William Tapley was born on November 20, 1935, in Illinois. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 26, 1956, and completed basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado, in February 1957. His first assignment was as a parachute rigger with the 82nd Airborne Quartermaster Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from February 1957 to January 1958, followed by service as a parachute rigger with the 11th Quartermaster Parachute Support Company and the 24th Infantry Division in West Germany from February 1958 to February 1960. Sgt Tapley next served as a parachute rigger with the 4th Student Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia, from March to November 1960, and then with the 109th Aerial Resupply Company at Fort Lee, Virginia, from November 1960 to October 1961. His next assignment was as a parachute rigger and assistant supply sergeant with 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa from October 1961 to March 1963, followed by service as a supply sergeant with Company D and then Company E, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from March 1963 to November 1964. SFC Tapley served as an Intelligence Sergeant with Company B, 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam from November 1964 to October 1965, and then as an Operations and Intelligence Instructor with the U.S. Army Special Forces Training Group at Fort Bragg from October 1965 to August 1968. His next assignment was as an Operations Sergeant with the 46th Special Forces Company in Thailand from September 1968 to September 1969, followed by service as an Intelligence Sergeant with Company D and then Company B, 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from September 1969 to March 1971. During this time he served on Action Element 2 of the Blueboy Assault Group during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. MSG Tapley next served as an Operations Sergeant and Intelligence Sergeant with Company B, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from March 1971 to June 1972, and then with Company B, 1st Special Forces Group on Okinawa from July 1972 to November 1973. His final assignment was as Operations Sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from December 1973 until his retirement from the Army on December 31, 1976. William Tapley died on October 8, 2004.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint U.S. Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. This valiant effort was motivated by deep compassion for his imprisoned fellow men-at-arms, and by a strong sense of military duty and national pride. On arrival in the objective area, Sergeant Tapley immediately assaulted the main gate, neutralizing and clearing the gate area of resistance. He remained at that position, completely exposed to enemy fire, in order to observe the area outside the compound. A short time later, as his element leader was attempting to break into a building in their sector, Sergeant Tapley observed a small enemy force rounding a building to their rear and moving rapidly to their location. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he fearlessly engaged the enemy and rendered it ineffective with automatic weapons fire. Still exposed to enemy resistance, he began moving from position to position within the compound clearing his sector of responsibility of all enemy personnel. Sergeant Tapley's daring skill, extraordinary heroism against an armed hostile force, and extreme devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself and the United States Army.