William Joseph SteffesSpecialist Five
520TH PERS SVC CO (BIEN HOA AB), 1 LOG CMD
Army of the United States
13 September 1946 - 31 January 1968
St Cloud, Minnesota
Panel 36E Line 039
The database page for William Joseph Steffes
I remember William Steffes so well. He was one of those really clean-cut men that we darned Easterners from New York City don't see too often on our dirty sidewalks. He was always chipper, always with a wry sense of humor, and he always had his area of the barracks some 10 times cleaner than the rest of us.
His character was better than most, too. I remember we once started a game of cards, poker it was... and he had a string of luck... and instead of winning five bucks he kept winning and winning. Towards the end, he doubled his pot and then doubled it again and then lost it, then ended the game. I was the only one sitting where I could see his cards - and I know for a fact that he decided to lose his winnings. He was willing to win a dollar or two - but to win one hundred, when that was more than we were earning per month, was too much.
So he simply lost his winnings, smiled, shrugged, and ended his game.
He was one of those guys for whom integrity was worth a lot more than a few dollars. I wish I met more like him in this world.
As regards his passing: One day he was with us, the next he was gone. Incoming fire hit him in the middle of the Tet Offensive. I know for a fact that it was quick. Death came like the Thief in the Night which is described in the Old Testament. And more to the point: I know for a fact that he did not suffer.
God bless him. I think of him often.
I did not personally know William Steffes, but I remember his death and memorial service. One of the men in my hooch administered first aid to him after he was wounded. I attended his memorial service held at the stage behind the company club building. We were all still dressed in flak jackets and steel pots, because the Tet offensive was still going on. A bugler stood behind us and played Taps at the end of the service. I have never forgotten the emotion of that time and I think of that service every time I hear Taps played.
I have a picture of me leaning on one of those same trees that Bill is leaning on, in a park in Bien Hoa.
Earl (Skip) Herriman
I knew Steffes. I was assigned to the 537th (520th) Personnel Service Company at Bien Hoa, Vietnam. I had only been with the company a week or so - having just extended my tour from the 25th Inf Div. It was at the beginning of February 1968. The Viet Cong and NVA had swept through the village of Bien Hoa using their bayonets and knives on the innocent women and children of the village. When they came out on the other side they found themselves in a small valley between Long Bien and Bien Hoa. The 3rd Squadron of 11th ACR had them encircled. Once they realized they were in a bad position, they came out in a frenzy. The main gate for Bien Hoa reminded me of an old western fort gate. A large group of the enemy came through or over that gate. They overwhelmed members of 101 Airborne who were naming the main perimeter. The only forces between them were the MPs and our company. The few enemy left were finally pinned down and captured inside our jungle training area.
I was standing between the company and the main gate, near one of our shower-rooms and the commander's office. Specialist Steffes was standing between me and the commander's office.
Our company suffered one casualty - Specialist Steffes. Near the end of that day's events, I remember he was struck and quickly died from a large caliber round, I was told later it was a .50 caliber round. Some seemed to believe it may have been a ricochet, possibly from US Forces.
From a fellow soldier,
A Note from The Virtual WallDuring the early morning hours of 31 Jan 1968 the Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon was assaulted by two North Vietnamese battalions supported by sappers and mortar/rocket fire. Although the base perimeter was breached in several places, the primary defenders (the 3rd Security Police Squadron) were able to protect the heart of the base from ground attack until infantry reinforcements arrived at sun-up. Five men are known to have died as a result of the attack:
Photos courtesy of Bob Raymond's
520th PSC site
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 20 Jul 2005
Last updated 08/10/2009