William Gettis Coats


Vocational Agricultural Education

First Battalion Adjutant, Army ROTC 4; President, Alpha Tau Alpha honorary and professional Agriculture Education Fraternity 4; Member, Council of Club Presidents 4

Chappells, South Carolina

Elizabeth Lynn Walker Coats; Three Sons: William Gettis, Jr., Michael Allen and Jonathan Eugene Coats

Army, Major

HHC, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division

Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Jan 29, 1935

Jun 1, 1967

Killed in Action. Lost in South Vietnam whileflying as a passenger aboard an OH-23G helicopter which crashed due to structural failure of the rotor assembly.

Major Coats body was recovered and buried in the cemetery at Liberty Springs Presbyterian Church in Cross Hill, SC


Personal Remembrances

My Dad, Major William Gettis “Monkey” Coats. Throughout my lifetime, from the ones that knew him, I have never heard anyone refer to him other than “Monkey”.  From the stories I have heard throughout the years, there has never been a negative word spoken about him.  I’ve always been told he was full of joy, loved life, and greeted everyone with a smile.  Heaven gained an angel when he died.  And for all the ones he touched while here on Earth, his spirit lives on in our hearts.

God took Daddy home on June 1, 1967.  I celebrated, so to speak, my 6th birthday on June 12th of that year.  So, one could only imagine what memories I may have retained of him.  Some are glimpses while others are very vivid.

I remember a very tall man with a deep voice whom I loved and admired very much.  As a young child I knew how much he loved my mother and us three boys of his.  We did a lot as a family.  I recall having picnics down by the creek on the family farm and Daddy would pick up my brother Will and me as high as he could and place us in a tree so that it felt as though I could see for miles.  I remember riding on his shoulders and saying to him, “I’m bigger than you, Daddy”, and him saying to me, “Yes you are, Mike”.

I remember the holidays we shared as a family.  I believe he had as much fun as we did watching us playing with our new toys.  He taught me how to ride a bike.  I remember taking rides to Mr. Sealy’s country store down the road towards Cross Hill on Saturdays and Daddy buying us an “Orange Crush” and a pack of “Nabs”.  I remember taking that same road to church every Sunday where he would teach Sunday School and there where he now rest in the cemetery with my mother and grandparents.  I believe the only time I ever saw a tear in his eye was the day my Grandfather, his Dad, passed away. He loved that man dearly as so did we all.

The most vivid memory I have and the one I cherish the most was the last time I ever looked in his eyes.  We drove him to the airport to see him off as he left for Viet Nam.  He hugged us all and told us how much he loved us and told my older brother that he was “the man of the house now”.  After a long goodbye with my mother he boarded his plane and found a seat by the window.  I watched his smiling face as he waved goodbye while the plane taxied down the runway.  And then he was gone.

After that I would watch the news with Walter Cronkite every night to see if I could see my Daddy on TV when they would show clips from the war.  Then came that fateful morning when my Mom came in our room to wake us up and tell us, “Daddy died this morning”.  Life was never the same again.

I am very proud that I can call Monkey Coats my Dad.  He loved God, he loved his family and friends, and he loved his country.  To show a little bit of his character I am including an excerpt from his diary while at Clemson on January 8, 1955.  It says, “I’m acting Hall N.C.O. for Crowder this weekend.  I think I’ll start taking this military a little more serious.  I’ve been praying about what I should do, and the Lord told me that I must make the best of it and be a leader in this world and that He would be with me till the end, and the best part of it all is that there is no end where He is concerned“.  I believe that moment set the stage.

I have lived my life with memories and a lot of “What ifs?”  I’m proud of my father and proud of what he did for his country.  I’m proud that I can tell this story for it truly comes from the heart.  I know that his legacy and spirit live on and I feel a part of Monkey Coats lives within me.  And I hope and pray that his character, his love for God, family and country be passed on from my brothers and myself to our children and those we have crossed paths with and those we will cross paths with in our futures."

Michael Allen Coats
Spartanburg, SC
November 30, 2009


"I met William G. “Monkey” Coats in 1954 my freshman year at Clemson.  Monkey was a sophomore and as things turned out, 1954/1955 was the last year that Clemson was an all male, military school.  Although we were in different Companies, our rooms were almost directly across the hall from each other.  Most sophomores, having just completed a year of “Rat” service, were anxious to get their revenge with the freshman class, but Monkey was different.  I would describe him as kind, friendly, and fair to all of us “Rats” and I never heard the beckoning call of “Freshman, New Boy” come from him.  Since nick names were standard practice at Clemson, I assumed the name “Monkey“ was given to William during his freshman year, and only recently did I learn that his family gave him the nick name because, even at birth, he had an abundant amount of dark hair.

Monkey graduated in 1957 and I in 1958.  After getting married in October of 1958, I reported to Fort Hood, Texas and my wife and I rented a small apartment in a duplex in Killeen.  We had not completely unpacked our car when we heard a loud knock at the door.  Responding to the noise, I opened the door and there stood Monkey.  He had seen my South Carolina tag and was anxious to greet his new neighbor.  Recently in a phone conversation with Maggie, his sister in law, she described Monkey as “wide open and ready to go” and I thought how right she was. Ringing the door bell wouldn’t have gotten our attention nearly as fast as a loud knock.  We lived next door to Monkey and Lynn until he was discharged from active duty.  He returned to South Carolina and Ruth and I moved into their apartment which was larger than ours.

