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COL William Richard Higgins

COL William Richard Higgins

Birth
Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, USA
Death 6 Jul 1990 (aged 45)
Lebanon
Burial Quantico, Prince William County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 23, Number 141
Memorial ID 3055 · View Source
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Military Figure. A Vietnam War veteran, he was a colonel in the US Marine Corps who was captured in 1988 while serving on a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, where he was held hostage, tortured and eventually murdered by his captors. Born in Danville, Kentucky he graduated from Southern High School in Louisville, Kentucky and earned his Bachelor's Degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A scholarship student in the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps, he received the US Marine Corps Association Award and in 1967 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Marine Corps. In 1968 he was sent to the Republic of Vietnam where he participated in combat operations with C Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, as a rifle platoon commander and rifle company executive officer, and was aide-de-camp to the Assistant 3rd Marine Division Commander. The following year he returned to the US and served at Headquarters US Marine Corps. In 1970 he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Officer Selection Team in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1972 he returned to Vietnam at the rank of captain and served as an infantry battalion advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps and the following year he served as a rifle company commander with B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. Upon returning to the US he served at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy and Officer Candidate School, both in Quantico, Virginia, from 1973 until 1977. He then returned to the Fleet Marine Force and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he again served as a rifle company commander with A Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. Upon his promotion to the rank of major, he was reassigned as the Logistics Officer for Regimental Landing Team 2, 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade. In 1980 he attended the Air Force Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was a distinguished graduate, and was then assigned to Washington DC where he served at Headquarters US Marine Corps as a Plans Officer until his selection to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. From 1981 to 1982 he served as Military Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, then as Assistant for Interagency Matters to the Executive Secretary for the Department of Defense in Washington DC. After graduation from the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington DC in 1985, he returned to the Pentagon as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, where he served until he was transferred to his UN assignment in July 1987. On February 17, 1988 he disappeared while serving as the Chief, Observer Group Lebanon and Senior Military Observer, UN Military Observer Group, UN Truce Supervision Organization. He was driving alone on the coastal highway between Tyre and Naqoura in southern Lebanon, returning from a meeting with a local leader of the Amal movement, when he was abducted by armed men of the Lebanese group Hezbollah. The UN Security Council demanded his release but to no avail. He was promoted to the rank of colonel in March 1989, while in captivity. The exact date of his murder is uncertain and he was declared dead on July 6, 1990 at the age of 45. Finally, on 23 December 1991, his remains were recovered by the Royal Danish Army attached to the UN Observation Group Beirut. His military decorations and awards at the time of his death include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star (with combat "V" device), the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal (with gold star and combat "V" device), the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry ( with silver star), the Staff Service Honor Medal, and the United Nations Medal. In March 1992, President George Bush posthumously awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. In February 1994, the Secretary of the Navy announced a new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer would be named for in his honor and in October 1997, the USS Higgins was christened by his widow, Robin Higgins and commissioned in April 1999. In April 2003 he was posthumously granted a Prisoner of War Medal. The Department of Defense General Counsel initially blocked the award in 1998 based on the claim that "circumstances do not appear to meet the criteria established by Congress for award of the Prisoner of War Medal." The US Navy later overruled the claim after it was determined that the 1989 expansion of the eligibility criteria allowed for the award.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 12 Jun 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3055
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for COL William Richard Higgins (15 Jan 1945–6 Jul 1990), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3055, citing Quantico National Cemetery, Quantico, Prince William County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .