RANGER TEAM ROMEO-15
LUTHER JAMES “JIM” DOSS JR
Jim was born in Max Meadows, VA to Luther James Doss (1919-1988) and Dorothy Madeline Safewright Doss (1926-1996). His father, Luther Sr. proudly served in the US Army during WWII. Both Jim and his father were raised in Christian families who stressed good character and hard work. Jim’s grandfather, a “Preacher”. owned his own blacksmith shop in VA, while Jim’s family, seeking employment, migrated to the Baltimore area where Luther Sr. drove a taxi cab before securing a job at Bethleham Steel. Jim graduated in 1966 from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, the premier public high school for young men and women seeking a career in the trades.
After High School, Jim continued his education at Virginia Technical University becoming the first VA Tech “Hokie” in his family. Jim envisioned engineering to be his lifes work. Even then, his attraction to the military was strong. He joined ROTC and immersed himself along with the other Patriotic Virginia Tech “Corps of Cadets” in learning Military Science. A devout Christian throughout his short life, Jim pledged Phi Alpha Chi Fraternity and created bonds with young men some of whom continue, even now, to submit online posts in remembrance of their fraternity brother. It was a fraternity then as now whose members shared his strong moral compass and Christian beliefs. Jim met his sweetheart Barbara “Bobby” L Doss (Rookstool) at VT and were blessed with a son, David James Doss in the Spring of 1968. His country could not wait, however, it needed young heroes to, once again, fight for the freedom of strangers far from his home. Jim was called to duty in 1969 – he never hesitated.
Assistant Team Leader
LaROY FREDERICH ROTH
March 21, 1949 – January 7, 1970
LaRoy was born into a farming family in Wall Lake, Iowa as was his father before him. LaRoy’s father, Alvin John Roth (1926-2013) worked hard to support his family. He was employed as a farmhand, was a heavy equipment operator, and did landscaping for others. Alvin served in the US Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise during the “War to end all Wars”. LaRoy worked throughout his school years helping wherever he could. His family had no excess of money nor shortage of love and good direction. LaRoy graduated from Wall Lake Community High School in 1966. His nation called and LaRoy answered.
MICHAEL “MIKE” WILLIAM LYNE
March 1, 1951 – January 7, 1970
Mike was born into a military family, an Army brat. 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
Mike was a handful in high school, finding various ways to learn while “stimulating” the emotions of the school staff. Mike was the “wild child” of the team. Mike graduated high school and married his sweetheart Camilla Anne Mashburn Lyne (1954) before enlisting. Their son, Michael William Lyne II, born at the end of November 1969, was to be denied the opportunity to ever be held by his father.
CHARLES RANDOLPH “WILL” WILLARD JR
March 5, 1948 – January 7, 1970
Will was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. Will’s father, Charles Randolph Willard (1910-1997) and his mother Mary Lydia Stewart Willard (1914-1998) owned the Willard Smelting Company in Charlotte, NC. His father, despite the responsibility of running a business and the privilege of prosperity and social position in the community, honorably served as a Major in the Artillery Branch of the US Army during WWII. Charles’ family had the good fortune and where-with-all to offer every opportunity possible to this young man. He lived in a beautiful home and graduated from the exclusive private school Charlotte Country Day School of Charlotte, NC in 1966. While many young men of his age were visiting “Juvenile Hall”, Will accompanied his family on exotic vacations to visit such places as Switzerland to Ski in 1962. Will’s family certainly had the “clout” to believe the draft could likely be avoided, but that was never the Willard way when their country needed them. In late 1968. Will received his draft notice and not only entered the US Army willingly, he volunteered for hazardous duty with K Company, 75th Rangers.
The Romeo-15 Team
In September of 1969 these four warriors had made their way via different routes yet found themselves together in the big, bad, Central Highlands of Vietnam assigned to K Co, 75th Rangers. An unlikely and diverse group of young men based on their background, something “just fit well”. The team quickly became a study in effectiveness as they grew closer and each learned the capabilities of the other. The cohesive team building that normally took place over time, if ever, happened almost instantly. Team Leader Spec 4 Luther “Jimmy” Doss, Asst. TL PFC LaRoy Roth, and team members Spec 4 Will Willard and PFC Mike Lyne formed a team that other teams envied. 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. The following day at 19:00 a reinforced squad of armed Viet Cong 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 determined by the rapidly evading and escaping R-15 but the 4th 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. The unpredictable thinking of these teammates translated well to making them susceptible to misadventure while on “stand-down”. The serious, professional manner of Jim combined with the mischievous ways of his team members worked well to making the team relax with a style their own while not in the field. A friend and leader of a different team, Charlie Weidner, recalled one such instance: “One night we came under indirect fire attack at our base camp. We were directed to get out of our bunks and report to the main sand-bagged bunker for safety. After some time waiting and being bored, one of Doss’ team members stood up and went to the center of the bunker and lifted up one leg. Of course, the other two did the same. All three were determined to be the last soldier to remain standing on one leg. At least it was entertaining for the rest of us.” They knew they were special and while many teams found men rotating in and out, the 4 young warriors of R-15 remained unchanged as a Ranger Team. They had captured the proverbial “lightning in the bottle”.
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 compromised and were set upon in their night location. In the withering 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 teammates. 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 there at the time. While all understand survivor Jimmy Doss was subsequently Killed in Action leading another team, R-22, a few months later on April 30th, many believe the greater part of him died that day in January in the Chu Pahs with his friends. For this reason, we choose to honor all four gallant Rangers of Romeo–15 on the 50th anniversary of their loss. They would all certainly want it that way.
Ranger Team Romeo-15, November 1969 – Pleiku, RVN
All four 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 the moment 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, in a warm bed 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, with great sacrifice, 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 courageous 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 Luther James Doss Jr. died at the age of 22, Ranger LaRoy Roth died at the age of 20, Ranger Michael William Lyne died at the age of 18 and Charles Randolph Willard died at the age of 21 surrounded by their friends and teammates. All were laid to rest with military honors. Each of these men continue to be honored with glasses raised whenever remaining Rangers of K 75th Rangers gather. Young men from such diverse backgrounds combined for that brief period of time when their star shined brightly. Their names are inscribed and honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 14W and 11W in Washington, DC by an eternally grateful nation. In 50 years, the admiration and respect for these men has not diminished even slightly in the minds of all who know of them. They were Rangers who truly “Led the Way”.