William Ivan Mercer

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class
United States Navy
19 December 1946 - 15 June 1968
Los Angeles, California
Panel 57W Line 029


Navy Cross

Fleet Marine Force Corpsman

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for William Ivan Mercer

21 Dec 1998

I served in Vietnam with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines from November of 1968 to June 15, 1968. I was wounded and evacated out of country that day. My very best friend William Ivan "Doc" Mercer was killed in action later that same day. Doc was a Corpsman attached to our company. I've wanted to visit Doc's grave and possibly meet his family, I've just never been able to locate much information until today on this site.

Thank you, Doc, for getting me out alive. I think of you often and especially on Veterans Day. I'll never forget you and I'll look forward to seeing you again. Greer

John Greer

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The President of the United States


posthumously to

Hospital Corpsman Second Class
United States Navy

for service as set forth in the following


For extraordinary heroism on 15 June 1968 while serving as Senior Corpsman of Company M, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. While conducting a sector of the battalion defense perimeter, Company M became heavily engaged with a large North Vietnamese Army force near Khe Sanh, and sustained numerous casualties. Reacting instantly, Petty Officer Mercer began assisting the injured Marines to a covered area for treatment, ensuring their further movement to the battalion landing zone for medical evacuation. On many occasions, he unhesitatingly moved to the points of heaviest contact and maneuvered about the fire-swept terrain to treat men who lay wounded in their fighting holes or the perimeter. When a platoon was assigned the mission of searching the area forward of friendly positions, Petty Officer Mercer voluntarily accompanied this unit and subsequently came under accurate enemy sniper fire. Upon observing a seriously wounded Marine, he fearlessly left his covered position and maneuvered across the hazardous area to the side of his injured comrade. Completely disregarding his own safety, Petty Officer Mercer shielded the man with his own body as he administered first aid, and then carried him to a position of relative safety. Alertly observing another casualty lying in an area dangerously exposed to the intense fire, Petty Officer Mercer rushed to his aid, and again selflessly used his own body to protect the Marine from the hostile fire impacting around them. While administering medical treatment to his comrade, Petty Officer Mercer was fatally wounded by the North Vietnamese fire. By his daring initiative, exceptional valor, and inspiring actions, he was directly responsible for saving the lives of several wounded men. His selfless devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines began June 1968 with its four rifle companies garrisoning several hilltops in the vicinity of the Khe Sanh Combat Base, Hill 689 among them. However, it had been decided that the Khe Sanh Combat Base should be evacuated and to that end operations were planned to disrupt the North Vietnamese Army's infrastructure in the areas surrounding Khe Sanh so the NVA would be less able to interfere as the combat strength at Khe Sanh was drawn down.

The 3/4 Marines were assigned responsibility for sweeping a known NVA base area located to the southeast of Hill 678, about 13 kilometers south of Khe Sanh - and they left their hilltops to make a combat assault into the valley on 11 June. As it happened, the selected landing zone was almost on top of a large NVA bunker complex, and the first company to land - Kilo 3/4 - found itself fighting from the start. There were continuous contacts during the platoon and company-size patrols on 12, 13, and 14 June, but the operation seemed to be successful - the NVA did not seem willing to stand and fight but rather withdrew as their base camps and supply caches were found and destroyed.

That changed at 0530 on 15 June. The 3/4 defensive perimeter, located about a kilometer north of Lang Up (2), was attacked by the reinforced 4th Battalion, 66th NVA Regiment. The NVA succeeded in breaking the 3/4 perimeter in the Mike Company area, but by 0730 the breach had been eliminated and Kilo Company was sweeping in front of the Mike 3/4 lines. Sporadic fighting continued until midafternoon. The attack and its aftermath left 16 Marines and sailors dead, 58 wounded evacuated (one of whom died), and one man from Kilo 3/4 missing (found dead on 16 June). The NVA left 158 bodies and 13 POWs behind them. The Americans who died in the attack were

  • H&S Co, 3rd Bn, 4th Marines
  • K Co, 3rd Bn, 4th Marines
    • LCpl Robert J. Wills, New Castle, PA
    • Pfc Aloysius F. Spiczka, Minneapolis, MN

  • L Co, 3rd Bn, 4th Marines
    • 1stLt Stephen D. Joyner, La Habra, CA
    • Cpl Gerald H. Lavoie, Woonsocket, RI
    • LCpl Donald R. Hawyer, Detroit, MI
    • LCpl Charles D. Smith, Smyrna, GA
    • Pfc David M. Bertram, Campbellsville, KY
    • Pfc Richard L. Fitts, Louisville, KY
    • Pfc Gerald McClintock, Chester, PA
    • Pfc Nathan Thomas, Appling, GA

  • M Co, 3rd Bn, 4th Marines
    • HM2 William I. Mercer, Los Angeles, CA (Navy Cross)
    • Cpl Randall T. Planchon, Long Beach, CA (Silver Star)
    • LCpl Richard B. Murphy, Norwood, MA
    • Pfc Robert F. Lopez, Phoenix, AZ
    • Pfc Jeffery A. Thibault, Pitman, NJ
    • Pfc Jackie E. Wallace, Apopka, FL

During the 16th and 17th the 3/4 Marines again experienced only sporadic contacts, and were advised they would be lifted out of the area beginning at 0900, 18 June. That didn't happen.

At 0600 18 June elements of the 88th NVA Regiment attacked the Kilo 3/4 defensive positions, once again breaching the perimeter. By 1030 the perimeter had been restored and the Marines were sweeping in front of their positions. This attack caused the deaths of 15 Marines, but another 129 NVA bodies were found in and around the 3/4 position.

At 1515 the helo lift began. Although the NVA hit the position with more than 100 mortar rounds and 90 rounds of 152mm artillery from the NVA guns at Co Roc during the lift, there were no further US casualties.

Overall, the 3/4 Marines and its supporting engineer element lost forty Marines and sailors during the period 11-18 June.

Fleet Marine Force Corpsman

"You guys are the Marine's doctors -
There's none better in the business
than a Navy Corpsman ..."
-- Lieutenant General "Chesty" Puller --

Visit John Dennison's
Medics on the Wall
memorial which honors the
Army Medics and Navy Corpsmen who died in Vietnam.

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index M
CA State Index . Panel 57W

Contact Us

With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 21 Dec 1998
Last updated 08/10/2009