GRIFFIS, WILLIAM A. III
GRIFFIS, WILLIAM A. III
Rank / Branch:
Date of Birth:
HOSTILE, CRASH HELIC
Awards & Decorations:
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WILLIAM A. GRIFFIS, III, CAPTAIN, USMC, TOM GREEN COUNTY
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Purple Heart; Navy Commendation's Medal with "V" device; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Campaign Medal
Bill, "Griff" was born in Lubbock, Texas, the oldest of three children born to Mr. and Mrs. William A. Griffis, II. His father was an attorney and the family moved to San Angelo where his dad started a law practice. Bill spent his early years in San Angelo and was a 1958 graduate of San Angelo Central High School. While in high school, he ran track, was a member of the "Zocolos", a social fraternity affiliated with the YMCA and was active in the Episcopal Youth Group.
Bill was an outstanding student. After high school, he attended the University of the South at Suwanne, Tennessee for two years. He successfully sat for the entrance exam for the United States Naval Academy and entered as a midshipman in the fall of 1960. He graduated in 1964 and entered the United States Marine Corps.
Bill and his future wife Sally Baggett had known each other casually through mutual friends and it was not a love at first site thing. Sally stated that it was a case of a big city attorney's son and the daughter of a small town rancher from Ozona, Texas. "We did not like each other, he wouldn't even dance with me at a Paul Jones dance when the whistle blew." In the summer of 1962, they became reacquainted when they met at a gas station in San Angelo. In his junior year at the Academy, she accompanied him to the Army/Navy game and then to the week of graduation for the ring dance. It was there where he proposed. Bill and Sally were married as soon as Bill graduated from the Naval Academy in the summer of 1964.
United States Naval Academy-1964
As soon as Bill was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, his first stop was Quantico, Virginia for his basic course and initial training, he, then was assigned as a platoon leader with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina from 1965-66. He then departed for his first tour in Vietnam with the 2/5, 1966-67. While in Vietnam he was assigned to Headquarter and Service Company, 2nd Battation, 5th Marines where he commanded the Quick Reactionary Force. While in Vietnam, his first daughter, Sara was born in March 1966.
Lt. Griffis returned from Vietnam in 1967 and then was assigned to Camp Pendleton, California where he served as Aide de Camp for Major General Lewis J. Fields. In 1968, Capt. Griffis then reported for duty at Quantico, Virginia to attend AWS and Advisory School. He departed for his second tour as a member of the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV), June 7, 1969. He was assigned to the Delta region advising RVN marines. On January 24, 1970, Capt. Griffis was a passenger on helicopter UH-1H tail number 67-17559 of A Troop, 7th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division. The aircraft picked up an ARVN Major and several ARVN soldiers near a rice paddy. The ARVN's had captured an ammunition box during their operation and they brought it on board. As the aircraft was being lifted off, one of the ARVN soldiers sitting between Capt. Griffis and an ARVN major started to open the box. Capt. Griffis attempted to intercede, the box was booby trapped and it exploded. The explosion torn up the transmission box of the helicopter and thus interfered with the hydraulics making them inoperable. The aircraft came down and landed upside down in the paddy. The pilot, the co-pilot and the gunners made it out safely. Capt. Griffis died within minutes most likely due to the explosion versus the crash. Capt. Griffis was the only U.S. casuality on board.
On Leave with Wife and Daughter in San Angelo-1969
His second daughter, Mitty was born on January 23, 1970, but because of the time difference, his death was about 18 hours after her birth. He never knew that he was the father of a second daughter.
Capt. Griffis was buried in San Angelo, Texas at the Fairmont Cemetery with full military honors. He is survived by his wife, Sally, his daugthers, Sarah Griffis Gee and Patricia "Mitty" Griffis Mirrer, his brother Don, an attorney of San Angelo and his sister Sallie Griffis Helms of Houston.
Sally Griffis has traveled and written much about her husband, Bill. She now lives in Peachtree, Georgia. She earned her B.A. degree in education and her M.S. in counseling psychology and has done many hours toward her doctorate in psychology. Her research project was "The Copeing Patterns of Widows of War." Sarah Dees is married to a physician with an speciality of Emergency Medicine and they live in Virginia. She earned her B.A. degree in Education and her M.Ed in counseling. Patricia "Mitty" Mirrer is married to an orthopedic surgeon and they live in Rhode Island. She earned her B.A. in broadcast journalism. She has won many awards including the Edward R. Murrow for Jounalism Excellence (regional) and has been nominated for an Emmy.
Bill and Sally are the proud grandparents of Hannah Grace Dees, age 4; Abigail Dees, age 2; Alexandria Sally Mirrer, age 3; Emma Elizabeth Mirrer, 4 months and Sarah is expecting a third child in December 2004.
In 1997, Sarah and Mitty accompanied Sally on a one of two research project trips to Vietnam. Mitty was employed by ABC 26 of New Orleans at the time and a photographer accompanied them to document the journey. The 4-part series was shown nationally on ABC and affiliated stations in 1997 and several times since.
Sally Griffis' Vietnam Journey
Fairmont Cemetery-San Angelo, Texas