William Lee Peters, Jr

First Lieutenant
HMM-165, MAG-16, 1ST MAW
United States Marine Corps
05 March 1943 - 21 June 1969
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Panel 22W Line 107



Navy Cross Silver Star

Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for William Lee Peters, Jr

25 Dec 2004

1stLt William Lee Peters, USMC, was the pilot in command when he was killed on 21 June 1969. His CH-46D helicopter was shot down while inserting a Marine Force Recon team 22 1/2 miles northwest of Da Nang, Quang Nam Province. He was the recipient of the Navy Cross, the Nation's second highest award, for a previous mission on 12 April 1969. The Citation reads as follows:

The President of the United States
takes pride in presenting the


posthumously to

First Lieutenant
United States Marine Corps Reserve

for service as set forth in the following


For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 in the Republic of Vietnam on 12 April 1969. First Lieutenant Peters launched as Wingman in a section of two CH-46 transport helicopters assigned to helilift a reconnaissance team into hostile territory. After arriving over the designated location, the lead aircraft inserted the Marines without incident but, while lifting off, the aircraft came under a heavy volume of small arms and automatic weapons fire and sustained extensive damage. Observing that the reconnaissance team was pinned down where it had disembarked and that the Marines were surrounded by a numerically superior hostile force, First Lieutenant Peters circled the area while helicopter gunships and fixed wing aircraft bombed and strafed the enemy soldiers who clung tenaciously to their positions only 20 feet from the beleaguered unit. When the supporting aircraft had expended its ordnance, First Lieutenant Peters, fully aware of the possible consequences of his actions but concerned only with the welfare of the men on the ground, fearlessly elected to attempt the extraction and, as he approached the landing zone, became the target for intense automatic weapons fire. Although numerous rounds penetrated his helicopter, he landed in the fire-swept area and, with calm presence of mind, resolutely maintained his dangerously exposed position, despite a fanatical assault by two North Vietnamese Army soldiers who were killed by the reconnaissance team. Assuring that the ground unit was safely aboard, he then quickly lifted from the zone under an increasingly intense volume of fire from the frustrated enemy which damaged a vital control section of his helicopter. In a brilliant display of superb airmanship and unwavering devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Peters saved his fellow Marines from serious injury or possible death and thereby upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

"You only live once, but if you live right, once is enough."

For more information on 1stLt Peters or other Marine helicopter crewmen killed in action in Vietnam please visit the Pop-A-Smoke site.

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Marine helicopter squadron HMM-165 (CH-46D aircraft) was tasked with a recon insert mission approximately 22 miles WNW of Danang. The landing zone was prepped heavily prior to commencement of a spiral approach. The helicopter (CH-46D BuNo 154811) was brought into a brief hover. Heavy small arms fire was received prior to anyone exiting the aircraft and the insertion was aborted. During climb out a loud explosion occurred aft of the cockpit area. The aircraft pitched extreme nose up and rolled slowly right to a somewhat inverted position with no control input response. It crashed and burned.

Eight men died in the crash:

  • 1stLt W L Peters, Jr., pilot (HMM-165) (Navy Cross, Silver Star)
  • LCpl P E Petroline, crew chief (HMM-165)
  • Recon Team Members, D Co, 1st Recon Bn
Additional information is available on the
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009