Warrant officer patches and insignia.

African-American Warrant Officers and the Vietnam War

The warrant officer patches are different from those of enlisted and officer ranks. Shown above: WO1 patch and CWO2 patch.

By CW4 (Ret.) Farrell J. Chiles, U.S.A.

The period from May 25, 2012, to November 11, 2025, has been designated by the President of the United States as the “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

According to official records, approximately 2,594,000 U.S. military personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam between January 1, 1965 and March 28, 1973. Among the more than 58,000 Americans killed in the war, 1,276 of them were warrant officers.

The Vietnam War had the highest proportion of African-Americans ever to serve. During the height of the U.S. involvement, 1965-69, African-Americans, who were 11 percent of the American population, made up 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam. Official records show that 7,243 African-Americans were killed in the war.

Their loyalty passed the test

In the introduction to his book, “Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Americans” Wallace Terry, African-American journalist and oral historian, stated that the black soldier “fought at a time when his sisters and brothers were fighting and dying at home for equal rights and greater opportunities, for a color-blind nation promised to him in the Constitution he swore to defend. He fought at a time when some of his leaders chastised him for waging war against a people of color, and when his Communist foe appealed to him to take up arms instead against the forces of racism in America. The loyalty of the black Vietnam-War veteran stood a greater test on the battleground than did the loyalty of any other American; his patriotism begs a special salute at home. Above all, his experience requires the special notice of history, as it judges and continues to judge the Vietnam saga.”

What is a warrant officer?

In this article, I would like to share the stories of several African-American warrant officers who served in Vietnam. I hope their stories will serve as an inspiration to others, and show the significant contributions, achievements, and sacrifices of the African-American warrant officer.

Fallen Comrade:
WO1 Sylvester Davis

WO1 Sylvester Davis was killed in a hostile-fire incident on January 23, 1969, while performing duty as a helicopter pilot with the 283rd Medical Detachment in Pleiku Province, South Vietnam. Davis was born on May 30, 1940 in Akron, Ohio, and was 28 years old. He graduated in Flight Class 68-7, with a Military Occupational Specialty of 062B (Helicopter Pilot, Utility and Light Cargo Single Rotor). Davis started his Vietnam tour on August 23, 1968, and had a total of eight years of service at the time of his death.

Fallen Comrade:
WO1 Donald Harrison

WO1 Donald Harrison was killed in action at the age of 21, on December 2, 1966, while performing duties as a pilot. He was born on June 9, 1945, in New York City. Harrison was a graduate of Class 66-13, with a Military Occupational Specialty of 062B (Helicopter Pilot, Utility and Light Cargo Single Rotor). He started his Vietnam tour on October 7, 1966, and was assigned to the 281st AHC, 17th Combat Aviation Group (CAG) under the 1st Aviation Brigade. His helicopter was hit by ground fire, and crashed while attempting to extract a Special Forces recon team in Laos.

Doris Allen

WO3 Doris AllenDoris “Lucki” Allen was a Specialist Seven in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), when she volunteered for Vietnam at the age of 40. She served as the Senior Intelligence Analyst, Army Operations Center, Headquarters, at Long Binh, served with the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Security, Plans, and Operations, Headquarters, 1st Logistical Command, Vietnam, and when she was appointed as a warrant officer in 1970, she was one of only twenty-three female warrant officers in the Army.

At the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) in Saigon, Allen saw captured enemy documents naming her on a list of human targets – intelligence personnel – to be eliminated. She decided at that time to end her third Vietnam tour.

After Vietnam, she served in various Intelligence-related positions, and was the first female graduate of the Interrogation of Prisoners of War (IPW) course at Fort Hola­bird. In 1978 she was promoted to CW3, and retired in 1980 after a distinguished thirty-year career, with a long list of awards and decorations to her credit.

She is a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame – and the U.S. Army Warrant Officer College recently named the Warrant Officer Candidate School Distinguished Honor Graduate Award as the “CW3 Doris I. Allen Warrant Officer Candidate School Distinguished Honor Graduate Award.”

Hazel Lewis, Jr.

WO3 Hazel Lewis, Jr.Hazel Lewis volunteered for the Army in 1957, and served stateside in Special Forces units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. His first tour of Vietnam was in 1967 in Special Forces. He returned from Vietnam, and took flight training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and Fort Rucker, Alabama. His second tour in Vietnam was with the 101st Airborne Division, as an aviator. While in-country, he was credited with over a thousand hours of flight time on the Chinook helicopter, and was stationed in Phu Bai, South Vietnam.

Lewis retired from the Army as a CW3 in November 1980. Lewis held various positions all over the world, including combat tours in Vietnam and three tours in Germany. Lewis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, and Purple Heart, along with many other awards and commendations. Lewis was also an original Green Beret (Special Forces), and served on Project OMEGA, Vietnam.

Mr. Lewis received an Associate Degree from Central Texas College in Killen, Texas, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Cameron University, briefly taught at Central Texas College, and obtained graduate degree credits in Business Management.

Donald J. Rander

Donald Rander was drafted into the Army in November of 1961. He completed basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and advanced training as a Military Policeman at Fort Gordon, Georgia. In July 1965, he entered the Army Intelligence School, and served there as an instructor in the Department of Counterintelligence.

He volunteered for Vietnam in 1967, and was assigned to the Hue Field Office as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge. During the Tet offensive, Rander was captured, and spent over five years in North Vietnamese POW camps. While being held mostly in isolation, Rander was beaten and was forced to stand or kneel for hours on end. According to one report, Rander should not have been in Vietnam on the day he was captured. He had just finished a four-year enlistment, and had re-enlisted, which merited him a free month back in the U.S. But he delayed his leave until February in order to be home for four family birthdays that month – and was captured the day before he was scheduled to leave.

When the war ended, and he was released, Rander served ten more years in the military, retiring in 1983 as a CW3. Upon his retirement from the military, he remained as a civilian with the Army’s Foreign Counterintelligence Agency and with the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command.

Ezell Ware, Jr.

Ezell Ware, Jr. joined the ­Marines, later went into the Army, and soon advanced to the rank of warrant officer, and completed warrant-officer pilot training.

On September 9, 1968, the 40th ARVN Regiment was battling an enemy force of unknown size near Bong Son, South Vietnam. With darkness approaching, CW2 Ware’s unit, the 61st Assault Helicopter Company was called in. A combination of the Ware’s unit, heavy artillery, and the Air Force blasted away at the enemy. After five NVA soldiers had been killed, a wounded NVA soldier threw his hands in the air and surrendered. CW2 Ware’s gunship guided the enemy to the nearest friendly troops. Ware and First Lieutenant Robert McElhose were credited with obtaining the 61st AHC’s first detainee while still in the air. During his tour, Ware was shot down while piloting a Cobra gunship, and he successfully evaded capture for three weeks, during which time he protected and saved a severely wounded crew member from capture and death. Ware’s book, “By Duty Bound – Survival and Redemption in a Time of War,” recounts his Vietnam experiences.

Ware later joined the California National Guard, rose to the rank of Brigadier General (CA), and retired after forty-two years of service. Ware became President of Ezell Ware and Associates, a business-development and public-relations firm in Austin, Texas.

Let’s not forget

As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, let’s not forget that African-Americans played important roles in the war. Some were draftees, some were volunteers. Some were enlisted and others were officers. They all served our country. African-American warrant officers were there, too.

What is a warrant officer?

 

Farrell Chiles, CW4 (Ret.) U.S.A.Farrell Chiles is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer and a Vietnam veteran, with thirty-eight years of military experience. His most recent book, “African American Warrant Officers…In Service to Our Country,” is available on Amazon.com.