Charles “Will” Randolph Willard, Jr
SP4 – U.S. Army
4th Infantry Division – Company K (Ranger), 75th Infantry
1 March 1948 – 7 January 1970
Charlotte, North Carolina
Panel 14W, Line 10
Service: Army (Selective Service)
Grade at loss: E4
Rank: Specialist Four
ID No: 242781397
MOS: 11B20: Infantryman
Len Svc: 1 year
Unit: Company K (Ranger), 75th Infantry
Start Tour: 09/11/1969
Cas Date: 01/07/1970
Age at Loss: 21
Remains: Body recovered
Location: Pleiku Province, South Vietnam
Type: Hostile, died outright, ground casualty
Reason: Gun, small arms fire
Purple Heart, Bronze Star with V, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Service Medal,
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Evergreen Cemetery, Charlotte, North Carolina
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Link to Remembrances:
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SP4 Willard was killed on 7 January 1970 in an ambush near Pleiku – along with teammates La Roy Roth, and Mike Lyne. The sole survivor of the mission was SSG Luther Doss, team leader of ROMEO-15. Doss would himself be KIA a few months later in April 1970.
Willard’s fallen teammates of ROMEO-15:
Two weeks after the deadly ambush in January, Ranger team ROMEO-18, led by Obie Holmen, was sent into the same AO for reconnaissance. The link below shows a short film about this mission:
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David Doss writes:
To Mike Lyne’s Family and Friends: My name is David Doss and I am the son of Jim Doss. Jim was the team leader of Romeo 15 and was the only survivor of the January ambush which killed Mike, La Roy Roth and Will Willard. My father was killed in April of 1970. My father and Mike were very close, and I have a picture of the two of them which hangs in my home. It was sent to my mother by Mike. The inscription on the back reads “A picture of Father and Son.”
My father was changed forever by the death of those men and died, I am convinced, trying to avenge their deaths. I have many pictures of Mike, and I am certain that my father would want me to try to pass whatever I can on to you. I am certain he would want me to tell you how deeply sorry he is for your loss and although I believe there was nothing that he personally could have done to save the men, he carried the responsibility for their deaths until his end. I have struggled with my father’s death for 30 years and have searched to find all that I could about how he lived and died in Vietnam. I have laughed and cried with the men he served with and am certain now that he did not die for the war in Vietnam but for the men he fought beside.
The closeness these men have, and the quality of their character is something that makes me proud to be an American. My search has been a painful yet healing experience. As I read the letters from my father talking about the loss of his men I couldn’t help but to think of Mike and the child that he never got to hold.
If you read this and have not found peace in your soul with Mike’s death please call me. Believe me I understand and perhaps I can help!!!
David Doss, 921 Anne Road Glen Burnie, MD 21060. 410-360-9732
By: Tom Teeples, 1st Bde LRRP – K/75, Summer 2006
We were lucky to get an aerial reconnaissance the day before our upcoming mission. Team leader John Pike and I boarded the chopper not realizing the crew had been ferrying line troops most of the day. I guess that bores the hell out of them, as we were to find out later on in the flight. We headed southwest out of An Khe. It was a hot muggy day. Imagine that! The moving air felt good though, and before long we were in the vicinity of the A.O. we would occupy on the ground the next day. We were able to check over our maps with the terrain, locating a suitable insertion point, and other key locations of interest. A huge valley, cutting deep in the middle of our four grid playground, had our attention too. I wondered what we might find down there. We were satisfied with our observations and let the pilot know we could head back. That is when we found out what a Bell Huey could really do, along with one bored cowboy pilot who had his hands on the stick. We buzzed over the jungle canopy so fast and so low, it blurred to where it looked like a fairway on a golf course. Then he jerked a vertical climb to a place high and cold far above the hot green earth below. Then just before I thought we would flip over backwards, he pitched the nose down into a dive. Whew! What a ride.
Well I better get to the story I really wanted to tell you. And this is about that next day’s mission. And with it I hope to maybe get some information from anyone out there who may have known one of us, or all four of us. I was a SPC4 at the time, and was Sgt. John Pike’s A.T.L. He and I had run a number of missions together as 1st BDE LRRP’s, and we remained together through the re-designation into K CO. Rangers. As far as the other two members that were on the team that day, I can only recall the name of one. He was Charles Willard, who, as I come to find out later, had unfortunately been KIA on another mission later. The other guy, I can’t for the life of me remember his name. That’s where I could use your help. Anyway, Willard and this guy were new. I believe it may have been their first mission. In any case, it was their first time with Pike and I. We teamed up as Romeo Two Zero and took off together much the same way Pike and I had done the previous day.
Oh! And the weather was the same. Soon we were dropping down to the small clearing we picked out for our insertion. It was quick and all went well. As we moved into the wood line, the choppers could be heard fading off in the distance. We were astonished when not 100 meters in from the LZ a bunker complex loomed before us. If someone had been there we would have had a warm reception. Luckily they must have decided to take a walk. Everything was fresh and heavily used, with bunkers all over the place. The closer ones we could look right into their entrance. Others in the distance were clearly indicated as humps. Cooking articles and other like objects lay about between them. Pike was a full blood Apache Indian, and he like his ancestors could see things that I could not. But even I knew that day the bad guys hadn’t left home for good, and would be back before long. We snaked our way alongside a trail that led out of the complex, and crossed a small stream that ran north to south toward the big valley. We were not out of the bunker complex to far, when we decided to set up and watch traffic on the trail. Pike instructed the new guys to place out their claymores.