In 1960 I completed my tour of active duty and went to work for a company in Spartanburg S.C. Shortly after, while traveling between Laurens and Greenwood, I passed a car and saw that Monkey was the driver.  We stopped and talked for a few minutes and he told me that he had made the decision to return to active duty.  He had tried teaching school, farming, and working at a retail store, but he was happiest when serving in the Army.  He understood the possible  consequences of serving in Viet Nam, but the Army was where he wanted to make his career.

In June of 1967 I read in the paper that he had been killed in Viet Nam.  The day of his funeral was a sad day for me.  I remember that as we entered the small town of Cross Hill, the flag in front of the Post Office had been lowered to half staff in honor of Monkey; the funeral was conducted by an Army Chaplain and Monkey was buried with full Military Honors which he surely deserved.

As often happens, when a soldier dies, he leaves a young wife and children.  This was the case for Monkey.  Lynn returned to school, received a nursing degree and worked as a pediatric nurse to support the family.  She was both Mother and Father to the three boys, Will, Michael, and Jon; and Michael remembers that the last thing Lynn would do when putting them to bed was ask for a “firm hand shake”.

Jon Coats described his Mother as a “wonderful, wonderful” lady and I would use the same words to say to Will, Michael, and Jon, that their Father, who they knew for such a very short time, was truly a wonderful, wonderful, man."

Oron Trotter ‘58
LaGrange, GA
December 1, 2009


"Remembrance of Maj William Coats, friend and fellow officer.  I first met Monkey Coats when he came to Fort Benning in 1965.  Monkey came to Benning to attend the Infantry Advanced Course, but got to Benning early and was assigned to the G1 shop, where I was assigned, until the start of the course.  I was in the G1 shop for the same reason.  Monkey and his family were assigned to a housing unit next door to my wife and me and our families became close friends.  We attended the Advanced Course together.  I went to Vietnam in 1966 and Monkey followed in 1967.  I was a Captain at the time and a company Commander in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Air Calvary Division.

I learned of Monkey’s death when I received a request through channels from his family to escort his body back to South Carolina.  I was within a few days of the end of my tour, so I was allowed to leave early and bring Monkey back home.  I traveled with Monkey to Dover AFB in Delaware, then to Charleston and on to his home town.  It was the most solemn and honored duty I ever had in my career in the Army.  My wife met me in South Carolina and we stayed to be with the family and attend the Monkey’s funeral.

Monkey was the funniest fella I ever met.  He had been a cheerleader at Clemson and we kidded him about that, but not a lot as he was a big, tall, strapping, lanky guy.  He had a lot of funny sayings.  One I remember to this day was “I’ve never done anything right, let alone good!”  He was very smart and exceptionally bright.  Monkey treated people very well and everyone loved him.  I consider it an honor to have known and to have been a friend of Major William “Monkey” Coats."

Jim Drake, LTC, US Army Ret
Walling, Tennessee
November 16, 2009


"As a green ROTC 2LT, I first met Monkey when I reported for duty in a basic infantry training brigade at Fort Polk, LA in October 1962. Monkey, a well seasoned 1LT, was CO of the company next to my company of which I was the new green XO. At about 6" taller than me, that burly 1LT snarled down at me as he introduced himself in a somewhat unfriendly tone. Then his face immediately broke into a friendly smile as he invited me into his office. We shared the normal "get acquainted" questions and quickly learned we were from two nearby towns in SC. The more we talked the more we had in common! Needless to say, an immediate, very close relationship was born!

I cannot begin to enumerate the many lessons Monkey taught me, or the times he probably "saved" me from who knows what in the military world! He was married to a wonderful wife, Lynn. They lived in nearby Leesville, LA with their two small sons, Will and Michael. Our friendship provided many opportunities for me to baby-sit the boys, now in their 40's. That friendship also provided a great place to stay for my fiancé from SC (now my wife of 45+ years) when she came to visit!

During a bivouac Monkey and I planned to attempt to break the record for the longest march back to our company on main post. As we approached the end of the 26.9 mile hike a photographer snapped our picture which appeared in the base newspaper with a caption giving both of us credit for breaking the distance record. Monkey never did let me forget that I was transported by jeep that morning to my company headquarters for a business matter and later returned to the bivouac just before the photo was taken! (I probably hiked 5 of the 26.9 miles!)

I was honorably discharged in July of 1964. Monkey, being RA, remained on active duty. We kept in touch. My wife and I had our first son on Jan 26, 1967 in Greenwood, SC. As we were in the hospital room preparing to move our precious child home to Laurens, SC on that snowy winter day, my great and devoted friend, Monkey Coats, appeared in the doorway, completely unexpected. He happily remarked, "I heard that Perrell had a new son and I wanted to see him before I'm shipped to Viet Nam. He reached out to take the baby from my arms and I gladly permitted Monkey to carry our first-borne to our car. As the weather was cold, we quickly exchanged pertinent information, and with hurried hugs, we parted. Little did I know that I would never see Monkey again.

