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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"It was the Alamo" William P. Collier, Jr. recommended for Medal of Honor

The VFW national membership has approved a resolution to support retired Army officer William P. Collier, Jr. for heroic actions in Vietnam that occurred in Duc District Headquarters Quang Ngai Province beginning on 16 September 1972.

William (Bill) P. Collier, who resides in Columbia, South Carolina,  is a member of the Northeast Presbyterian Church Combat Veterans Support Group where his actions come to light during discussions. Members of the Group, especially retired Marine Col. Steven Vitali, thought that Colliers actions rose to the level of the Congressional Medal of Honor. has this to say:

Then-Maj. William Collier was one of just two Americans and 120 South Vietnamese troops at the Duc District Headquarters in Quang Ngai Province when it was attacked Sept. 16, 1972, by up to 1,000 North Vietnam Army soldiers.

The battle -- which two eyewitnesses called “Maj. Collier’s Alamo” -- lasted 54 hours and left only Collier and 21 ARVN soldiers alive. Staff Sgt. Carroll Jackson, the only other American at the headquarters, was killed in the fighting.
Collier, who retired as a colonel, was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership and bravery, though there has long been a belief his actions were worthy of the nation’s highest honor, said Joe Davis, spokesman for the VFW.

The VFW’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee on Sunday easily passed the resolution that was approved on Monday by members gathered this week in Louisville for the organization’s annual convention.

Collier was the senior American adviser at the Mo Duc District Headquarters when the NVA force hit the base on Sept. 16 and continued the attack until Sept. 18. At times, the fighting was hand-to-hand as Collier led the ground defense and coordinated with air, artillery and naval gunfire support to keep the base from falling.

Collier told in a telephone interview on Monday that he never really spoke to anyone about the battle outside his family. But he finally spoke about it with members of a Combat Veterans Support Group organized by his church, he said.

After that, he dug out an old tape -- made 40 years earlier on a reel-to-reel recorder in Saigon, where he had flown for a debriefing about the battle. The tape was not in good shape and so he had it cleaned up and digitized onto a CD.
“I played it on a CD” for the veterans’ church, he said. “When it was done, they all just looked at me. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ And they said, ‘All you got was a Silver Star?' "

After that, he said, other veterans, in particular retired Marine Col. Steven Vitali, began looking into the possibility of recommending him for the Medal of Honor.
Vitali told that the documents supporting the nomination are already in the hands of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is expected to bring the recommendation to the Senate.

Collier’s citation for the Silver Star, which was awarded on Nov. 3, 1972, states the base was hit by up to 2,000 rounds of enemy rocket, mortar and artillery fire and numerous ground assaults. At times, he called in friendly air burst artillery on the base to keep it from being overrun by the NVA forces. During the fight, he was knocked from his feet four times as he regularly exposed himself to enemy fire to coordinate the defense.

Retired Air Force Capts. Joseph Personett and Richard Polling, forward air controllers whose actions flying OV-10 Bronco light attack and observer planes in support of the battle earned them both the Air Force Cross, referred to Mo Duc as “Major Collier’s Alamo” in statements they gave supporting the Medal of Honor.

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