William J. Lacey, Jr. was born in Newport, Rhode Island to William and Nancy Lacey. Bill was a graduate of Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island where he participated in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (JROTC) as a member of the Drill Team and Rifle Team. He was also a member of the Cross Country Team, the Chemistry Club, the Photography Club; and he participated in the Senior Class Play.
Immediately after graduating from Rogers High School, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served at Fort Devens, MA and in Germany, obtaining the rank of Sergeant. In 1959, Bill entered the University of Rhode Island. He was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, President of the Phi Delta Professional Society, President of the German Club, President of the University Theater, Treasurer of the Student Senate and a member of the Army ROTC Program for four years. Upon graduating in 1963, Bill was designated a Distinguished Military Graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
After completing the Infantry Officers’ Basic Course and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Lacey was assigned as an Infantry Platoon Leader with the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. LT Lacey volunteered for the Special Forces and completed the U.S. Army Special Forces Officers’ Course and was initially assigned to Germany with the 5th Special Forces Group.
The 5th Group deployed to Vietnam in October 1966. Captain, Lacey distinguished himself by heroic actions on 12 October 1967 while serving as a member of the Special Forces in the Mekong Delta, Republic of Vietnam. During an attack on his base camp by a large Viet Cong force, Captain Lacey disregarded heavy small arms fire and shrapnel to move throughout the compound to check for wounded and to encourage his men. Completely ignoring his own safety, he volunteered to lead a squad outside the compound to secure a landing zone for medical evacuation helicopters.
While returning to the camp, he found an unexploded recoilless rifle round in the Vietnamese school yard next to the camp. At great risk to his own safety, he cleared the area of civilians and carried the potentially explosive round to a bunker where it was destroyed. For Gallantry in Action and Personal Bravery, Captain Bill Lacey, Jr., was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for Valor.
CPT Lacey returned to the United States in December 1967 to attend the Infantry Officers’ Advanced Course, Fort Benning, Georgia. He immediately volunteered for a second combat tour in Vietnam. He assumed command of D Company, 2d Battalion 7th Cavalry, First Cavalry Division. He again distinguished himself by exceptional valorous action on 28 March 1969, during a combat operation near Bien Hoa, Vietnam when his unit was attacked by an enemy force. The enemy had initiated the attack after shooting down a resupply helicopter.
After rescuing the helicopter crew, CPT Lacey exposed himself to intense hostile fire as he moved between several positions, instilling confidence in his men and directing fire upon the assaulting enemy when he received a painful fragmentation wound. In spite of his wound, he completed reorganizing his company and fought off the enemy attack. He was awarded Purple Heart for his wound. In addition, for Gallantry in Action and Personal Bravery, Captain Lacey was awarded the Silver Star Medal for Heroism.
Captain Lacey again distinguished himself by exceptional valorous action on 12 May 1969 during an enemy assault on Fire Base Jamie, Vietnam, when a large enemy force breached the protective wire and seized two perimeter bunkers. Lacey organized a counterattack which routed the remaining enemy from the Fire Base. For Gallantry in Action and Personal Bravery, Lacey was awarded the Silver Star Medal 1st Oak Leaf Cluster.
As a Major and Lieutenant Colonel, Lacey served at various staff levels within the United States and Europe. His awards include the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star for Valor (2OLC), Bronze Star for Merit (3OLC), Purple Heart (1OLC), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Meritorious Service Medal (3OLC), Army Commendation Medal (2OLC), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Special Forces Tab, and Master Parachutist Badge.
Colonel William J. Lacey, Jr. died from cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange on 1 October 2013. Bill is survived by his wife Virginia and their two sons. Colonel Lacey was a loyal supporter of the Washington, DC Chapter of the University of Rhode Island Alumni Association. He was a brave and courageous soldier, a true hero and native son of Rhode Island.