HALE, WILLIAM THOMAS
HALE, WILLIAM THOMAS
Rank / Branch:
1ST LT. USMC
Date of Birth:
HOSTILE, CRASH HELIC
Awards & Decorations:
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WILLIAM THOMAS HALE, FIRST LIEUTENANT, USMC, BIG SPRING, HOWARD COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
USMC Aviator Wings, Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal
William Thomas Hale was born in Bonham, Texas. He was the only son of four children. He was a life time resident of Big Spring, Texas. His parents were school teachers in Forsan and Big Spring. His father died when he was eight years old and from that point on, he was raised by his mother. He attended East Ward Elementary, Runnels Junior High School and Big Spring High School. He was known as "Billy Tom", and "Bill Tom" by his friends. He was described as a intellect. He was a serious person and what ever he did, he did with enthusiasm. He was not judgmental of weaknesses in others. He loved to help people to try to be the best that they could be. Although he was a gifted athletic, he didn't participate in high school sports as he wanted to concentrate on his school work. He graduated with honors from Big Spring High School in 1962 and received a full scholarship to Baylor University.
Big Spring High School-1962
While at Baylor, he continued to excel academically. He received his degree in 1966 with honors and then joined the Marine Corp. He completed Marine Corp Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia and took a commission as a 2LT. He remained at Quantico, Virginia for his basic course and then attended Rotary Flight Training through the U.S. Navy at Pensacola, Flordia. Upon completion of the basic flight training, he was selected for the upgrade to pilot heavier helicopters and trained as a pilot for the CH-46A at the Marine Corp Air Station at Santa Anna, California. At the conclusion of his flight training, Bill Tom was promoted to 1st Lt. and he was sent to Vietnam.
Bill Tom started his tour in Vietnam on September 11, 1968. He was assigned to the HMH-265, 36th Marine Air Group in Da Nang. On October 10, 1968, Bill Tom was the co-pilot of a CH-46A helicopter. He was operating as a part of a group of four CH-46As who were flying re-supply missions to the 5th and 7th Marine Regiments, operating in/around Hill 52 about 5 miles west of An Hoa in the Quang Nam province. The Marines of Mike Company/7th Marines had been taking heavy fire in and around the L.Z. where aerial re-supply was underway. Two previous CH-46As had landed at the L.Z. and completed their re-supply and had taken off. Bill Tom's aircraft, tail number 151917 then landed and off loaded their supplies and took on passengers, 5 marines and a navy corpman (this appears to be in dispute). Two other ground marines, the commanding officer and sergeant major of an artillery battery supporting Mike Company/7th Marines also attempted to get on the craft before it took off, but were waived off by the crew chief. As the CH-46A then began to ascend out of the L.Z. and at a height of about 1500 feet, the aircraft collided with an UH-34D helicopter, tail number 148802, operating in the same area. The UH-34D were operating with a crew of four. Upon impact, the UH-34D exploded and the CH-46A (Bill Tom's aircraft)lost its main rotor and both aircraft and debris came crashing to the ground. The four crewman and passengers on the CH-46A and the four crew man on the UH-34D were all killed. All but two bodies were recovered. The remains of the other two were recovered in 1973.
The subsequent investigation concluded that the area was congested with many helicopters flying personnel and supplies in and out. There were low level clouds and cloud breaks. Although the ground visibility was good, the aircraft at higher altitudes were flying in and out of cloud banks. It was concluded that the CH-46A upon take-off did not see the other aircraft due to blindspots and the overcast conditions. The other aircraft the UH-34D apparently flew out of a cloud bank as the CH-46A was ascending. The area was under heavy fire and although there was no evidence that either craft took any hits from hostile forces, it was classified as hostile due to nature of the area. There seems to be some confusion as to which aircraft was actually carrying the passengers. In documents released and reviewed, the passengers are shown to have been on one or the other aircraft. One witness statement states the CH-46A took off without passengers, another witness states that he was not sure as to why the CH-46A had passengers as their role had been only re-supply.
Funeral services were conducted in Big Spring and First Lieutenant William Tom Hale was buried with full military honors in the Arledge Ridge Cemetery in Bonham, Texas.
His sisters, Jamie Lee Ham is a widow and is a retired RN and lives in Abilene; Mary Sue Echols and her husband live live at Holly Ranch, Texas and she is a retired school principal; Sandy Porter and her husband live in Austin, Texas.
Family Headstone, Arledge Ridge Cemetery, Bonham, Texas