William Benedict Nolde
Colonel, United States Army
The United States Army buried its last official casualty of the Vietnam War at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He was 43 years old when he was killed-in-action on January 27, 1973, near An Loc when an artillery shell exploded just eleven hours before the truce began.
He was an advisor to the South Vietnam Army and while he was not the last American to die in Vietnam, his death was the last recorded before the cease fire, and thus earned the dubious honor of being the last of 45,941 Americans killed during the conflict.
As such, his funeral drew not only full military honors but considerably more brass than the funeral of a field-grade officer would normally command. Among 150 or so mourners were General Alexander Haig, the Army Vice Chief of Staff, and Lieutenant General Robert E. Coffin, who had been his Commanding Officer when he served in Italy before his Vietnam tour.
Buried on February 5, 1973 in Section 3 of
Arlington National Cemetery.
Colonel William Benedict Nolde (August 8, 1929 – January 27, 1973) was an officer in the United States Army.
Born in Menominee, Michigan, Nolde was a professor of military science at Central Michigan University before joining the army. As an officer, he served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, acting as an advisor to the South Vietnamese forces in the latter.
Nolde, having reached the rank of colonel, was killed by shell fire at An Loc eleven hours before the cessation of all hostilities in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords. He was the last official American combat casualty of the war - the 45,914th confirmed death during the conflict.
While other Americans lost their lives after the truce was enacted, these were not recorded as combat casualties. During his time in the armed forces, he had accumulated four medals, including the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.
Nolde was buried on February 5, 1973 in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery (his widow Joyce was buried beside him in 2005). As the last official combat casualty, his funeral was attended by 'considerably more brass than the funeral of a field-grade officer would normally command' including General Alexander Haig.
At the Central Michigan University the William B. Nolde Scholarship was established in memory of the Colonel by students, family and friends. The William B. Nolde Lecture Series takes place every two years and invites various politicians, professors and military leaders to lecture on the importance of leadership.
Notable guest speakers have included Lt. Col.
Gary Brito, who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom I and Operation
Iraqi Freedom III; and Col. R. John Cully Jr., a retired Vietnam Helicopter
Pilot, special forces member, previous commander of the Special Intelligence
Squadron from 1988-1997 and graduate of Central Michigan University.
Photo Courtesy of Ron Williams
NOLDE, JOYCE K
DATE OF BIRTH: 05/18/1930
DATE OF DEATH: 02/15/2005
BURIED AT: SECTION 3 SITE 1775-B
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
WIFE OF NOLDE, WILLIAM B, COL US ARMY
Page Updated: 25 OCtober 2000 Updated: 22 March 2002 Updated: 1 September 2003 Updated: 17 December 2005 Updated: 27 January 2007
Updated: 23 February 2007