WILLIAM M. ROARK, LT, USN
William Roark '60
Date of birth: October 23, 1938
Date of death: April 7, 1965
From the 1960 Lucky Bag:
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, LT Roark grew up in Omaha, NE, where he graduated from Central High School in 1956. At Central, he was cadet colonel and commanding officer of the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. It was also at Central that he met his future bride, Karen Krause.
LT Roark graduated from the Naval Academy in 1960 and was subsequently selected for aviation career path. He attended flight training in Pensacola, FL, and Beeville, TX, before his eventual selection to Attack Squadron 153 in Lemoore, CA.
LT Roark deployed twice with VA-153 aboard USS Coral Sea (CVA 43). On the second deployment in 1965, the flight crews of the Coral Sea saw the first heavy and sustained action of the war in Vietnam during Operation ROLLING THUNDER.
On 7 April, LT Roark was leading a two ship section armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. His flight detected an anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site and engaged the target. Following the first attack, as the site had not been destroyed, LT Roark attacked again. On the second attack his aircraft was struck by the AAA. His A-4C Skyhawk was too severely damaged to continue, and LT Roark ejected over hostile coastal water where he was fired upon continuously while parachuting to the sea.
In last letter to his wife, LT Roark wrote "I don't want my sons to fight a war I should have fought. I wish more Americans felt that way. I will not live in a totalitarian society and I don't want you to, either. I believe in God and will resist any force that attempts to remove God from society, no matter what the name".
LT Roark was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Destroyer/ Frigate USS Roark (FF-1053) was named in his honor in 1967. The ROARK’s fitting motto was "Victory Through Service."
In 2004, his alma mater, Central High School, named Roark to their hall of fame, and in 2005, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps of Dyersburg, TN, named their unit the LT William Roark squadron in his honor.
LT Roark is survived by his wife, Karen Phillips of Woodbridge, CT, and by his children Lisa Logan, John Roark, LCDR William Roark, and grand children Travis, Devin, Karleigh, Courtney, Lily and Ian.
Why He Fought
From the November 1965 issue of Shipmate:
A recent news story carried part of the text of a letter written by a Navy pilot to his wife, shordy before he was killed by Communist gunfire over North Vietnam. In this letter, he said:
"I don't want my sons to fight a war I should have fought.
"I wish more Americans felt this way.
"I'm not a warmonger. It will be me who gets shot at. But it's foolish and blind not to have the courage of your convictions.
"I will not live under a totalitarian society, and I don't want you to, either. I believe in God and will resist any force that attempts to remove God from Society, no matter what the name.
"This is what we must all do if we believe in what the Founding Fathers stood for."
The pilot was Bill Roark '60.
Distinguished Flying Cross
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant William Marshall Roark (NSN: 0-641458), United States Navy, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as pilot in Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-THREE (VA-153) aboard U.S.S. CORAL SEA (CVA-43), during operations in the Vietnam on 7 April 1965. Completing several successful attacks against military targets along a coastal highway in North Vietnam, his flight was taken under concentrated fire by numerous anti-aircraft and automatic gun positions. Lieutenant Roark attacked the gun emplacements despite the fire directed at him. When his aircraft was struck by hostile fire, he flew the disabled jet toward the water and successfully ejected. He was fired upon continuously during his parachute descent and after reaching the water. The intense barrage of anti-aircraft, automatic weapons and mortar fire directed onto the water by the enemy prevented helicopter rescue of Lieutenant Roark, who was fatally wounded. His cool courage in the face of intense enemy opposition was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: All Hands (March 1966)
Action Date: April 7, 1965
Company: Attack Squadron 153 (VA-153)
Division: U.S.S. Coral Sea (CVA-43)