2nd Platoon, A Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Kien Hoa Province – September 21, 1967

Lt. David Williams between missions at Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta – Summer 1967.

Introduction – by Steve Williams

My brother Dave died at the age of 22 – far too soon for someone who had so much to offer in life. He was mischievous, a prankster and someone who loved to share good times with friends. Wherever he lived, he made good friends. As the son of a career Air Force officer, he lived half his childhood in foreign countries; three years in Germany and three years in Japan. In high school, he was the Senior Class President for the Class of 1963. He was also a 3-year varsity letterman on the swim team. But most of all, Dave loved music. Trained as a classical pianist, he soon discovered that he had an ear for popular music. He could hear a song on the radio and then play the tune on the piano. He loved to play complex syncopated rhythms and he was a skilled bongo player and drummer, playing snare drums in the high school marching band. While a junior in high school, he and several friends formed “The Nomads” � a folk band that played at the California State Fair and had gigs at the Purple Onion in San Francisco. His closest friends, Chuck and Kathy, were members of “The Nomads” and its successor, “The Picardy III”.

After two years at American River College in Sacramento, California, Dave was drafted into the US Army. He qualified for officer’s candidate school and completed Infantry OCS as a member of the 55th Company at Fort Benning, Georgia. He received his commission as a second lieutenant in December 1966. He was assigned for six months to the Combat Experimental Development Command at Fort Ord, California.

On May 31, 1967, Dave arrived in Vietnam and began serving as a platoon leader with Company A, 4th/47th in the 9th Infantry Division. Three weeks later on June 19, 1967, his company was decimated in an ambush. Dave was the only Platoon Leader in his unit to survive the ambush. Severely wounded, he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan where he recovered from his injuries. Upon his return to the 4th/47th Infantry Battalion, he was assigned to desk duty as the Battalion Transportation Officer. He loved the job, as he used his leisure time to play the piano and the drums in the Soldiers’ Club. The club director called him her “teeny-bopper lieutenant”. His goal was to be reassigned to the Armed Forces Network radio station in Saigon. He didn’t write many letters home as he did not want our parents to worry. When informed by the Battalion Commander that he would return to Company A, however, he wrote our parents a letter, saying that only 6 soldiers remained of the original 36 members in his platoon. He said not to worry�”lightning doesn’t strike thrice in the same spot…” It did. He was buried with full military honors in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, just south of San Francisco. He is loved and will always be remembered by his many friends, his mother and father, his brother, his two sisters and his seven cousins. We all know that somewhere Dave is playing the bongos with a heavenly chorus!

Company A, 4th/47th lost 32 brave soldiers in our June 19th Battle near Ap Bac Village in the Mekong Delta. 2nd Lt. Dave Williams was the only platoon leader in Alpha Company to survive. The three day battle left 250 Viet Cong dead and resulted in 47 U.S. soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Letter to Steve Williams from Robert Bischoff – October 3, 2010

Dear Steve,

I just received my Fall Issue of “River Currents” from the Mobile Riverine Force Association and saw your notes regarding your brother David. I was not his C.O. at the time of his death, but I was his best friend and confidant. I arrived in-country in July of 1967 and was C.O. of Headquarters Company. Dave and I became buddies because we were not in the field when the troops were (after Dave returned from the hospital from his wounds of June 19th he was given an administrative assignment). We took coffee breaks together every day and I got to know him as a friend. He talked a lot about his family and friends in Sausalito, California. Dave also talked a lot about the June 19th Battle and the losses that Alpha Company suffered. I became commander of Alpha Company in late January of 1968. I recall that all of Alpha’s Platoon Leaders were killed except Dave who was wounded and that Alpha lost a total of 32 soldiers that day. In 1969 I visited our Battalion Chaplain, Bernie Windmiller who was with the troops on June 19th; his stories were beyond description.

When Dave was told that he was going back to the field as a rifle platoon leader, he told me that he knew that he was not going to make it. I discussed this with him and told him that he was going to be alright, but he didn’t unpack his gear when he left HHC to go back to Alpha Company. I am not a religious person and I do not believe in fate, but Dave had that premonition. After what he went through on the 19th of June I guess he was certain that he could not survive another battle.

When Dave went to the field on his first mission in September, I was assistant S3 or the S3 Air. Those were quiet times, very little activity. The troops worked off the boats and would stay out two or three days. The command and support group would remain on command and control boats (CCB’s) and would monitor the troop progress/activities. The mission had ended and the troops were on the way to the pick up point. I received word that there was a casualty and a medevac was required. Casualties were identified by roster number rather than name and rank. When the roster number was verified, it was not David. Shortly after, another call corrected the number and it was David. This hit me like a ton of bricks. They had passed through an open area and a VC popped out of a spider hole and fired one shot hitting David in the back of the head. That was the only shot fired during the entire mission.

While I commanded Alpha Company from late January until mid July 1968, we lost 23 killed and 122 wounded. Each and every one of those casualties have had an everlasting effect, but none affected me more than the loss of David. We were friends and he was one of the neatest, coolest guys I have ever known. To this day, he crosses my mind constantly.

I hope that this helps and is not too brunt. I may have some pictures of Dave and I, but I don’t know where they are right now. We just moved from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to the hills of North Georgia. I will stay in touch…

Letter to Steve Williams from Dave Nelson � December 12, 2010

Dear Steve:

I want you to know I was there the day your dear Brother David was shot and killed. David was my platoon leader that day and I was one of his grunts. I can’t say I personally knew David well, as I was assigned to A Company on the 20th of June 1967, one day after the fierce battle on the 19th. I can say, however, we had all good officers through my tour, David being one of them!

I was not too far from your brother when he was hit, and I can assure you the Viet Cong that fired the round, soon went to where dead gooks go. The VC snipers seemed to know who the leaders were and rarely missed. I can recall at least 3 platoon leaders, all shot in the head when I was there, probably because they were shadowed by a radio operator with a tall antenna. Medics, too, were vulnerable.

Our officers�to a man�were concerned about their troops and did everything they could to protect their safety! For this, the men all respected them and did their very best to protect them, too! But, as is said, War is Hell� , and some things are impossible to control. Such as David’s case.

On January 25, 1968, I was injured with shrapnel myself, suffering a severe head wound and spending 8 months in the hospital. As a result of this injury, my memory is not as sharp as it could be, but I want you to know your brother died facing the enemy like a real man.

I am truly proud to have served with David! You have my deepest sympathy.