Published Assembly Sep '90
Charles Maze Simpson, III No.15352 Class of 1946
Died 23 October 1984 in Boulder Creek California, aged 61 years.
Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York
Shortly after his death, there appeared in Gung
Ho magazine "A Tribute to Colonel Charles M. (Bill) Simpson,"
written by John B. Dwyer. One paragraph of this very fine article
epitomized what made Bill such an exceptional individual. It
read, "In all, Colonel Bill Simpson was one of the last
of that rare breed of soldier-scholar who went into Special Forces
early on... and stayed. He was representative of the classic
Chinese ideal of the warrior, equally at home wielding a sword
or a pen."
Charles Maze Simpson, III, known always to his
family and friends as Bill, was born at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
on 11 September 1923. Bill's father was in the Signal Corps and
this had a great influence on his activities as he became a teen-ager.
He lived in the Philippines from 1937 until 1940, and one of
his favorite pastimes was working his own short wave radio. He
was probably the youngest "ham" operator in the Pacific
at the time. Bill's family returned to the States and he graduated
from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC. This was followed
by a year at the University of Kentucky and then on to Sullivan's
Preparatory School before entering West Point in 1943.
In addition to wearing stars, Bill was active in
many aspects of cadet life. He served on the Honor Committee
and the Pointer staff, and played the Cadet Chapel chimes, as
well as being a member of the Radio Club. Commissioned In the
Infantry upon graduation, Bill at-tended the usual schools at
Fort Benning, Georgia. His first troop assignment was in Germany
as a member of' the Constabulary, then with the 1st Battalion,
16th Infantry, in Vienna, Linz, and Saalfelden, where he consecutively
commanded a platoon, rifle company, then on up to battalion S-2
and S-4 and assistant S-3. He returned to CONUS in 1950 as commander
of H Company, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.
Nineteen fifty-two saw Bill in Korea as commander
of K Company, 17th Infantry, 7th Division. He gained quite a
reputation during that period, not only as a splendid soldier,
but as a leader with definite ideas as to how things should be
done. From his company, Bill went on to become S-1 and then S-3
of the 17th Infantry. In January 1975, Bill wrote an article
in Army magazine about one of his experiences as S-3. The article
tells how Bill became an observer on the Army's first night air
mission of the Korean War which resulted in the destruction of
an enemy ammunition convoy.
Following Korea, Bill returned to Fort Benning
to attend the Infantry Advanced Course. He decided to attend
the Ranger School out of curiosity about their level of excellence;
he discovered that the level of excellence was as high as he'd
hoped. Following Ranger School, Bill attended Harvard and received
a master's in public administration. From Harvard, he returned
to West Point with the Social Sciences Department. It was here
that his exceptional intellectual talents had a chance to flourish.
After spending a summer at the American University, Beirut, he
became associate professor of Middle Eastern History and wrote
the first course in Middle East History. Next came the Command
and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was
after this tour that Bill volunteered for Special Forces, and
his first assignment was to the 10th Special Forces Group, Bad
Tolz, Germany, where he spent four years. Two of these years
found him in command of the Middle Eastern C Company for Europe.
Bill led C Company on training missions to Turkey, Greece, Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, Iran and Pakistan. It was back to the States
in 1963 to the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia,
and then a tour with the Joint Chiefs of Staff J-2 where Bill
was principal staff officer for Laos in the National Military
Command Center. In 1965, Bill was selected to attend the Army
War College, and in 1966 then-Lieutenant Colonel Simpson went
to South Vietnam where he served as deputy commanding officer,
5th Special Forces Group (Air-borne). The group was responsible
for over 100 camps spread from the DMZ to the Gulf of Siam. Interestingly
enough, when Bill became deputy of the group, three classmates
were also assigned-- Lea Parmly, Dick Ruble and Tom Huddleston.
Tom recalls the visits from Bill to his company in Bien Hoa and
how, during these visits, they came to know the soldier side
of each other quite well. He remembers Bill as the personification
of the military virtues we include in the title "soldier."
Bill understood delegation and let subordinates fight their war
without oversupervising. However, he missed very little and was
right there when requested or when the situation demanded his
attention. Bill's crowning achievement during that assignment
was bringing the highly effective indigenous Mobile Strike Force
from l000 to l0,000 men and making sure they were all airborne
qualified. Bill made a combat jump with his 5th Mike Force into
Bunard on 1 April 1967, one of his 96 lifetime jumps.
