3 Fathers And Their Sons Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice During The Vietnam War

History
Photo by Austin Kirk

From the start of American operations in the Vietnam War in 1961  to to the end of direct U.S. military involvement in 1973, more than 3 million Americans served in the conflict, half of whom saw combat. The deeply divisive war came to define a generation, as did its toll on human life.


During the Vietnam War, 303,644 Americans were wounded and 58,307 killed. While nearly 7,500 women served in Vietnam, the majority of whom were nurses, the overwhelming majority of combat injuries and deaths were men — though not all.

That means that for each casualty, there was one less husband, friend, brother, father, or son; in a few cases, families were forced to endure multiple tragedies.

Here are three fathers and their sons who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during Vietnam.

Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. and his son Richard B. Fitzgibbon III

Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and his son Richard Fitzgibbon III, right.

Tech. Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr., a former Navy veteran who served during World War II and then later joined the Air Force, was the first American killed in the Vietnam War. Fitzgibbon was shot by a fellow airman who had been drinking heavily following an argument between the two, according to a 2012 Boston.com report. Fitzgibbon was handing out candy to a group of children in Saigon when the man walked over, drew his sidearm, and shot him. He died of his wounds days later on June 8, 1956. He was 36 years old.

His son, Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, was killed in combat on Sept. 7, 1965, in Quang Tin, Vietnam, at the age of 21. His aunt, Alice DelRossi said that Fitzgibbon followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Marines after graduating high school, because he wanted to connect to the place where his father had died.

However, it wasn’t until 1999 that the elder Fitzgibbon found his rightful place on the Vietnam Memorial wall. When the Department of Defense began compiling its casualty database for the war, the conflict’s start date was listed Jan. 1, 1961, five years after his death.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the Fitzgibbon family succeeded in persuading DoD to recognize that military advisers were in Vietnam as of Nov. 1, 1955, which made Fitzgibbon Jr. the first American casualty of the war.

Leo Hester Sr. and his son Leo Hester Jr.

Leo Hester Sr., left, and his son Leo Hester Jr., right.

On March 10, 1967, Navy pilot Lt. Cmdr. Leo Claude Hester Sr. died in an aircraft crash in Ninh Thuan, Vietnam. He was 43 years old. Tragically, less than two years later his son, an aviator in the Army, would suffer the same fate.

Twenty-year-old Army Warrant Officer Leo Claude Hester Jr. was also killed in an aircraft crash, on Nov. 2, 1969, while serving as a helicopter pilot in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

According to the website TogetherWeServed.com, both father and son are buried next to each other at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida.

Fred C. Jenkins and his son Bert M. Jenkins

Army Spc. 5 Fred C. Jenkins, a welder in the Ordnance Corps, drowned on April 2, 1968, in Hau Nghia, Vietnam, at the age of 49. A year later, his son, Warrant Officer Bert McCree Jenkins was killed in action on April 28, 1969, after the Huey he was piloting was shot down by small arms fire. Jenkins, who served with the Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, was flying armed reconnaissances in support of a convoy. He was hit during the engagement and succumbed to his wounds in a hospital after he was recovered.

Bert Jenkins was 29 years old when he was killed and is buried at the Louisville Memorial Gardens in Kentucky.

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Gross. (U.S. Army/Spc. Scott Lindblom)

Hoping to push for clean-up and to hold polluters accountable, members of Congress created a task force Wednesday to help constituents nationwide who have contended with drinking water contaminated by chemicals used on military bases.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Platoon 4030, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, perform rifle manual marching movements during an initial drill evaluation June 25, 2018, on Parris Island, S.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Editor's Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A congressionally mandated commission is weighing whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service System, or whether the U.S. needs a draft registration system at all.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes, even the most well-meaning of tweets can come back to haunt you as a meme.

Read More Show Less
An AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter lands during a combined arms demonstration as part of South Carolina National Guard Air & Ground Expo 2009 at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Oct. 10, 2009. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)

Welcome to Confessions Of, an occaisional series where Task & Purpose's James Clark solicits hilarious, embarrassing, and revealing stories from troops and vets about their job, billet, or a tour overseas. Are you in an interesting assignment and think you might have something to share? Email james@taskandpurpose.com with your story.

"Nothing is more powerful than a young boy's wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine."

While this Patrick Stewart quote may be from an R-rated movie about a talking teddy bear, it's remarkably accurate. After all, the old warhorse has been kicking ass since it was first adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1980s. Designed to get into trouble fast and put it down even faster, the AH-64 Apache usually comes bristling with ordnance, from an M230 chain gun firing 30mm rounds to Hellfire missiles and rockets.

In the words of Tyler Merritt "it's basically a fucking flying tank."

Read More Show Less