Medal of Honor
WILLETT, LOUIS E.*
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 15 February 1967.
Entered service at: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born: 19 June 1945, Brooklyn, N.Y.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Willett distinguished himself while serving as a rifleman in Company C, during combat operations. His squad was conducting a security sweep when it made contact with a large enemy force. The squad was immediately engaged with a heavy volume of automatic weapons fire and pinned to the ground. Despite the deadly fusillade, Pfc. Willett rose to his feet firing rapid bursts from his weapon and moved to a position from which he placed highly effective fire on the enemy. His action allowed the remainder of his squad to begin to withdraw from the superior enemy force toward the company perimeter. Pfc. Willett covered the squad's withdrawal, but his position drew heavy enemy machinegun fire, and he received multiple wounds enabling the enemy again to pin down the remainder of the squad. Pfc. Willett struggled to an upright position, and, disregarding his painful wounds, he again engaged the enemy with his rifle to allow his squad to continue its movement and to evacuate several of his comrades who were by now wounded. Moving from position to position, he engaged the enemy at close range until he was mortally wounded. By his unselfish acts of bravery, Pfc. Willett insured the withdrawal of his comrades to the company position, saving their lives at the cost of his life. Pfc. Willett's valorous actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
This message was received on 10 May 2001:
A couple of questions about Medal of Honor winner Louis Willett.
I am the editor of the Catholic newspaper in Brooklyn, N.Y. We plan to make mention of Pfc. Willett in our upcoming Memorial Day issue. This morning, I visited the gravesite of Pfc. Willett in St. John's Cemetery, in the Queens section of New York City, where there is also a flagpole dedicated to his honor.
Which leads me to this question - what marker is shown on the website? That's not his grave here in Queens. Is there another marker elsewhere? Or is actually buried somewhere else?
Also, does anyone known anything about the Catholic background of Pfc. Willett - for instance, did he attend Catholic schools? What parish did he live in? Obviously, he is Catholic because he is apparently buried here in a Catholic cemetery. Also, the gravesite here is actually a family plot with another name. His name is simply engraved on the lower right corner near the grass edge.
Editor of The Tablet
Brooklyn, N. Y.
By Ed Wilkinson, May 26, 2001
We celebrate Memorial Day every year lest we forget the sacrifices made by those who have died in service to our country and also by their families.
In Queens, there are two memorials to two local men, both recipients of the U.S. Medal of Honor, who paid the ultimate price in Vietnam.
At St. John's Cemetery, Middle Village, the flagpole near the main entrance off Metropolitan Ave. and 80th St. is dedicated in honor of Medal of Honor winner Pfc. Louis E. Willett. His remains are buried in the area across the road in Sect. 37.
Willett, who grew up in St. Benedict Joseph Labre parish, Richmond Hill, and attended the parish school and Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, lost his life on Feb. 15, 1967 in Kontum Province, Vietnam.
He was a rifleman with Company C which engaged the Viet Cong while on a security sweep. His squad was pinned down by heavy automatic weapons fire. Despite a deadly fusillade, Willett rose to his feet firing rapid bursts and moving to a positon from which he could place effective fire upon the foe.
His action allowed the rest of the squad to begin to withdraw. Willett covered the withdrawal but his position drew heavy machinegun fire and he received multiple wounds as the squad was once again trapped.
Willett, in heroic disregard of his painful wounds, struggled to an upright stance and again engaged the enemy with his rifle so that his squad could continue and several of his wounded comrades could be evacuated. He engaged in close range battle until he fell from mortal wounds.
Because of his unslefish actions, many of Willett's fellow soldiers were saved that day. For that, he was posthumously awarded the nation's Medal of Honor.
Andy Matura, a classmate of Willett at Molloy, recalled that "Lou was an 80s student but whenever he took a scholarship test (not based on how hard you studied but on how well your mind works) he won something."
Recalling that Wuillett played football with the Lyn Vets League in Queens, Matura said, "He was a big guy... Never once saw him bully anybody or throw his weight around, except in the field, of course."
Matura, who survived his tour of Vietnam, said he didn't know his classmate had fallen until he returned home and heard the news.
"It meant a lot to me to see his commednation" as a Medal of Honor winner, he said.
At his burial site, the name of Louis Willett is inconspicuously located in the bottom right hand corner of a stone bearing the name " ." Presumably it's a family plot.
Not too far away in Sunnyside, there's a city playground named for a fallen Medal of Honor Marine, Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan, Jr., who was killed Feb. 5, 1969 in the A Shau Valley.
As his fire team began a sharp desecnt down a slippery slope made more treacherous by heavy rains, Noonan's squad came under heavy fire from the North Vietnamese, who were well concealed in the rocky terrain. When four of his men were pinned down by enemy fire, Noonan left his relatively safe spot, maneveured down the slope near those trapped and shouted words of encouragement. He then dashed across the terrain and began dragging the most seriosuly wounded from the fire-swept area. Wounded and knocked to the ground, he regained his step and continued to carry a buddy. He was, however, mortally wounded before he could reach safety. His heroic actions inspired his team who began a spirited asssault upon the enemy, forcing them to withdraw.
We can enjoy life today in a free society because what men like Louis Willett and Dan Noonan did in a faraway place at a time not too long ago. May they rest in peace. May their names never be forgotten.
On 6 September 2000, Andy Matura wrote:
Congratulations on your site. I went to high school with Lou Willett. It meant a lot to me to see his commendation + personal info + high school yearbook photo all in one place.
Lou was an 80s student but whenever he took a scholarship test (not based on how hard you studied but on how well your mind works) he won something (in his case a NY State scholarship). He was a BIG (as in Robert Mitchum) guy, played league football. Never once saw him bully anybody or throw his weight around (except on the field, of course).
Rest In Peace, Lou Willett.
--- General / Personal ---
Last name: WILLETT
First name: LOUIS EDWARD
Home of Record (official): RICHMOND HILL
State (official): NY
Date of Birth: Tuesday, June 19, 1945
Marital Status: Single
--- Military ---
Serial Number: 51580250
Component: Selective Service
Pay grade: E3
MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): 11B10
--- Action ---
Start of Tour: Thursday, July 21, 1966
Date of Casualty: Wednesday, February 15, 1967
Age at time of loss: 21
Casualty type: (A3) Hostile, died while missing
Reason: Gun, small arms fire (Ground casualty)
Country: South VietNam
The Wall: Panel 15E - Row 037
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