William Overton WinstonCorporal
C CO, 1ST BN, 5TH MARINES, 1ST MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
19 October 1946 - 01 August 1967
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The database page for William Overton Winston
I knew Will very well as I was one of his closest friends and one of the last guys to talk to him the day he was machine gunned to death, just a few days before he was to go home after his 13 month tour in 'Nam. We were buddies in Charlie Co, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division and were based somewhere in Quanq Tin Province, RVN. I will always remember his blond wavy hair, piercing blue eyes, and the friendly smile that was hidden behind his wirey, blond mustache. His down-home sense of humor and stories of rabbit farming at home in Atlanta, Georgia were a welcome distraction from the day to day stresses we all faced together and his infectious laugh lightened even the worst of times.
I remember the day he was killed. He wasn't even assigned to to go out on the patrol because he was so "short". He volunteered to relieve a "boot" and have one last go at it. I told him he was too "short" and nuts to press his luck but his mind had been made up. I was not on the patrol with him but later in the day when I heard he had "bought it" the news wrecked me. As I recall, almost 40 years later, his squad came under enemy fire and he was carrying an M-60. They could not tell where, exactly, they were taking fire from. He stood up from behind a hedgerow to lay down suppressing fire and as soon as he did he was cut down by enemy automatic weapons fire himself. I was told that he did not suffer. He was one of the best liked, friendliest guys in the company and to this very moment I think of him almost every day. He and the memory of the moments we shared as Marine brothers are forever etched in my heart and mind and seem to be as clear to me today as they were then. I love you, brother Marine, and I miss you.
Robert W. Miller
Happy Veterans' Day, 2006. My name is Greg Wood, and I fought with Billy Winston 40 years ago. We remember him every year. Billy was the 81mm Mortar Forward Observer for Charlie Company, 1/5 (1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division). I was the 105 mm Artillery Forward Observer assigned to 1/5 (4 companies. I rotated between companies as casualties to Arty FO's occurred, but spent most of the war with Charlie Co, which seemed to be able to find the most fights - please! Not Charlie again!).
Bye, Bye, American Pie.
You never met a bigger All-American Guy with the blond mustache and toothy grin. In the worst and ugliest times, Billy somehow always had a smile. Unreal. It rained torrentially 24 hours a day for three months, we dug foxholes to sleep in wrapped in ponchos, tried to fix powdered eggs in the morning rain and he was cheerful. Crazy.
Billy taught me to be brave. FO's have to have brains (maps, angles, fuses, ets.) and one night in a foxhole I quietly told Billy "We already have 50% casulities and only 30% of our tour done. We're gonna take hot lead!" He sighed long. "Don't tell the other guys," is all he said.
One time they gave him and me a prisoner to guard. The NVA prisoner policy was to take only officers alive. As non-discriminatory Americans, we didn't differentiate between officers and enlisted, we just killed them all. But here we had this guy shoulder to shoulder when a fight started and we whipped out our maps: Bang! - they shot the POW right out from between us! Ha! Didn't have to worry about the Geneva Convention POW treatment after that. Billy was starting to consider it. Typical.
Billy was there for me on 21 May 67 when an AK-47 round went through my chest below the left nipple, out the back. As I lay bleeding, he told me about the white sheets and round-eyed nurses with big chests I would see - the same bullshit he and I had told probably 50 other Marines we had held bandages on to. And you know, part of me actually believed him even then. He helped carry me on a tree stretcher to the medevac chopper, which was under heavy fire, pissed off, and with bullet holes blowing out the sides - another story. This is about Billy.
I think his family should know Billy had a special way about him, aside from his outstanding personal composition or character (parental upbringing) in his professional performance as a Forward Observer, which meant preserving Marines' lives by killing VC/NVA. As FOs we work numbers, graphs, topography, fuses, etc, all mechanical - Billy was different. He worked the small world of squads, 4-6 guys on patrol out from the Company position, within 200-400 meters of safety. About 50% of these guys ended up in a world of hurts they would never escape - RPG's, machine guns and snipers everywhere. Looking at DOOM. They called Billy.
Billy had this weird ability, almost spiritual, to look at the map, talk to the guys about where they where, listen to the gunfire, and visualize the fight! He would shoot his mortars and BOOM: VC/NVA would die everywhere, Marines would live. I was there - I don't know how he did it. I do know I was there on about 12-15 occasions a squad of Marines would stop by and give Billy today's Hi-Five and thank him for their lives. Lots of 1/5 Marines today are old today thanks to Billy and they sure remember it. I was a little jealous - but Billy Winston was uncanny in his shooting and became almost mythical to the Marines. His family should be proud; we were proud of him always. Semper Fi.
In the first half of 1967 the NVA started moving divisions south for the TET attacks of 1968. Our Marine Company patrols of 100 guys were trying to stop 4,000 NVA troops - pretty much a slaughterhouse and so much for military intelligence - no comment. Billy was upbeat the entire time. Amazing guy.
I was assigned to another company for a short while in eary May 1967 and we bumped into one another - he had a slight scratch on his arm from a mortar round, nothing to worry about but the Corpsman was putting Billy in for a Purple Heart. Early on, we made fun of guys tripping over barbed wire and getting the PH, so it was weird for him to accept this. Then I shook his hand, wanting to hug him (no fag stuff for stone warriors), but we knew we were saying farewell forever - nobody was getting out of this meatgrinder and all there was left was Purple Hearts for our families.
I live in Orlando, my brother-in-law lives in Macon, and my Grandma-in-law has a lake house in Stuart, 20 miles south-east of Jacksonville where we spend Memorial Days. About 10 years ago, we decided to memorialize Billy and a friend of the brother-in-law's buddy also killed in Vietnam. We bought a helmet from a surplus store, sawed and painted a board into a rifle (bayonet for the stake), painted the two names on the helmet's sides, and planted it in the little Veterans' Memorial park in Stuart, figuring it would be good for the weekend. The American Legion maintained that Billy Winston Memorial for SEVEN YEARS until the 2004 hurricanes here blew it away. Don't think your boy has been forgotten, ever.
The reason there are so few posts to this site is that nobody much made it out of there. Billy and I kept track, and of the 100 Marines we started with, only 7 were left when Billy and I were shot. We would have had to hire pallbearers. I heard he took an AK in the middle chest and when the Corpsman flipped him over, he said "Go find somebody you can help." Sounds like Billy.
There were many, many, many days of shooting and shouting, bleeding and dying, incredible noise, but Billy Winston served with the best, and was the best of all of the best.
Thank you for this opportunity to honor Billy.
The point-of-contact for this memorial is|
a Brother Marine,
Robert W. Miller
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 21 Aug 2005
Last updated 11/14/2011