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Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr.
Born (1920-06-21)June 21, 1920
Died June 8, 1956(1956-06-08) (aged 35)
Place of death Vietnam
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service - 1956
Rank E6 USAF TSGT.svg Technical Sergeant
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. was the first person to lose his life in the conflict that would later be known as the Vietnam War. He was killed by another U.S. airman. The United States Air Force Technical Sergeant died on June 8, 1956. Through the efforts of his sister, Alice Fitzgibbon Rose DelRossi, Fitzgibbon's name was added to the Vietnam War Memorial in 1999. Following his father's footsteps, Richard B. Fitzgibbon III joined the United States Marine Corps and also served in Vietnam, where he too was killed in September 1965. The Fitzgibbon deaths are one of only three amongst US casualties in which both father and son were killed in the Vietnam War.

Bio[edit | edit source]

Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. was born on June 21, 1920, in Stoneham, Massachusetts [1] Fitzgibbon was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served during World War II. After leaving the Navy, he joined the United States Air Force rising through the ranks to become Technical Sergeant. Fitzgibbon was serving as part of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) (DET 1, 1173RD FOR MSN SQD[1]), which was involved in training military personnel in South Vietnam.[2] Fitzgibbon was not killed in action, but rather was murdered by another United States airman on June 8, 1956.[3]

Recognition[edit | edit source]

For 43 years, his death was regarded by the United States government as too early to be classified as a Vietnam War casualty. The DoD department that handled the Vietnam Veterans Memorial originally started its database at Jan. 1, 1961.[4] The family of Fitzgibbon lobbied to have the date changed, and their cause was taken up by U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D - 7th District, MA) of Malden, Massachusetts.[5] After a high level review by the DoD and through the efforts of Fitzgibbon's family, the start date of the Vietnam War was changed to November 1, 1955.[4] The November 1955 date was chosen because that was when the Vietnam Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was created.[6] With this new date, Fitzgibbon became the first person to die in the Vietnam War, moving Dale R. Buis to second. Fitzgibbon's name was added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1999. [This is factually incorrect. DoD had previously moved the date of the start of the Vietnam conflict and officially recognized Capt. Harry Griffith Cramer Jr., who was killed at Nha Trang during a Viet Cong attack on October 21, 1957.[7] His name was added to "The Wall" in 1983, after successful efforts by Captain Cramer's son, Lt. Col. Harry G. Cramer III (U.S.A.R), then an active duty Army officer, to get DoD to acknowledge his father's death, as well as the presence of MAAG forces in Vietnam years prior to the officially recognized date of 1961 (Dod was not responsible for erecting "The Wall" - that was done by a private organization, founded and run by Jan C. Scruggs, through contributions from the public. DoD only supplied information. Because the late recognition of Capt. Cramer's death would have meant that, in order to have the names inscribed in chronological sequence, the generous contributions of other Americans would have to be spent on carving an entirely new stone for the earliest dates, Capt. Cramer's son asked that his father's name simply be added to the center (1E) stone, out of sequence, but it is still clearly listed in the chronological book at "The Wall" as 1957, not 1959.) The Army conducted an official ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which Capt. Cramer had graduated, in October 2007 to make the 50th Anniversary of the first Vietnam casualty. ref.[8] As part of the ceremony to add his name to the memorial, The Today Show host Katie Couric interviewed members of the Fitzgibbon family at their Harwich Port summer residence.[5]

Although not the first American to be killed in Vietnam, Fitzgibbon is chronologically the first casualty on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Albert Peter Dewey, who was shot by accident by Viet Minh troops on September 26, 1945, was the first known American fatality in Vietnam, killed in the early aftermath of World War II.[9]

Family[edit | edit source]

Richard B. Fitzgibbon, III

Fitzgibbon's son, Marine Lance Corporal Richard B. Fitzgibbon, III (1944-1965), was also killed in the Vietnam war making the Fitzgibbons one of only three father-son pairs on the wall.[5] Both father and son are interred at Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree, Massachusetts.

Surviving family

He is survived by his wife Eunice Fitzgibbon Jackson, daughters Trudy McDermott and Linda Compas. His son, Robert "Bobby" Fitzgibbon, died in April 2011. Through Fitzgibbon's great-grandmother, Mary Coston Fitzgibbon, Richard is Third Cousin to South African Artist, Jeremy Wafer.

Documentary[edit | edit source]

A year after his name was added to the Vietnam memorial wall TLC did a documentary, Vietnam: Stories From the Wall, on the father and son.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

  • Dale R. Buis (d. July 8, 1959) and Chester M. Ovnand (d. July 8, 1959), formerly the first names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the US. Buis and Ovnand were killed together while training the South Vietnamese army.
  • James T. Davis (d. December 22, 1961) was the first American who died in a battlefield engagement. James T. Davis was killed on December 22, 1961 while fighting the communist insurgency.[10]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]


External links[edit | edit source]

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