William "Bill" Stanley Carpenter, Jr., LTG, U.S. Army (Retired) (born November 30, 1937) is an American former Army officer and college football player. While playing college football, he gained national prominence as the "Lonesome End" of the Army football team. During his military service in Vietnam, he again achieved fame when he saved his company by directing airstrikes on his own position. For the action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
William Carpenter, Jr. was born to William Stanley Carpenter, Sr. (1907–1945) and Helen Carpenter (née Sparks). Private First Class Carpenter, Sr. served in the U.S. Army as an ammunition bearer in the 393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division and was killed in action in the Ruhr Pocket. He is interred in Margraten, Netherlands at the American Military Cemetery.
William Carpenter, Jr. married Toni M. Vigliotti in 1961 and had three children: William S. Carpenter III (1962), Kenneth Carpenter (1964), and Stephen Carpenter (1965).
While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, Carpenter played as a split end on the football team, alongside Heisman Trophy-winning halfback and fellow combat infantryman Pete Dawkins. Carpenter earned the nickname the "Lonesome End" as a result of the team's tactic of aligning him near the far sideline and leaving him outside of huddles. He played on the undefeated 1958 West Point team, and in 1959, while team captain, was named an All-American. Legendary Army head coach Earl Blaik, who spent twenty years on the Army coaching staff, called Carpenter "the greatest end I ever coached at West Point."
In 1982, Carpenter was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Upon graduation, Carpenter was commissioned as an infantry officer and went on to serve at least two tours in Vietnam. In 1964, he was an adviser assigned to an airborne brigade of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. That unit came under heavy enemy fire immediately after being inserted by helicopter into a sugar cane field. Bill Carpenter was wounded by a gunshot through the arm while changing rifle magazines. His radio set was hit with another bullet and he was spun around and knocked to the ground. He proceeded to eliminate the source of the enemy fire, by knocking out a bunker with a hand grenade. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star, the U.S. Army's third highest award for valor in combat.
In 1966, then Captain Carpenter's C Company, 2/502nd Parachute Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division took part in a battle with North Vietnamese forces near Dak To on the Kontum plateau in the Central Highlands. As it maneuvered in an attempt to relieve Major David Hackworth's engaged 1/327th Infantry, C Company became isolated and in danger of being overrun. As the situation grew desperate, Carpenter radioed the battalion air traffic controller for a napalm airstrike on his own position: "We're overrun, they're right in among us. I need an air strike on my position." Several of his soldiers were wounded by the close air support, but it blunted the enemy attack and prevented the envelopment of his company. C Company was then able to re-consolidate and eventually break out. For his actions, he was again awarded the Silver Star, which was later upgraded to the U.S. Army's second highest wartime medal, the Distinguished Service Cross.
In 1984, Carpenter went on to take command of the 10th Mountain Division and, finally, the Combined Field Army in Korea. He eventually retired as a lieutenant general and settled in Montana.
- Charles Goodman, Hell's Brigade, 1966, New York, Prestige, ASIN: B000UCG92Q.
- Personal information from written and telephone correspondence with William Carpenter, Jr, December 2004.