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First Name: William

Last Name: Higgins

Birthplace: Danville, KY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Richard

Date of Birth: 15 January 1945

Date of Death: 06 July 1990 (Official)

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
William Richard Higgins

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


William Richard Higgins
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

William Richard Higgins was born on 15 January 1945 in Danville, KY.

He graduated from Southern High School in Louisville, KY, and earned his Bachelor's degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. A scholarship student in the Navy ROTC, he received the Marine Corps Association Award and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967. He later obtained Master's degrees from Pepperdine University and Auburn University. He graduated from the Army Infantry Officers Advanced Course, the Air Force Command and Staff College, and the National War College.

As a Lieutenant, he participated in combat operations during 1968 with C Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines in the Republic of Vietnam as a Rifle Platoon Commander and Rifle Company Executive Officer. He was also Aide-de-Camp to the Assistant Commander of the 3rd Marine Division.

Returning to the U.S., Higgins served at Headquarters Marine Corps in 1969. In 1970, he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Officer Selection Team in Louisville.

Captain Higgins returned to Vietnam in 1972 as an Infantry Battalion Advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps, then in 1973 served as a Rifle Company Commander with B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.

From 1973-77, Captain Higgins served at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy and Officer Candidate School, both in Quantico, VA.

Returning to the Fleet Marine Force in 1977, Higgins was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC, where he again served as a Rifle Company Commander with A Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. Upon promotion to Major, he was reassigned as the Logistics Officer for Regimental Landing Team 2, 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade.

After completion of the Air Force Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, AL, in 1980, where he was designated a distinguished graduate, Higgins returned to Washington, DC, where he served at Headquarters as a Plans Officer until his selection to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

During 1981-82, 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. After graduation from the National War College 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 United Nations assignment in July 1987. He was promoted to Colonel on 1 March 1989, while in captivity.

Capture and Murder

On 17 February 1988, Higgins disappeared while serving as the Chief, Observer Group Lebanon and Senior Military Observer, United Nations Military Observer Group, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. Higgins was driving on a coastal highway between Tyre and Naquora in southern Lebanon, returning from a meeting with a local leader of the Amal movement, when he was pulled from his vehicle by armed men. He had been abducted by the Lebanese Hezbollah. During his captivity, he was interrogated and tortured.

As a reaction to his abduction, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 618, demanding his release. A year and a half after his abduction, images of his body, hung by the neck, were televised around the world - from a videotape released by his captors. The exact date of Colonel Higgins' murder is uncertain; he was declared dead on 6 July 1990. Finally, on 23 December 1991, his remains were recovered by the late Major Jens Nielsen (Royal Danish Army) attached to the United Nations Observer Group Beirut. His remains had been "...dumped beside a mosque near a south Beirut hospital." He was interred at Quantico National Cemetery on 30 December 1991.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Combat "Valor" Device
Purple Heart Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "Valor" Device (2 Awards)
Combat Action Ribbon
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star
Staff Service Honor Medal
United Nations Medal

In April 2003, he was posthumously awarded a Prisoner of War Medal.


On 18 March 1992, President George Bush awarded Colonel Higgins the Presidential Citizens Medal (posthumous). The medal was accepted by his wife, Robin, and daughter, Chrissy. Col. Higgins was also survived by two sisters.

On 17 February 1994, the Secretary of the Navy announced a new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer would be named for Col. Higgins. On 4 October 1997, the USS Higgins (DDG-76) was christened by Col. Higgins' widow, Robin Higgins. It was commissioned 24 April 1999.

Death and Burial

Colonel William Richard Higgins was declared dead on 6 July 1990. He is buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Quantico, VA.

Honoree ID: 2631   Created by: MHOH




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