I do not remember exactly when, but in a short time we heard the almost unbelievable sad, sad news that Monkey Coats had been lost in a helicopter crash. We attended final services for him at Liberty Springs Presbyterian Church in Cross Hill, SC where he was buried. I shall never forget the grief I saw on the faces of the family that day.

Monkey's wife, Lynn, passed away several years ago.  Their son, Will and his family, live a short distance from me just outside of Newberry, SC.

I can tell you for certain that this grown, 71 year-old man, after all these by-gone years did not write this with dry eyes. I will never forget the happy-go-lucky, jolly, jokester who I knew as MAJOR WILLIAM G. "MONKEY" COATS."

Orion R. Perrell
Newberry, SC
October 26, 2009


"Monk and I attended the Advanced Course together and because we were alphabetized in our seating, he and I spent almost every day together for about nine months.  He was a very good and kind person. I went to Vietnam out of the class as he did.  I served two tours of duty over there and was able to retire in 1980 as a LTC, so I was fortunate. One of the things I do remember is that as a black officer, Monk treated me with "total" color blindness and during the 60's, that was a big deal.  That is what I loved about him, a white southern officer who got it. We laughed and joked together and became very good friends. He was a really great guy.

Unfortunately, I keep thinking of the tragedy that his family suffered as Monk had just had his father-in-law die in an accident while he was in the class and his mother-in law had come down to stay with them at Benning.  I was amazed how remarkably strong he was through all of that.  And then his wife had to endure his death. Too much!!  I was so saddened when I heard about his death."

Al Coates, LTC, US Army Ret
Abingdon, Maryland
October 25, 2009


"My knowledge of Monkey Coats comes from living across the street from him in my first assignment in November, 1965 at Ft. Benning, GA.  He was in the Infantry Advanced Course and I was assigned to a basic training brigade.  He took me (brand new 1LT) under his wing and helped me to make a quick adjustment to the Army.  Example: He and his wife helped us with Army stuff and he saw a bit too much civilian fat on me and got me to jog with him to get my weight down.  He stayed on at Benning after graduation to be a company commander, where he had a sort of sanctuary established in the orderly room where soldiers could visit in quietness and pray or contemplate.  There wasn’t a selfish bone in Monkey’s body, always looking out for the other person.

I went off to Korea and he went off to Vietnam.  While I was serving in Korea I read of his death in the Stars and Stripes.  The chopper in which he was riding crashed.  This was sometime in 1967.  The last I knew his surviving children were living in Columbia, SC.  His wife, Lynn, is since deceased.

My song, the Ballad of Monkey Jones, written in honor of Monkey Coats, is a fictionalized account of our relationship.  Monkey liked being called by his nickname. The lyrics and names are changed due to privacy concerns, and the account of Monkey’s death is fictional."
Click here to read "The Ballad of Monkey Jones."
Henry Lamar Hunt
Chaplain (COL), US Army Ret
Candler, FL
October 24, 2009


"I just learned of the Scroll of Honor and am submitting for listing thereon, my best friend and classmate from the first grade through Clemson. He is William Gettis Coats, Major, Infantry, US Army, Class of '57; killed in action in the Vietnam War in 1967.  This is a wonderful thing to honor those who served our country and gave it all, and I hope that each one will be discovered and so recognized."

Bill Cromer
Class of 57


The following tribute was copied with the approval and provided courtesy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Page, www.thewall-usa.com.

"I was a company commander at Ft. Benning, Ga. same time as 'Monkey' Coates. He was a real comedian, who all loved. He had a fine wife and son. I attended his funeral, then went back to RVN for my second tour. I lived to retire from the army. He didn't."

Pres Kendall, Friend
Granville, OH
July 10, 2000

Additional Information

Citation to accompany the Bronze Star Medal awarded to Major William G. Coats for distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 17 February 1967 to 1 June 1967.  Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results.  He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in counterinsurgency operations and to find ways and means to solve those problems.  The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States Mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom.  His initiative, zeal, sound judgement and devotion to duty have been in the highest tradition of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.

According to all of his service member friends from whom communications were received, Major Coats very much liked being called by the nickname “Monkey”.

Major William Coats’ name is listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC on Panel 21E, Line 26.  His name is also listed on a Vietnam Veterans Monument located in Newberry, SC.

The following was taken from an obituary article printed in The State Newspaper, Columbia, SC on June 4, 1967, Page 9c, and was researched and provided on 3 November 2009 courtesy of Ms Debra Bloom, Local History Manager, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC.

Capt. Coats Dies in Viet Action

Chappells – Capt. William G. Coats, 32, was killed in action in Vietnam June 1. He was a resident of Chappells in Newberry County, a son of Mrs. Ruby Coats and the late Gettis Coats. He was a graduate of Clemson University and had served in the Army for eight years.

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Extra Documents

“Monkey” – Vignette written by Kelly Durham for The Echo