William Anderson Branch

Army of the United States
11 July 1941 - 06 June 1970
Belleville, New Jersey
Panel 09W Line 018


Silver Star


Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
William A Branch

The database page for William Anderson Branch

02 Dec 1997

Captain William A. Branch

The Greatest Man I never Knew

In a black Army footlocker kept in the attic, the treasures of my artist father were found. His paintbrushes were brittle and decaying. His medals lay neatly in their presentation boxes. His pipes lined up like tired soldiers. There were musty letters, crumbling art gum erasers, black and white photos and inks drying up in colorful tubes. These were the poignant reminders that a creative soul had once lived in the midst of war and death. And I could not remember his smile.

Mon and Dad I lived without him for the first half of my life. Vietnam was the word we only whispered. I was very small when he died on what was to be his last mission over Dau Tieng,a place I couldn't find on a map. I could not put to words, the angry images that filled my young heart. Twisted metal. Machine gun fire. A yellowed telegram. I longed to see my mother miss him, but I could not bear to ask her to go back. I had always known how he died. What I wanted was to know how he lived, and how he loved. I have spent my lifetime exploring his attic. This is the story of my search.

I drove up GA 400 at eighteen, and entered North Georgia College, the military school where my parents first met. I went on a scholarship named after him. I found that same name etched in stone on a memorial there and at once all my roads led to granite, shining and solid.

On campus, I saw his green uniform every day. I heard his deep voice call cadence through the mountains in the morning. I felt his presence in the proud sounds of taps each night. I found his drawings in the old yearbooks. Professors and alumni remembered him well. Creative spirit. Military bearing. "Hey little girl don't forget me." In dreams. In crowded rooms. In faded photos of my mother smiling ... happier than I had ever seen. Boyd, Mitchiner, Scholes, Lord. These were the men who first outlined the man. This was the place that made me feel like my father's child. The three of us

Now I am meeting the men who were with him in Vietnam. Esler, Levy, Gorman, Shields. There are too many to name. They watched his back during combat. They touch his name in Washington.

They call him "the good captain." They tell me that he cared about his men. That his maps were detailed and amazing. That his artist's eye helped gather the intelligence others failed to see. Many say he's responsible for getting them home. They tell me of a decorated soldier and a wise leader. A man who honored life. Silver star, Bronze star, Purple hearts. They say he had good instinct, a quick wit. They say I can be proud.

The hero they remember is just a man though ... an honorable man who loved my mother and my country deeply. Maybe that is what heroes are. The photos I have of him holding me are treasures. His loving letters to my mother are really gifts to me. Lessons on how a man should treat a woman. The day I heard his voice on reel-to-reel, it felt so soothing and soft. Like I had heard it a thousand times in my heart. Strange familiar. He loved this country enough to protect it. He loved me enough to leave me a legacy I can be proud of. As I outlive him, I am in awe of him ... that quiet, creative man who was my father.

We buried him thirty years ago on June 19th at Fort Benning. Just a few years before the U.S. pulled out of Saigon. More than a decade before I watched the Berlin Wall crumble. This Father's Day, Mom and I will say goodbye together at The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, with hundreds of other families affected by that war. Vietnam is not the word we will whisper anymore. Death kills only people, not relationships. Not legacies. Not heroes. Hello Dad, remember me? I will remember you.

A memorial from his daughter,
Jennifer Branch Denard
E-Mail may be forwarded via the

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Two men from Headquarters Company, 2/14 Infantry, were killed when OH-6A tail number 68-17366 was shot down 10 kilometers southeast of the Dau Tieng base camp - Captain William A. Branch and Captain William L. Byrd of Rossville, Georgia.

Captain Branch was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam; his first was in 1966-67 when he served as a MACV Advisor with the 2nd Bn, 46th ARVN Infantry in Long An Province.

North Georgia College is "The Military College of Georgia," a Senior Military College.

Neither as large nor as well known as some of the Senior Military Colleges (The Citadel, VMI, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, and Norwich) The Military College of Georgia has provided commissioned officers to the Armed Forces since the 1870s.

The twenty-seven members of North Georgia's Corps of Cadets who died in Vietnam are remembered by a memorial stone on the campus. Captain Branch is the third name engraved on the memorial. Similar stones remember the men who died in the World Wars, Korea, and more recently in the Middle East.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his daughter,
Jennifer Branch Denard


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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 02 Dec 1997
Last updated 6/7/2012