Service With The Big Red One In Vietnam And The Old Guard In D.C.

William Williamson


William Williamson was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His parents were both photographers, and his father had served in the Navy during WWII. Bill’s father died in 1948 from a brain tumor, and Bill’s youngest brother died shortly thereafter, leaving his mother to raise him and his other brother Donald alone. Growing up, Bill was active in scouting, delivered newspapers, and ran cross country. His high school won the National Cross-Country Championship his senior year. Bill had always wanted a military career and, in fact, had started Plebe summer at Annapolis (he was 3 days in) when defective color-vision led to his dismissal from the Naval Academy. He then went to Penn State for a year, applied to West Point, and entered the Military Academy with the Class of 1961. He remembers the “utter chaos” of R-Day, but found Beast Summer to be “no problem.” He enjoyed the engineering and military history classes, and found math and English to be the most challenging. He joined the debate team as a way to travel away from West Point, and enjoyed that experience. He selected Infantry as a branch because he felt it was the “backbone of the Army.” His first assignment was with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. Memorable events of that assignment included jumping into Panama shortly after he arrived at the unit, and being alerted for the Cuban Missile Crisis. From 1963 to 1965, he served as the Aide-de-Camp to the Commander of the Military Advisory and Assistance Group (MAAG) Iran, where the primary focus was monitoring the Soviets. When he deployed to Vietnam in 1966, he took command of A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry in the 1st Infantry Division. He describes his company’s role in the Battle of Ap Gu on March 31, 1967, as part of Operation Junction City, including pursuing the Viet Cong 271st Regiment to the Cambodian border. He recalls linking up with classmate Peter Boylan, who commanded a company in the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. A little over 2 months later, he participated in the Battle of Xom Bo II (June 16, 1967), earning a Silver Star for that action. Returning from Vietnam, he took an assignment teaching in the Department of Earth, Space & Graphic Science at West Point from 1969 to 1972. He was then assigned to MACV and the 7th Air Force in Thailand from 1972- 1973, where he monitored the situation in Cambodia and Laos. In 1975, he took command of 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry at Ft. Lewis, Washington, during a “turbulent time” in the Army. A decade later, he took command of the Old Guard, the 3rd Infantry Regiment, at Ft. Myer, Virginia, where hand-selected Soldiers performed ceremonial support to the Government. While there, Francis Ford Coppola filmed “Gardens of Stone,” and some of his Soldiers and family members were selected as extras. At the end of the interview, he describes what his service and West Point mean to him.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Cuban Missile Crisis Teamwork Camaraderie Leadership Military Techniques West Point History USMA 1961
interviewer David Siry
date 29JAN22


name William Williamson
institution USMA
graduation year 1961
service Infantry
unit 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division; MAAG Iran; A Co, 1st BN, 16th IN, 1ID; 2nd BN, 60th IN, 9th ID; 3rd IN Regiment (Old Guard)
specialty Commanded the Old Guard
service dates 1961 1987