In Memory of Specialist Fourth Class William Michael Copley

Killed In Action

16 November 1968

[Although SP4 Copley was killed on November 13, 1968 he was officially listed as "missing in action" on November 16th after the search for his remains was unsuccessful]


This memorial was written by Billís family, who continue to share a deep sense of emotional pride and love of Special Forces, SOG and the men of the Assault Helicopter Companies (AHC). To the families of our fallen comrades in arms and brothers, who share the deeper losses of this war, we, the soldiers of SOG and AHC, hope this in some small way helps to fill the emptiness imposed on those left behind. We extend to these families the knowledge we did our best and only as a last resort were we forced to abandon our friends and wish to share with these families who have produced some of Americaís best, the knowledge we have not forgotten! Cpt Robert L. Noe, Ret.

If you knew Bill and would like to get in touch with his sister Cathy, you are inivited to do so by contacting Robert Noe at SOG1RLNOE@AOL.Com .  He will pass your message directly on to Cathy.


Specialist Fourth Class (SP/4) William Michael Copley, was known as "Mike" to his family and "Bill" to the rest of the world. Bill was only 19 years old when he gave up his life for his country. To some, that is too young to understand honor and dedication, but he did understand, and he loved freedom. Some would call that idealism, perhaps so, but he was willing to go to war to defend it. He had great honor, intelligence, humor, and pride. He knew what he was doing when he chose to join the group that was to him, "the best of the best," the Green Beret, and he knew the odds against ever coming home again.

Bill was born in Ohio, but spent his life in Southern California. In 1967, after graduating from Chatsworth High School in the San Fernando Valley, he enlisted. His training took him to Fort Ord, Ca., and Fort Benning, Ga., where he specialized in intelligence and communications. He finished in the top 5% of his class.

In Vietnam, he was with MACV-SOG, assigned to what is known as SLAM missions. They were one, or a combination of "Search-Locate-Annihilate-Monitor" missions operating deep behind enemy lines. Their missions entailed "unconventional methods" for the purpose to delay, frustrate, demoralize and eliminate the enemy and supplies before reaching South Vietnam as well as to force the enemy to commit large numbers of troops to defend against SOG operations, thus, preventing these soldiers from being used against American Forces. They gathered reports of troop movements, supplies, and communication systems on the enemy, forwarding them back to Saigon.

Bill was on a CCC recon mission out of Kontum having being inserted into an area 15 to 20 miles deep behind enemy lines in Laos. He was with SSG Robert Loe and six Montagnards. They were ambushed just before setting up for the night (RON). Bill was shot in the upper left shoulder, it exited his back. Loe carried Bill for some distance and delivered 1st aid. The enemy was in hot pursuit of the team, Loe disregarded his own safety and continued administrating 1st aid until "Billís face showed signs of death. The situation became extremely dangerous, and there being nothing more that could be done for Bill, Loe and the team were forced to abandon their comrade in arms, reluctantly, fighting their way backwards, away from their advancing opponents.

An extraction team was inserted late in the evening to extract survivors. The extraction team worked their way back to where the team was ambushed and where Bill had been left; however, no remains were found. The search was continued through the 15th of November with the extraction team coming into constant contact with the enemy during their search efforts and were finally forced to withdraw. Since Bill was still alive when last seen, he was listed as Missing in Action.

Because of the efficiency and bravery of SOG soldiers, the North Vietnamese placed a high price on the heads of any SOG members. In 1968, there was more than just the reward that made survival more difficult for the men. SOG Teams had made a crushing blow against the post Tet NAV movement in their "sanctuaries" in Cambodia and Laos. The damage inflicted by SOG was effective, to the point the enemy created "Special Counter-Recon Hunter Teams," which were trained by the Chinese in Martial Arts and covert operations to seek out SOG - they even used dogs for tracking. SOG members were considered as criminals of the highest order---Not Soldiers. No SOG member who was lost over the fence has ever been recovered, nor has any information ever been released by the North Vietnamese as to their fate, even to this date.

My family and I cannot express the extent of our gratitude to Robert Loe. He endangered his own life to help my brother and gave up only when hope was gone and the alternative would have been to forfeit his own life as well. We have nothing but the greatest respect and appreciation for SSG Loe. I can not imagine anything more difficult for any man than to have to make such a painful decision. The men of MACV-SOG, are without a doubt, some of the most courageous and heroic men ever to wear a uniform.

We have only just learned this information about Bill and SOG. The bravery of these men made such a difference in bringing the war to an early end. We, like most Americans, had no concept of the terrifying magnitude of their focus. We have also recently learned that it if werenít for the incredible men of the 57th, 361st, 170th Assault Helicopter Companies as well as the 219th Vietnamese CH-34 pilots, many more SOG men of CCC would have been lost. Any memorial to SOG must also include a very special salute to those men that regularly risked and gave their lives to bring the recon teams home.

We miss "Mike" very much. When we think of him, we are filled with overwhelming pride. Like so many enthusiastic, passionate young men, he chose to go to war to make this world a better place. He chose to be one of the "BEST" because he had the unselfish heart of a hero. But then, to us, he has always been a hero!

Dear Cathy,
My name is Sarah Snyder.  My grandfather was James B. Snyder, Jr..  His aunt and uncle were Uncle Cope and Aunt Irene from Mansfield.  My father remembers Mike just a little bit from Columbus and a trip to California as a child.
I am 17 and just learning about Vietnam in my high school history class.  My father suggested I look up Mike on the internet and I found several web sites about him.   Even though I never had the privilege of knowing him, I know how courageous and brave he was.  I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am to be related to him.  I just wanted to let you and your family know that he will always have a place in my heart and will never, ever be forgotten by me or my family.  I hope to hear back from you soon!
Sarah Snyder