Michael “Mike” Lyne, K/75 Ranger, KIA Jan 7, 1970


March 1, 1951 – January 7, 1970

Mike Lyne – 1969 – An Khe

Mike was born into a military family.   Mike’s father, Army Special Forces Major Olney William Lyne Jr (1930-2006) and his mother Isabelle Marie Wright Lyne (1931-2011) met while he was a young Infantry officer at Ft. Bragg and she a soldier at Ft. Lee, VA.  They joined in marriage on March 4, 1950 on Ft. Bragg pledging their vows before an Army Chaplain. Can anyone wonder why a young man with such an impeccable pedigree would not distinguish himself in the jungles of Vietnam?  His parents were stationed at Ft. Bragg and he quickly followed into the family business.

Mike was a handful in high school, finding various ways to learn while “stimulating” the emotions of the school staff.  Mike graduated high school and married his sweetheart Camilla Anne Mashburn Lyne (1954) before enlisting.  Together, they had a son named Michael William Lyne II, born at the end of November 1969 who went on to father Michael William Lyne III who has begun his own family.    After completing his basic training and AIT as a “Radio Operator (05B2P) he went to Ft. Benning and graduated Paratrooper School. 

In September of 1969 Mike found himself in the big, bad, Central Highlands of Vietnam assigned to K Co, 75th Rangers and quickly earned the respect of veteran Rangers.  Mike was “brought along” slowly, serving on teams assigned radio relay duty until getting selected to the team R-15.  Team Leader Spec 4 Luther “Jimmy” Doss, Asst. TL PFC LaRoy Roth, and team member Spec 4 Will Willard formed a team that seemed to capture lightning in a bottle.  They were so well suited in both mission and mind.  Their very first mission together was to set an Ambush on Nov 25, 1969 20 KM SE of Pleiku.  They surreptitiously monitored the foot traffic on trails outside a suspected VC controlled village.  They passed up several opportunities because TL Doss reasoned if they continued to surveil, they could wait for a larger force to engage.  They remained in position, silently waiting.  The following day at 19:00 a reinforced squad of armed irregulars walked into the well-organized trap.  In the ensuing action, the enemy was decimated and much equipment and intelligence captured.  The actual number of enemy KIA was not reported but the Division S-2 official After Action Report noted all were eliminated.  While gunships protected their withdrawal, the team was already planning a well-oiled celebration at basecamp.  His mischievous ways translated well to making him the fun team member while on “stand-down”.  They knew they were special and while many teams found men rotating in and out, R-15 remained an unchanged as a Ranger Team.   All the while, Mike’s beautiful young wife, Camilla, was giving birth to their son, Michael William Lyne II, a day later.  Mike would never get the chance to meet his son.

So it was, the four warriors of R-15 were inserted January 6, 1970 into an extremely steep area of the Chu Pah mountains, 20 KM SW of Kontum.  The site overlooked the Sesan River with 40’ high triple canopy, obstructing their position from air, but void of any meaningful cover on the ground. Their mission was to gather intelligence on enemy troop concentration and movement.  They discovered an abandoned enemy bunker complex that first day then set up for their night location, anticipating a harrowing few days of trying to remain hidden, in plain sight.  When morning came, they were unaware their location had been discovered and were set upon in their night location.  In the initial volley, Mike Lyne, LaRoy Roth and Will Willard were all mortally struck, only Jimmy Doss was able to return fire.  He was able to suppress enemy fire until reinforcements were able to exfiltrate him and the remains of his three friends and team mates.   There was to be no celebration at the end of this mission, the entire Ranger Company mourned this tragic day.  There is some lingering heartfelt disagreement between Rangers who were assigned there, during this time.  While all agree TL Jimmy Doss is listed Killed in Action leading another team R-22 a few months later on April 30th, many believe his will to live died that day in January in the Chu Pahs with his friends.  For this reason, we choose to honor all four members of Romeo–15, Killed in Action on the day of their loss, January 7th.   

Mike joined K 75th despite the extreme risk, perhaps because of it.   Many people have asked why would one do that.  There are as many reasons for their choice as there are men.  All share the trait of courage and willingness to give their all for their brother Rangers and their country.  Some Rangers are never placed in mortal danger, while others seem to attract it.  The circumstances of their death cannot diminish the courage and heroism shown by these Rangers when they chose to become Rangers.  Some Rangers are destined to die surrounded by expended brass and the bodies of their enemy, others will die many years after their service, unharmed and surrounded by their loved ones.  All will be remembered as having been among the best this nation can send to war.  All are heros.  They never needed to show their courage with results, their decision to risk everything for the promise of nothing made that un-necessary.  Each Ranger carries with them a bit of the honor earned by each other Ranger.  Fifty years have passed while we hardly noticed.  Our lives have now been mostly lived, yet we’ve continued to carry their memories and maintained their fellowship in our hearts for all this time without once forgetting their sacrifice.  They, as well as all the brothers we lost, continue to inspire us today as certain as they did when they were causing havoc to our enemy in the violent Central Highlands. 

Ranger Michael William Lyne died at the age of 18 surrounded by his friends and team mates.  He was laid to rest, with military honors, in Cumberland Memorial Gardens, Fayetteville, NC.  In addition to postumous promotion to SGT and several other awards and decorations, he was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor, a Purple Heart, his “Jump Wings” and the coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge.  Mike’s name is inscribed and honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 14W, Row 8 in Washington, DC by an eternally grateful nation.  While his smile has faded from our memories, it can still be found in the faces of his son, his grandson and his great grandaughter Sophia Jane Lyne.