Bill Carpenter

Last updated
Bill Carpenter
Bill Carpenter.jpg
Born: (1937-09-30) September 30, 1937 (age 83)
Springfield, Pennsylvania
Career information
Position(s) End
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight210 lb (95 kg)
College Army
High school Springfield High School
Career history
As player
1957–1959 Army
Honors1959 consensus All-American
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held 10th Mountain Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit [1]

William Stanley Carpenter Jr. (born September 30, 1937) is a retired American military officer and former college football player. While playing college football at the United States Military Academy, he gained national prominence as the "Lonesome End" of the Army football team. During his military service in the Vietnam War, he again achieved fame when he saved his company by directing airstrikes on his own position. For the action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.


Personal life

Carpenter was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, on September 30, 1937 to William Stanley Carpenter, Sr. (1907–1945) and Helen Carpenter (née Sparks). Private First Class Carpenter, Sr. served in the United States Army as an ammunition bearer in the 393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division and was killed in action in the Ruhr Pocket. He is interred in Margraten, Netherlands, at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Helen remarried and relocated the family to the Philadelphia area.

Carpenter was a 1955 graduate of Springfield High School, Springfield, Pennsylvania [2] and later attended the Manlius School (now Manlius Pebble Hill School) in Manlius, New York. [3]

Carpenter married Toni M. Vigliotti in 1961 and had three children: William S. Carpenter III (1962), Kenneth Carpenter (1964), and Stephen Carpenter (1965).

College football career

While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, Carpenter played as a split end on the football team, alongside Heisman Trophy-winning halfback and fellow combat infantryman Pete Dawkins. Carpenter earned the nickname the "Lonesome End" as a result of the team's tactic of aligning him near the far sideline and leaving him outside of huddles. [4] He played on the undefeated 1958 West Point team, and in 1959, while team captain, was named an All-American. Legendary Army head coach Earl Blaik, who spent twenty years on the Army coaching staff, called Carpenter "the greatest end I ever coached at West Point."

In 1982, Carpenter was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. [5]

Military career

Upon graduation, Carpenter was commissioned as an infantry officer and went on to serve at least two tours in Vietnam. In 1964, he was an adviser assigned to an airborne brigade of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. That unit came under heavy enemy fire immediately after being inserted by helicopter into a sugar cane field. Bill Carpenter was wounded by a gunshot through the arm while changing rifle magazines. His radio set was hit with another bullet and he was spun around and knocked to the ground. He proceeded to eliminate the source of the enemy fire, by knocking out a bunker with a hand grenade. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star, the U.S. Army's third highest award for valor in combat. [6]

In 1966, Captain Carpenter's C Company, 2/502nd Parachute Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division took part in Operation Hawthorne, fighting North Vietnamese forces near Dak To on the Kontum plateau in the Central Highlands. As it maneuvered in an attempt to relieve Major David Hackworth's engaged 1/327th Infantry, C Company became isolated and in danger of being overrun. As the situation grew desperate, Carpenter radioed the battalion air traffic controller for a napalm airstrike on his own position: "We're overrun, they're right in among us. I need an air strike on my position." [7] Several of his soldiers were wounded by the close air support, but it blunted the enemy attack and prevented the envelopment of his company. C Company was then able to consolidate and eventually break out. For his actions, he was again awarded the Silver Star, which was later upgraded to the U.S. Army's second highest wartime medal, the Distinguished Service Cross [8] and earned the nickname, "Napalm Bill" Carpenter. [8]

Carpenter committed another act of heroism on February 1, 1967, at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon when he carried an injured man to safety after a plane crash landed. After a C-123 Provider military transport aircraft made a belly landing on the runway, Captain Carpenter "hoisted the injured man onto his shoulders and scampered from the gasoline-soaked plane." [3]

In 1984, Carpenter went on to take command of the newly activated 10th Mountain Division and, finally, the Combined Field Army in Korea. [9] He eventually retired as a lieutenant general and settled in Montana.

See also

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  1. "Military Times Hall of Valor – Valor awards for William Stanley Carpenter, Jr". Military Times . Archived from the original on 2014-02-21.
  2. "Still Lonesome End, still a military legend," Philadelphia Inquirer, Frank Fitzpatrick, December 1, 2006
  3. 1 2 "Carries Injured Man to Safety: Bill Carpenter Hero Again," Syracuse Post Standard, Feb 3, 1967
  4. "The Lonesome End". Sports Illustrated . October 4, 1993. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  5. "Bill "The Lonely End" Carpenter". College Football Hall of Fame . Football Foundation. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  6. "'Things could be tense' for soldiers in Kosovo". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved Apr 28, 2020.
  7. Baldinger, Mike. "Dak To – June 1966". 2nd 502nd Strike Force Widow Makers. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
  8. 1 2 Zintl, Robert T.; Kane, Joseph J.; Reingold, Edwin M. (15 April 1985). "Viet Nam: New Roles for an Old Cast". Time . Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  9. "Sports People; Still Gaining". The New York Times. 4 August 1984. Retrieved 28 April 2020.

Additional sources