Leftwich, William Groom, Jr., LtCol

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 Service Details
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Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Primary MOS
0302-Infantry Officer
Last MOSGroup
Infantry
Primary Unit
1970-1970, 0302, H&S Co, 1st Recon Bn
Service Years
1953 - 1970
Foreign Language
Vietnamese

Lieutenant Colonel

 
 

 Last Photo 
 Personal Details 

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Home State
Tennessee
Tennessee
Year of Birth
1931
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CWO2 Philip E. Montroy to remember Marine LtCol William Groom Leftwich, Jr..

If you knew or served with this Marine and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
 
Casualty Info
Home Town
Memphis
Last Address
Republic of Vietnam

Casualty Date
Nov 18, 1970
 
Cause
Hostile, Died
Reason
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Location
Vietnam
Conflict
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Forest Hills Cemetery Midtown - Memphis, Tennessee
Wall/Plot Coordinates
06W 068/PLOT Section 1

 Official Badges 

Secretary of Defense Service


 Unofficial Badges 


 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  2012, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified]1

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Rifle ExpertPistol Expert

 
 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1953, The Basic School (Quantico, VA), 1
 Unit Assignments
2nd Marine Division3rd Marine Division, III MEFMCB Camp PendletonUS Naval Academy, US Navy
HQ Bn, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine DivisionMCB Quantico, VAUSMC (United States Marine Corps)Naval Advisory Group Vietnam, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV)
The Basic School - Instructor BnUSMC Command and Staff CollegeMarine Corps Information Operations CenterHeadquarters Marine Corps (HQMC)
2nd Bn, 1st Marine Regiment  (2/1), 1st Marine Regiment1st Recon Bn
  1954-1955, 0302, 2nd Marine Division
  1955-1956, 0302, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF
  1956-1957, 0302, MCB Camp Pendleton
  1957-1960, 0302, US Naval Academy, US Navy
  1960-1962, 0180, H&S Co, HQ Bn, 2nd Marine Division
  1963-1964, 0302, HQ Bn, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, VA
  1964-1965, 2799, DLI Language Course - Vietnamese
  1965-1966, 9905, 147th Marine Bn. RVN, USMC Advisory Unit, Naval Advisory Group Vietnam
  1966-1966, 0302, Infantry Plt/Combat Instructor Co, The Basic School - Instructor Bn
  1966-1967, 0302, USMC Command and Staff College
  1967-1968, 9905, Marine Corps Information Operations Center
  1968-1970, 9905, Assistant Secretary Of The Navy (HQMC)
  1970-1970, 0302, 2nd Bn, 1st Marine Regiment (2/1), 1st Marine Regiment
  1970-1970, 0302, H&S Co, 1st Recon Bn
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1965-1965 Vietnam War/Defense Campaign (1965)
  1966-1966 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase II Campaign (1966-67)
  1970-1970 Vietnam War/Winter-Spring 1970 Campaign
  1970-1970 Vietnam War/Sanctuary Counteroffensive Campaign (1970)
  1970-1970 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VII Campaign (1970-71)
 Colleges Attended
United States Naval AcademyUSMC Command and Staff College
  1949-1953, United States Naval Academy1
  1966-1967, USMC Command and Staff College
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
CH-46D DOWN DURING EMERGENCY RECON EXTRACTION, QUE SON MOUNTAINS 12 KM SOUTHEAST OF AN HOA 18NOV1970
UTM grid reference is AT967407
CH-46D 154837

On Nov. 18, 1970, LtCol Leftwich was killed in a helicopter crash during an emergency extraction of one of his reconnaissance teams.  As was his habit, he was serving as senior "extract ofiicer" when having extracted the recon team, the helicopter crashed into a mountainside in enemy territory killing all personnel.

 
   
Comments/Citation
Service number 061154/413465361
Tour start date 04/20/1970

In 1978, the U.S. Navy named the destroyer, USS Leftwich (DD-984), in his honor.

In 1979, The Marine Corps awarded the first "Leftwich Trophy for Outstanding Leadership" in his memory.  The award is presented annually to an oustanding Marine Corps captain serving with the ground forces of the Fleet Marine Force at the time of nomination.

In 1995, the U.S. Naval Academy opened it's new Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center.  The Center is named for two highly-decorated USNA Alumni: Capt. Lyle Armel, USN & LtCol William Leftwich, USMC.
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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.
Action Date: 9-Mar-65
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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
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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
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he 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
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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
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