Next for Bill was a tour at West Point as the senior
tactical officer in the 4th Regiment, USCC. A classmate recalls
that Bill was a great conservative in preaching the military
values they were trying to get across but a great advocate of
change in the traditional systems. He did all he could to revise
the plebe system, the bluebook and cadet regulations, and the
system of punishments and rewards so that they would have more
impact on modern cadets who were then entering the Academy.
Following his tour at West Point, Bill became commander
of the 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa He followed a classmate,
Bob Rheault, who took command of 5th Special Forces Group in
Vietnam. It was understood that in a year Bill would again succeed
Bob as commander of the 5th. However, in August seven members
of the 5th Special Forces Group, including its commander, were
detained for investigation by the Military Advisory Command Vietnam
as a result of the disappearance of a South Vietnamese double
agent. Bill Simpson rushed from Okinawa to Vietnam to help plead
the case for his very close friend, Bob Rheault. His defense
of Bob's actions to General Abrams was lucid and articulate.
Not only did he defend Bob in Saigon, but he flew back to Washington
to do the same there. Bill paid a high price for his loyalty
to Bob, the Special Forces and his own principles. Instead of
being given command of the 5th Special Forces Group, Bill returned
to teach at the Army War College. He retired alter this assignment
in 1973 with the rank of colonel. That his defense of a friend
and his own principles cost Bill his chance at stars is a moot
point. However, a great many of his contemporaries and classmates
feel this was the case. Without a doubt he was one of the most
talented men in the Army, with that rare combination of the ability
to lead men in combat plus exceptional intellectual capacity.
His talents were particularly valuable in Special Forces where
the "book" had not been written and innovation and
creativity were needed. It is widely believed that most of the
new initiatives developed during his years in Special Forces
were his. There are more than just a few who consider Bill Simpson
to have had the finest "military mind" of his generation.
While on active duty, Bill received the Silver Star, three Bronze
Stars for Valor, Purple Heart, four Legions of Merit, Army Commendation
Ribbon, five Air Medals ... Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese,
Thai and Indonesian jump wings; and two awards of the Combat
Infantryman Badge (for Korea and Vietnam).
Following his retirement, Bill joined the BDM Corporation,
a Washington "think tank," where he could turn his
intellectual and writing ability loose. In his seven years with
BDM, he specialized in Communist ground forces doctrine and practices,
contributing scenarios ranging from those in the Warsaw Pact/NATO,
around the periphery of the Soviet Union to Soviet/PRC conflicts
in Xinjang to Manchuria. He also prepared technical reports involving
such diverse subjects as weapons systems, ground launched cruise
missiles, the vulnerability of the US light division and modification
of the M-60 tank. One of his major works was "World Power
Structure in the Year 2000," to include US, Soviet and Chinese
forces. During this period he served as deputy director of the
Senior International Joint Intelligence course conducted by the
Defense Intelligence Agency. The ten-week course taught senior
officers from 14 countries the details of the conduct of operations
of national level joint military intelligence.
In 1981 Bill left BDM to write his book, Inside
the Green Berets, the story of the US Army Special Forces. The
book was published in 1983. Bill had started on two more books.
One, Tales of the Green Berets, was to include exclusively Special
Forces battles of A Shau, Due Co and Plei Me. Another was in
collaboration with a former Special Forces captain,
In 1984, Bill learned that he had cancer of the
lung, spleen and brain. In a letter to a classmate, he expressed
high hopes of winning this battle, but it was not to be. Bill
Simpson died at his sister's house in California on 23 October
1984. He is survived by four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Charles
Bill Simpson had that rare ability to lead inspirationally
in the field, gaining and holding the loyalty and devotion of
his men. He also had the intellectual capacity for important
study, research, teaching and writing; a constantly questioning
and searching mind; and the imagination to develop and try new
ideas even when others scoffed. He was a warm and caring friend
and a devoted father,
In December of 1987, when the 1st Special Forces
Group (Airborne) moved into its new headquarters at Fort Lewis,
Washington, certain buildings and roads were named in honor of
outstanding Special Forces soldiers. Road #6 in the 1st Special
Forces Group Compound at Fort Lewis was designated Simpson Street
in honor of Colonel Charles Maze Simpson, III. Bill felt an exceptional
sensitivity for three events in his life. He loved the sight
of his children gathered in his house, the steel in the eye of
a Special Forces trooper, and good news about a West Point classmate.
It just could be that in that "Long Gray Line"
there is a proud soldier wearing a Green Beret. "Well Done,
Bill; Be Thou At Peace."
1946 Memorial Article Project and his son Angus