He then began to call in on our situation, it had just started to sprinkle, when the new guys returned and informed us that the trail did not go straight to the West as we had thought, but turned and left us dangerously exposed to a good portion of it. We had to move. Too late, we could hear voices approaching. I drew my rifle up and locked on to the first NVA soldier that came into view, but there were more behind him, and they just kept coming. I believe I lost count around 15 or 20. Then I thought our number was up, when one soldier stopped to reposition a small piece of plastic he was using to keep the rain off. As he did, he looked right at me. And I swear to this day he did see me, but from the grace of God he kept on walking. Pike still held the handset to his ear, he never turned around. He didn’t have to, I’m sure my face told him everything he needed to know, and my heart beat like one of his ceremonial drums back home.
John did pick up a count of his own as they passed us he could see their back side. We also heard more moving into the complex south of us but could not see them. We were surrounded until the last pith helmet disappeared across the creek. They had come less than 20 meters of us, and the only concealment we had going for us was a fresh application of face paint, and camo fatigues. Carefully we moved to the other side of the trail, and at a distance we could safely call in some arty. They had hot steel for supper. We saw no more of them that night or the next day when we were pulled out so a line company could come in and mop up so to speak. I can’t remember ever hearing the damage report. I remember during our debriefing, having a good laugh over the accuracy of our count. We each had a different count of how many we actually seen. We took an average that came to 30 something.
It was a mission that could have been even shorter than it was, and told only by the N.V.A. But for R-20, other missions lay ahead, and more bad guys to hunt down, and this story was ours. I have not heard or seen anything of these team members, with the exception of Charles Willard, whose name is etched on the wall in D.C. where I had a chance to visit a few years ago, and pay my respects to him, and the other brave soldiers who gave their all.
To my brother in arms
3/30/08 – by Steve – email@example.com
We knew each other well and you served in Ranger fashion as a team member in Vietnam. You arrived and were considered a “young blood”. To me who grew to know you well, you always served your country in a way we were trained and came second nature and was then and now known as “Rangers Lead the Way”. Many years had passed by and I often pulled up pictures of you Michael Lynn and La Roy Roth but were never able to write a thing but only remember. It is now some 35 + years later and only now I am able to say that we all loved you Michael and La Roy Ranger style. RLTW
Tribute to a Fallen Ranger
2/13/04 – by Bob Smyers
To the loved ones we say; It may seem all for naught seeing how the world is today, but Charles then, as soldiers of today and all future soldiers, will continue to assure our Freedoms remain alive, and keep the hope alive for the many oppressed of the world. Thanks for standing strong all these many years with just his memory and know our hearts are joined with yours. May the peace of our Lord be with you always.
Looking at two different picture of Charles I am able to see him as young soldier, very innocent at the beginning of his tour of duty in Vietnam. Then I see another one where he has grown beyond his age, into that of a much more mature person. I contribute this to the hardened combat he has already experience in just a few weeks, months at the most.
Charles came to Vietnam to contribute to the cause of Freedom. It was men like him that were ready to stand up to the bully on the block, those who would deprive others the right to choose how they will live. He came not to Vietnam to be known as a hero, but his very choice of units was a heroic act on his part and most likely unbeknownst to him. Back in the world he was a kind, loving, and gentle person. A good citizen, loving son, and loving brother always there for you. Now still the same person, but one that had been called to be different, different in that he volunteered to serve with one of the most dangerous units in the Vietnam war, The 75th Ranger Regiment. A Regiment full of men that chose to walk on the edge, for whatever reason. Perhaps to be different or to satisfy the challenge of the unknown. Regardless of motivation, Charles of his own accord, willing accepted the extraordinary risk to accomplish a vital function that would save the lives of hundreds of American soldiers and Allied Forces.
His part in this was done by working with three other men placed deep in enemy held territory. He and his team mates would spy on enemy activity and report it to higher command for use in planning larger operations. This information could be gotten no other way. It called for nerves and guts of steel due to the closeness of the enemy and the distance they usually were from any friendly help. They had to survive on skill, team work, communications, artillery, and gone ships.
Charles proved himself to be a team player and a fierce combatant when necessary, and he was still the loving, helpful, kind, person he was before all of this. He had a great personality and was loved by his peers and Officers of the unit. He gained many brothers and this brotherhood is still alive today. His person may be gone from us, but he lives in our hearts.
Charles died with two of his team mates, La Roy Roth and Michael Lyne, while on patrol. They were securing their night location when the enemy sprung a surprise ambush on them, making a response slim to none. Charles and Rangers like him was and always will be the “TIP OF THE SPEAR”. I think he would not have us to grieve for him, but rather Love and Honor the Freedom that he, and others like him fought and died for. He is a credit to his Family, Friends, and Country. Let us not forget this nor allow others to forget!
Lord, those who knew Charles are thankful you allowed them to be graced by his being among them. We his brothers of like spirit, a spirit that says all people, of all nations, should enjoy the right to live free and to choose for themselves, do also thank you. He stands out to us and the world as a symbol of the price of freedom. Your Word says; “no greater love hath a man than this, to give his life for a friend” Charles did just that! He forsook self-preservation for others to live. He acted out of love, a love that required no contemplation, but rather action. Surely it never crossed his mind at the moment that he would come to be known as a “HERO”. We thank you for men and women like our brother that thought it not too much to give his life for others to live. Lord, this day give comfort to those loved ones that have been all these years without him. Help them to know he is at rest with you and “Warriors” of like kind. May we never forget, that the blood of others bought our Freedoms. Lord, regardless of our belief, help us as we remember him and the many like him to consider the following words of wisdom; to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength, and secondly to love our neighbor as our self. Truly acceptance and application of this wisdom by all people of the world, is to see war and all other atrocities against humanity end! May our hearts be charged to honor the sacrifices of such men and women with a continuous and sincere effort to promote peace on earth and good will towards all?