, McRae, GA
    • PFC Paul H. Pirkola, Calumet, MI

  • 10th Trans Co, 7th Trans Bn, 48th Trans Group
    • PFC Arden G. Sonnenberg, Kenosha, WI

  • 62nd Trans Co, 7th Trans Bn, 48th Trans Group
    • PFC Danny J. Mitchell, Marmet, WV
    • SGT William W. Seay, Pensacola, FL (Medal of Honor)
    • SP4 Eugene Turner, Los Angeles, CA

  • 75th FC Co, 506th Field Depot
    • CPL Jerry L. Simmonds, Sacramento, CA

  • 556th Trans Co, 64th QM Bn, 53rd GS Group
    • SFC Thomas E. Richey, Atlanta, GA
    • SSG Byron J. Mitchell, New Paris, PA

  • C Co, 720th MP Bn, 89th MP Group
    • SP4 Guy A. Davison, Everett, WA
    Reaction force:

  • C Co, 3rd Bn, 22nd Infantry
    • SP4 Robert J. Dorshak, Michigan City, IN
    • SP4 Cornelius F. Murphy, Northport, NY
    • PFC Leland E. Radley, Boscobel, WI

  • C Co, 4th Bn, 23rd Infantry
    • SP4 Earl S. Bazemore, Baltimore, MD
    • CPL Patrick J. Mc Cormick, Richmond Hill, NY
    • CPL Jeffrey W. Pohjola, Southfield, MI

  • B Trp, 3rd Sqdn, 4th Cavalry
    • CPT James B. Westbrook, Memphis, TN
    • SSG William T. Anderson, Statesville, NC

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 26 Jun 2007
Last updated 08/10/2009