Remains returned 7 February 1994; Identified 6 February 1997
Name:  Joseph Edward Fitzgerald 
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army
Unit:  Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 
3rd Brigade Task Force, 
25th Infantry Division
(Believed assigned to Task Force OREGON) 

Date of Birth: 25 November 1948 (St. Johnsbury, VT)
Home of Record: Northbridge, MA
Date of Loss: 31 May 1967 
Country of Loss:  South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  145215N 1085242E (BS718450)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: John A. Jakovac and Brian K. McGar (missing)


SYNOPSIS:   On 31 May 1967, Sgt. John A. Jakovac, PFC Brian K. McGar, then PFC Joseph E. Fitzgerald, Cpl. Charles G. Rogerson, and SP4 Carl D. Flowers were assigned as riflemen to a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) deployed at the base of Hill 310. This hill was located on the east side of a rugged mountain range approximately 19 miles south-southwest of Quang Ngai, 3 miles north of Duc Pho and 7 miles west of the coast, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. To the east of the mountain range lay the rich coastal shelf covered in rice fields. Also running through the coastal shelf were roads, a north-south running single track railroad line and power transmission lines.

The 5-man patrol was inserted at the base of Hill 310 in mid to late morning. They immediately moved forward to reconnoiter an area along a hedge row where several Viet Cong soldiers had been fired upon by gunships earlier in the day. By early afternoon the patrol had established a protected position and reported situation normal. At 2030 hours, the patrol made contact again reporting that they were proceeding to the top of the hill where they were to establish an observation post per briefing orders. The patrol failed to make a scheduled radio report at 2145 hours.

On the morning of 1 June 1967, search and rescue (SAR) elements swept the area. During their search, two sets of remains were discovered in freshly dug graves. They were later identified as Cpl. Charles Rogerson and SP4 Carl Flowers. The SAR element found an extended AK-47, 5.56mm and 7.62mm brass shell casings along with hand grenade fragments at an apparent ambush site. They also found blood trails leading away from the area. Ground searches continued from 2 June to 12 July for the three LRRP members on and around Hill 310, but no further trace of the three Americans was found. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, John Jakovac, Joseph Fitzgerald and Brian McGar were all immediately listed Missing in Action.

There was no further word about the fate of John Jakovac, Brian McGar and Joseph Fitzgerald until the Vietnamese returned their remains without explanation on 7 February 1994. It took the US government's Central Identification Laboratory (CIL-HI) nearly three years to the day to positively identity those remains.

While the fates of John Jakovac, Joseph Fitzgerald and Brian McGar are finally resolved and their families have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved ones now lie, there are no answer to the question of when and how each man died.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for, there remain only unanswered questions. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.