WILLIAM E BERZINEC - LTC
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- December 11, 1930
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- July 30, 1968
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Bill graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy, in Wayne, PA, in 1949 where he was a member of the wrestling and track teams and attained the honor of the Pershing Rifle.
Bill graduated cum laude from Kent University, in Kent, OH, in 1953 with a degree in psychology. He studied languages there, under his father, who was a professor of Russian at the time. Bill spoke fluent German, Russian and Hungarian. He was President of the Student Union, a Colonel in the Army ROTC, a member of Theta Chi fraternity, the Newman Club, a winner of the Blue Key Award for Campus Activities and was listed twice in “Who’s Who in American Universities.” He was an expert in karate.
Bill entered the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant at Fort Campbell, KY, in 1953 and served five years in the 101st Airborne. He was a Master Parachute Jumper and a two-time Instructor of the Ranger School. He also served in Austria and Germany and two tours in Vietnam. His first tour of duty in Vietnam was in 1961-1962, where he acted as an instructor, teaching American Ranger tactics to the Vietnamese. Later he appeared on the nationally broadcast Television program, “Eyewitness to History”, which described America’s advisory position in Vietnam.
Berzinec was a graduate of the Command and General Staff College, in Fort Leavenworth, KS.
Berzinec had a back operation for a defective disc only a few months prior to returning to Vietnam for his second tour of duty on June 30, 1968, where he assumed command of the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division at the request of General Creighton Abrams, Commander of the United States Forces in Vietnam. During this time, he actively participated in more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory. Berzinec attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) in the US Army. On July 30, 1968, while on a reconnaissance in force mission in Long An Province, Vietnam, during which he exhibited extraordinary heroism, he was killed in action.
Berzinec was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Second Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Occupation Medal, the National Defense Medal with First Oak Leaf Cluster, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Vietnam Service medal, the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and Ranger Tab. Posthumously, he was awarded the Silver Star and First Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry in action, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with First and Second Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart.
Berzinec was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, on August 6, 1968. Eighteen Army Rangers, officers and non-commissioned officers who had previously served with him, were flown from Fort Benning, GA, to serve as pallbearers and honor guard at the church and at the burial. At his burial, his father conducted a solemn high mass of requiem for his son. The eulogy was delivered by the Very Reverend Joseph Jackanich of Hazelton, PA, who had baptized Berzinec 37 years earlier.
Bill was survived by his wife, Nancy Clark Berzinec, his son, Gregory, age seven, his daughter, Lisa Beth, age two, all of Carlisle, PA, his parents Rev. George G. and Mrs. Irene Berzinec, now deceased and his sister Sonia Berzinec of Hollywood, FL.
A park was dedicated in Rahway, NJ, to the memory of William Edward Berzinec. A monument was placed in his honor.
Sources: Gene and Elaine Berzinec (cousins), Father John Berzinec Birch and NJVVMF.
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