COPLEY, WILLIAM MICHAEL

Name: William Michael Copley
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army 5th Special Forces Group
Unit: Command & Control North, MACV-SOG
Date of Birth: 22 May 1949
Home City of Record:  Northridge CA  (born Columbus OH)
Date of Loss: 16 November 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 144000N 1071754E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 1325
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2020.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  William Copley was born in Columbus, Ohio and joined the Army at
age 18 in Los Angeles California.  When he went to Vietnam, after Special
Forces training, he was attached to MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command,
Vietnam Studies and Observation Group), Command & Control North.  MACV-SOG
was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged
in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia.  The 5th Special
Forces channelled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special
Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided
their "cover while under secret orders to MACV-SOG.  The teams performed
deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which
were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire"
missions.

On November 13, 1968, SP4 Copley was serving as the assistant to the team
leader on a reconnaissance patrol in Laos.  The patrol, together with an
unspecified number of indigenous personnel, was ambushed 16 miles inside
Laos west of Ben Het prior to establishing overnight positions.  SP4 Copley
was wounded in the initial burst of fire.  The bullet entered his upper left
shoulder and exited through the middle of his back.

A teammate, SSgt. Roger T. Loe, carried Copley on his back until he tripped
after traveling a short distance, tried to administer first aid until
Copley's face showed signs of death, and was forced to leave because of
pursuit by hostile forces.

From November 13-15, a search team was in the area and attempted to locate
Copley, but they were forced to withdraw on November 15th when they were
ambushed.  (NOTE: Sources do not agree on the date of incident.  The U.S.
Army shows date of incident as November 13.  The Army did not presume Copley
to be dead/body not recovered, indicating that there is a chance that he was
not dead when left behind.)

Mounting evidence indicates that hundreds of the nearly 2500 Americans still
missing in Southeast Asia are alive today, still captives of a long-ago
enemy. If William Copley is one of them, what must he be thinking of the
country he proudly served?

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01/2020

https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000Ka3BEAS

SSG WILLIAM MICHAEL COPLEY

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Specialist Four (SP4) William Michael Copley entered the U.S. Army from California and served with Command & Control North, 5th Special Forces Group. On November 13, 1968, he embarked on a long-range reconnaissance patrol mission in Laos with a team comprising Vietnamese troops and one other American. He was the assistant team leader and radio operator. On November 16, as the team stopped to establish overnight defensive positions west of Ben Het, the unit was ambushed by an enemy force of unknown size. SP4 Copley was seriously wounded by enemy fire during the attack, and was carried back by his team leader who attempted to administer first aid. However, by the time he examined SP4 Copley, he believed SP4 Copley had died of his wounds. The team was then pushed further back by the enemy and were unable to carry SP4 Copley's body with them as they withdrew. Subsequent attempts to locate SP4 Copley's remains were unsuccessful. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Army promoted SP4 Copley to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSG). Today, Staff Sergeant Copley is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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