Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon but rather that of a fellow American airman.

Fitzgibbon had been assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group. He was responsible for training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. He was crew chief when they came under fire mid-flight. He confronted the plane’s radio operator to make sure that the operated was doing did his job.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon, as the latter was handing out candy to Vietnamese children on the porch of his barracks room, and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

Now, DoD recognizes Nov. 1, 1955, the date that the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was set up, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam. This is now the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

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