LT. COL. WILLIAM C. "DOC" STINSON

Lt. Col. WILLIAM CLYDE STINSON


William Clyde Stinson performed his duty with the utmost honor for his beloved country, the United States of America. In peace and war, Lieutenant Colonel Stinson, one of the cadets of the Long Gray Line of the United States Military Academy, earned the honor and respect of his superiors and his subordinates. His life ended in the service of his men, who admired him as a soldier and as a man.

William Clyde Stinson, Jr. was born on the 8th day of September, 1928 in Dublin, Georgia. His father, William C. Stinson, Sr. had served his country in World War I a decade before. Stinson grew up in the depths of the depression. The family's faith got them through the hard times and taught William how to handle the difficult times to come. Just after William's eleventh birthday, World War II began in Europe. During the early years of the war, William joined the Victory Corps at Dublin High School and took part in many activities to support the war effort. He graduated from Dublin High School in 1944. Stinson dreamed of being a physician. He enrolled at Emory College at Covington in hopes of becoming a doctor. His friends began to call him "Doc."

"Doc" Stinson left Emory in 1946 to join the United States Army, but he would forever carry the brotherly nickname for the rest of his life. Stinson began his military career as a staff sergeant of the 19th Infantry Regiment for a short term until he decided to return to Emory. Still unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, Stinson couldn't get the military out of his system. He re-enlisted in 1948 and sought an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Stinson was assigned to the 1802nd Special Regiment, which was stationed at the Academy at West Point.

On July 2, 1949, Stinson was accepted to the freshman class at West Point. He was officially a member of the Class of 1953. Ray Battle, another young Dublin man, joined Stinson at West Point that year. Almost immediately this amiable young man from the South was accepted by all who knew him. Those who attended the Academy with "Doc" Stinson remembered him as one who gave meaning to the plebe system, encouragement to the cadets who were failing in their studies, and life to those whose souls were faltering. In his class yearbook, the following lines are found beside his name: "When Army men gather we'll no doubt find Doc spinning another yarn. It'll be a long time before we find anyone else with as much time set aside to spend with others."

Second Lieutenant William Clyde Stinson graduated with his class on June 2, 1953. Just hours after tossing his hat into the air, William married his sweetheart, Mildred Pierce, whose faith was just as strong as that of her husband. His first assignment took him to Fort Campbell, Kentucky as a member of the 11th Airborne Division. From Fort Campbell, the Stinsons moved to Ulm, Germany. Stinson returned the United States for assignments at Fort Carson, Colorado with the 9th Infantry Division; at Fort Benning, Georgia with the Infantry Board; and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas with the Command and General Staff College. Apart from his army life, Stinson was blessed with a fine family. He was a devoted husband to Mildred and a loving father to his three daughters, Dawn, Leigh, and Katherine.

In 1962, Stinson was among the first advisors sent to Vietnam, half way around the world. He served a five-month stint and returned home after being wounded on a patrol in late November, 1962. During the ambush, Stinson was shot at least three times in his legs. He carried the rounds in his legs for the rest of his life. When he recovered, Stinson was assigned to the Office of Military Instruction at West Point. During his three years at the Academy, Stinson instilled the true spirit of the soldier in a time when many doubted the soundness of our country's involvement in the war in Vietnam. "Doc" left the Point in 1966 for an assignment as a staff officer at the headquarters of the Commander in Chief in Honolulu, Hawaii. Stinson followed the events in Vietnam with particular concern. Stinson, like the fictional "Mr. Roberts," saw the war passing him by. During the time he was desperately seeking a combat command, Stinson never missed an opportunity to show his compassion for those soldiers on "R and R" in Hawaii.

"Doc" Stinson got his wish. In September 1968, Lt. Col. Stinson was given command of the 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 198th Light Infantry Brigade of the famed 23rd "Americal" Division. On March 3, 1969, A Company of the 1st Battalion engaged the North Vietnamese Army. Enemy small arms fire killed three Americans just before noon. Stinson's battalion was sent into Hau Duc in the Valley of Quang Tin Province to protect Vietnamese villagers and relieve the pressure on a Special Forces camp in the area. The company commander requested a "dust off" from helicopter gun ships to relieve the situation (A Company had been cut off from the other two companies). Incoming enemy mortar fire began enfilading A company's position. The dust off helicopter was shot down just after one o'clock. The enemy shot off the tail rotor of the first medivac copter sent in to remove the casualties. Additional air strikes were called in.

