In Memory

William Thomas (Billy) Roberson

Pete Baldwin reports that  William Thomas Roberson died 31 Jan 1969 in Quang Ngai, Vietnam.

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05/22/09 11:15 PM #1    

David Mallon

Below was copied from Class '68 website about Billy. I didn't know Billy real well but knew him. His description below,in the Marines, is the Billy I knew. He was a happy go lucky, friendly kid. He always had a smile on his face and was good for a laugh most anytime. He was one of the first from our school to lose his life in Vietnam.

David Mallon

Billy began his tour of duty on August 20, 1968, serving with the Marines in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam.

Billy's name is listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C..
Panel 33W - Line 23

Billy was a Private First Class in Kilo Company, 3rd Batallion, 26th Marine Regiment; he was a radioman, known to his buddies as "Robbie." He was known as a "good Marine," and was very popular and well-liked.

At that time, the 3/26th Marines were engage in Operation Bold Mariner, an amphibious operation with the objective of destroying enemy forces in the 2-mile-square tip of the Batangan Peninsula, where hundreds of NVA troops were deeply rooted in a maze of tunnels, foxholes and booby traps. In addition, the entire area was carpeted with dense mine fields. It was a real mess, and was extremely, extremely dangerous.

Billy's platoon left camp after sunrise, and began crossing an open area in the jungle after walking about 200 yards. His commanding officer paused and told Billy he needed to send a message. As was standard practice, Billy dropped down to one knee to operate the radio.

At that moment, a large Marine named "Corky," weighing perhaps 250 pounds, stepped on a huge anti-tank mine. The explosion was tremendous; men were blown "as high as a telephone pole," setting off more mines along with those exploded by other soldiers, most of them injured, staggering around in panic. It was truly a scene from a nightmare: utter, total chaos.

By the time the smoke cleared, 20 Marines lay dead, and many more injured. Billy, as he kneeled to operate the radio, had been struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel from the mine. A chopper took him to an offshore hospital ship, where he died about 2 hours later.

To this day, that commanding officer feels a weight of guilt, always wondering whether Billy would still be alive today if he hadn't told him to send that message.

Billy's parents lived in a small, modest house a couple blocks off of South 11th Street, near the Fair Park football field. A friend who served with Billy visited them about 10 years after the war. One entire wall of their living room, from floor to ceiling, was covered with pictures of Billy, his medals, honors, pictures from boot camp, etc. He owed Billy $100 from some previous adventure and wanted to repay it, so he gave it to Billy's mother. She threw her arms around him and wept.

Billy is buried in the Field of Honor in Elmwood Cemetery in Abilene.

Let us always remember and honor William Thomas Roberson for making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.

03/31/19 12:13 AM #2    

Janet Weeth (Weeth)

Thank-you for your service, Billy. You paid the ultimate price for our freedom and I honor you for that sacrafice. I may have disagreed with the cause and those who started our commitments there. But I never dishonored your choice or your service. You served well.  Janet Weeth

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