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William Groom Leftwich , Jr.

Date of birth: April 28, 1931
Date of death: November 18, 1970
Home of record: Germantown Tennessee
Status: KIA

William Leftwich graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1953. After earning the Navy Cross during his first tour of duty in Vietnam in 1965, he was Killed in Action five years later during another Vietnam War tour of duty.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Navy Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Colonel William Groom Leftwich, Jr. (MCSN: 0-61154), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as the Senior Task Force Advisor to Task Force ALFA, Vietnamese Marine Brigade, in the vicinity of Hoai An Village, Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 March 1965. Major Leftwich played a major part in all phases of the successful relief of the village of Hoai An, which was under heavy enemy attack by two Viet Cong battalions. Prior to the actual operation, he worked out a plan with the 22d Division Air Liaison Officer for supporting aircraft to deliver their ordnance in extra-close proximity to the front lines, and then to continue simulated attacks while the Vietnamese Marines assaulted the enemy positions. He participated in the planning of the approach march which, by using last-minute intelligence, avoided a massive ambush planned by the Viet Cong. As lead elements of the Task Force contacted the Viet Cong from an unexpected direction, he sensed the ideal opportunity to use the prearranged air support plan, and taking the radio, he moved under heavy fire to the forward-most elements of the Task Force. By his own personal example of shooting point-blank and shouting, he led the attack which overran the immediate Viet Cong positions and carried the assault to within forty meters of the crest of a hill overlooking Hoai An. Despite injuries by enemy machine-gun bullets in the back, cheek, and nose, he went to the aid of a mortally wounded comrade, and although bleeding profusely, he refused assistance and delayed his own evacuation until he could call for additional air strikes and brief the Task Force Commander of the situation. Through his heroic conduct and fearless devotion to duty in the face of personal risk, Major Leftwich upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals

Action Date: 9-Mar-65

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: Advisor (Attached)

Battalion: Task Force Alfa

Regiment: Vietnamese Marine Brigade

Silver Star

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel William Groom Leftwich, Jr. (MCSN: 0-61154), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Commanding Officer, Second Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Rein.), FMF, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 4 August 1970, upon learning from intelligence sources that high level enemy commanders were planning to meet at a designated location in Quang Nam Province, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich conceived a bold plan for an attack on the meeting place. Through expert analysis of all available intelligence data, he determined the exact location and time schedule of the proposed meeting, formulated a detailed plan, and alerted and briefed his attack force. Fully aware of the danger involved, he elected to forego the normal pre-landing reconnaissance activities and landing zone preparatory fires and, to avoid detection by the enemy, moved his men into the area by helicopters maneuvering at treetop level. Following his plan, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich surreptitiously deployed his unit around the hostile headquarters and launched an aggressive attack which took the enemy commanders completely by surprise. When the now disorganized enemy attempted to escape, he directed his men in vigorous pursuit and disregarded his own safety as he moved to the most forward position to coordinate supporting arms fires. Under his dynamic and courageous leadership, his unit accounted for twelve enemy commanders killed, twelve others captured, and the seizure of seven weapons, and, according to subsequent intelligence reports, was instrumental in thwarting all planned enemy activity in the area. By his tactical skill, bold fighting spirit, and unflagging devotion to duty, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: 4-Aug-70

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Company: Commanding Officer

Battalion: 2d Battalion

Regiment: 1st Marines

Division: 1st Marine Division (Rein.), FMF

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" to Major William Groom Leftwich, Jr. (MCSN: 0-61154), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Senior Advisor to a Marine Task Force during operations conducted in South Vietnam from 8 August to 17 August 1965. An extremely competent and resourceful leader and advisor, Major Leftwich anticipated the problem of coordination among three different elements operating simultaneously and personally provided the missing unity of control by organizing the advisors of the respective elements. As a result, when the Viet Cong attacked the column, reaction was immediate with a minimum of confusion and difficulty. One of the Marine Battalions, composed largely of recruits, had not been previously battle tested. However, during the engagement, the entire battalion stood fast and fought effectively as a direct result of the sound advice, and personal example provided by Major Leftwich. During the course of that day's action, Major Leftwich moved to the forward elements of his task force and, while under intense fire from the Viet Cong, directed numerous air strikes on the enemy positions as close as 300 meters to the front lines of the Marine elements. By his outstanding leadership, advice and judgment, as well as his inspiring devotion to duty, Major Leftwich upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. (Major Leftwich is authorized to wear the Combat "V".)

Action Date: August 8 - 17, 1965

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Major

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" to Major William Groom Leftwich, Jr. (MCSN: 0-61154), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict with an enemy from 27 January 1965 to 18 January 1966. As a member of the Marine Advisory Unit, Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Major Leftwich served as Senior Advisor to Vietnamese Marine Task Force ALFA. During the entire period the Task Force was deployed under combat condition in the hard pressed II Corps of central Vietnam, and participated in 25 major combat operations for a total of 235 days on actual combat operations, he shared every physical hardship with his counterpart by living and subsisting with the Vietnamese Marines. During combat he was habitually exposed to enemy fire and extremes of climate and rugged terrain. Through personal example, patience, persistence, and outstanding professional knowledge, Major Leftwich was able to bring about many necessary changes in tactics and organization of Vietnamese Marine Task Force ALFA. As Senior Advisor to Task Force ALFA he participated in the planning and execution of all operations, demonstrating rare ability as a leader, staff officer, and advisor. By his outstanding leadership, judgment, inspiring and courageous devotion to duty throughout, Major Leftwich upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. (Major Leftwich is authorized to wear the Combat "V".)

Action Date: January 17, 1965 - January 18, 1966

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Major

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Colonel William Groom Leftwich, Jr. (MCSN: 0-61154), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States with the FIRST Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam from 16 May to 18 November 1970. Throughout this period, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner. Initially assigned as Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion, First Marines, he deployed his Battalion over a wide area and planned and supervised the execution of search and destroy operations, ambushes, and patrols which blocked the enemy's persistent attempts to launch offensives against friendly positions. Working tirelessly and with meticulous attention to detail, he implemented sound administrative and logistic procedures, organized a vigorous training program, and initiated several strategic innovations which confused the enemy and significantly reduced friendly casualties. Under his dynamic and courageous leadership, his Battalion inflicted severe personnel losses on North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces, destroyed base camps and staging areas, and captured large quantities of supplies. Reassigned as Commanding Officer of the First Reconnaissance Battalion on 14 September, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich quickly familiarized himself with the mission direction of his large unit and commenced an aggressive program to expand the response capability of his reconnaissance teams. With keen foresight and sound judgment, he established company-sized and platoon-sized patrol bases at key tactical locations to enable him to supply, deploy, and replace his patrols during adverse weather when helicopter support was not available, thus ensuring continuous ground reconnaissance support to his command. In addition, he pioneered the concept of employing reconnaissance teams with quick reaction forces and proved the value of this tactic in a series of combat actions in the Que Son Mountains. On 18 November 1970, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich was killed when his helicopter crashed in rugged mountainous terrain while en route to extract a reconnaissance team from an enemy infested area. His extraordinary initiative and resourcefulness earned the respect and admiration of all who served with him and contributed immeasurably to the accomplishment of his command's mission. By his leadership, professional acumen, and unflagging devotion to duty, Lieutenant Colonel Leftwich rendered distinguished service to his country and thereby upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. (The Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.)

Action Date: May 16 - November 18, 1970

Service: Marine Corps

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel