L. Cpl. William C. Laidlaw

Hero Profile - Vietnam

Address when enlisted - 508A Beechwood Street

Date of Sacrifice August 18, 1965 - Age 21

Text of Memorial Dedication on November 11, 1996

Ladies and gentleman, good afternoon. My name is John Morgan and I would like to welcome you the dedication of the Corporal William Laidlaw Memorial Square.

Reverend Dr. Bert White will now give the benediction.

November 10th, 221 years ago one of the greatest fighting forces and brotherhoods known to man, The United States Marine Corp., was born. Today we gather to honor one who belonged, fought and died as a member of this brotherhood Corporal William Laidlaw. I did not know William but he is my brother, a Marine. One hundred years from now we will all be gone and almost forgotten, but because of what we are doing today and what William did for this country he will remain in the hearts and minds of every Marine and the people of Cohasset. Corporal Laidlaw was awarded by the Department of the Navy, the United States Marine’s and the United States of America the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star with a Combat V, for his actions in the Republic of Vietnam.

Thank you Corporal Laidlaw, Semper Fi.

At this time I would like to introduce Kenneth Laidlaw, the brother of Corporal Laidlaw.

An Article on L. Cpl. William C. Laidlaw in the Cohasset Mariner

William C. Laidlaw was determined to be a Marine. Before he was even old enough to enlist, he would make the trip down to the local recruitment office almost every week to find out about joining.

Eager to begin his career as one of the few and the proud, Laidlaw convinced recruiters he was 18 years old at the age of 17 and enlisted before his time. Once a Marine, Laidlaw served in Okinawa, Japan as well as in the Philippines. Like so many other young men living in the 1960s, Laidlaw was called to duty in Vietnam where he served two tours of duty. But his willingness to serve his country ended in tragedy, when he was killed in action at the young age of 21, forty years ago last week.

"Billy" Laidlaw, as he was known around town, was born on Nov. 3, 1943. At the age of 16, he and his family moved to Cohasset, where they lived at 508A Beechwood St. Laidlaw exhibited the strong leadership skills he would need to become a great Marine at an early age, as he would round up the younger kids in the neighborhood and lead them in practice drills, marching them around the Beechwood Ballpark in military style, which they loved. Once enlisted, he used those engrained skills to rise up the ranks, becoming a lieutenant corporal.

Being a Marine is dangerous, but early in his career, Laidlaw narrowly escaped death. He had taken an extended leave to stay home an extra day to see his newborn niece Jen McAuliffe, and the extra time off changed his orders to travel with his Marine unit to Hawaii. The plane that was carrying the unit crashed, and all on board were killed. But despite his previous luck, on Aug. 18, 1965, Laidlaw was serving as a tank commander when the vehicle he was in struck a land mine, ending his life. Laidlaw's was the last in a line of three tanks, the first two of which made it safely past. Laidlaw's death was very tough on his family. In fact, when his body was brought back to Cohasset to be buried in Central Cemetery, his brother Ken Laidlaw said he was in such shock, he didn't cry. Rather, it was on Memorial Day the following year, while the parade was marching down Beechwood Street, that he finally burst into tears, realizing he would never again hear his brother's voice or enjoy his company. But for Laidllaw's grandmother, Mildred Cripps, the news was no surprise. Laidlaw's sister Jean McAuliffe remembers when the family arrived to deliver the news that her grandson had been killed in the war, Cripps said she already knew because he had spoken to her the night before in her sleep.

After his death, Laidlaw's fellow Marines wrote many letters to his family, which were compiled and kept in a scrapbook. Ken Laidlaw said he remembers looking through the letters and seeing just how respected his brother was by his fellow Marines. He also learned his brother was truly a hero, as he had risked his own life more than once to save the lives of others during the war.

To ensure Laidlaw's sacrifice is never forgotten, a memorial square has been dedicated in his honor, which residents drive by every day. Laidlaw's memorial square can be found at the intersection of Beechwood Street and Norman Todd Road.

When Laidlaw's memorial was dedicated in 1996, Marine Sergeant John Morgan said a few words in his honor. "On Nov. 10, 221 years ago, one of the greatest fighting forces and brotherhoods known to man, the United States Marine Corps, was born. One of the brave men who belonged, fought, and died as a member of this brotherhood, was Corporal William C. Laidlaw. One hundred years from now, we will all be gone and almost forgotten, but because of the memorial at Beechwood Street and Norman Todd Road for Corporal Laidlaw and what he did for this country, he will remain in the hearts and minds of every Marine and the people of Cohasset," he said.

Vietnam took a heavy toll on the town, as eight men were killed, including Peter J. Albiani, Jr., Allen F. Keating, John Paul Lyon, Edward R. Maree, Craig M. Simeone, Dennis J. Reardon, and Laidlaw's good friend Peter Cogill who lived across from the Beechwood Ballpark on Church Street. Cohasset lost the same number of soldiers during World War II. The worst eight months of Vietnam were in 1969, when the town lost five men, four at six-week intervals.

For his service in the war, Laidlaw was honored by the Department of the Navy, the United States Marines, and the United States of America with the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star with a Combat V.

Chairman of the Cohasset Veterans Memorial Committee Glenn Pratt provided the Mariner with the information for this article. For more information on William Laidlaw or any of the Cohasset veterans who have paid the ultimate price in the name of freedom, please visit the Cohasset Veterans Memorial Committee Web site at www.cohassetveteransmemorial.com.

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