A lull in the fighting began just before three o'clock. LTC Stinson borrowed the Command and Control Helicopter from Col. Tulley. The helicopter was manned by the 1st Flight Platoon of the Company A, 123rd Aviation Battalion. Stinson, anxious about the condition of his men, took the copter in to bring out the dead and the dying. A second medivac copter was able to get out the wounded. Stinson's helicopter, with a fresh supply of ammunition, landed without major incident. 2nd Lt. William Cox, commanding the third platoon of A Company, sloshed through the water to the edge of a rice paddy. Cox and another man handed two dead men up to Col. Stinson, while the helicopter pilot hovered his craft (an easy target for enemy riflemen). Lt. Cox was the last person to speak with Stinson as he gave him the thumbs up signal to take off. As the ship ascended into the air for the quick trip to Landing Zone Baldy, Stinson crouched next to the open door holding onto a lifeless body so that it wouldn't fall out. A single .51 cal MG shot rang out. The only round to hit its mark struck the colonel in the leg. The pilot radioed Cox that the round hit the colonel in the leg and exited through his neck. The pilot reported "it didn't look good." The wound was mortal. Stinson never made it to the landing zone.

This wasn't the first time the Colonel had flown into lethal situations to rescue his men. On a prior occasion, Stinson was awarded the Silver Star, America's third highest award for heroism and known as the "Soldier's Medal," for risking his life to save the lives of others. On many occasions, LTC Stinson guided his helicopter into close contact with the enemy. On one occasion on New Year's Eve on the last day of the tumultuous year of 1968. He made the only kills on the regiment's attack near LZ Professional. For his valor on that fatal third day of March 1969, LTC Stinson was posthumously awarded his second Silver Star.

Just like "Mr. Roberts," "Doc" Stinson gave his life serving his country. The men of his command, who thought the world of him, renamed their base camp, "Fire Support Base Stinson." The United States Army honored the memory of LTC Stinson by naming a guest house at Fort Gordon in his honor. William Stinson was a "soldier's soldier." A member of his command said after his death, " I have met few men in my life that I had as much respect and admiration for... He was a fine man." Stinson's former boss at West Point summed up his feelings for Doc upon his burial at the West Point Cemetery: "To pay honor to Doc as he comes home to the place which I guess next to God, his country, and his family he loved best of all. There was always something special about Doc - something that made him better. I think perhaps it was a combination of gentle compassion, his quiet courage, and his deep and genuine concern for the feeling and well being of others."

Lt. Cox eulogized Stinson by commending his personal "hands on"style of leadership. " I think as a matter of principle, he had a deeply held private conviction about what's right that led this much experienced, decorated, and wounded senior warrior to share the risks of battle directly with the soldiers he commanded. He was always a visible presence on our battlefields. He demanded success when we met the enemy and he often demonstrated for us, over the battle zone and delivering supplies and extracting wounded, the courage needed to achieve success in our fights."


Comments

Pat Grum said…
Thanks for profiling Doc Stinson. We are family friends of his and my parents, BG Al and Jane Grum, are life long friends who will attend the ceremony.

Each year my family picks one service member among the many that have passed to honor as part of Memorial Day. This year my three sons will read your post along with other information about LTC Doc Stinson so their generation, as well as future generations, do not forget the sacrifices made by our service members.
Scott Thompson said…
An admirable tradition.
Unknown said…
Lt. Col. Stinson, "Doc" commandeered a dust off chopper to drop ammo and pick up my brother and best friend Sp. 4 Robert John Campbell's body from the paddy that they were pinned down in. Two bodies were hoisted up to Doc and He grabbed Johnny's when a snipers bullet hit Doc in the leg and went out his shoulder killing him while still holding on to Johnny. I expressed the love of this soldier for his men to Johnny's family at the funeral of his mother. Doc knows he was loved by his men, and even not being one of them, I love him too.

Pierre Beauregard
Marine Corpsman 3rd MAW.