down: February 9, 1993
Launched: January 29, 1994
Commissioned: October 14, 1995
UNIT/ in commission (Pacific Fleet)
USS FITZGERALD is
named in honor of Lieutenant William Charles Fitzgerald, USN, who was
posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism on 7 August
1967 in Vietnam.
Bill Fitzgerald was born 28 January 1938 in Montpelier, Vermont, second child
and first son of Louis and Mildred Mary Fitzgerald.. His father was a career
Navy man who retired as a Chief Petty Officer. Bill grew up in the local area
and graduated from Montpelier High School in June 1956. Following graduation,
Bill followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the United States
Navy, As an enlisted sailor, Bill served in USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DD 823).,
USS HUGH PURVIS (DD 709), and USS GEARING (DD 710).Bill also served with
Utility Squadron SIX at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, while working on the Drone
Anti-Submarine Helicopter DASH) program.
Seaman William Fitzgerald eventually earned selection for officer training
and appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
During Midshipman Fitzgerald's days at Annapolis, he became well known as an
outstanding leader and athlete. Bill Fitzgerald excelled in Naval Education,
softball, football, fencing, basketball, and tennis. Additionally, Bill
developed a great sense of camaraderie with his peers, and from his enlisted
experience he had an intuitive grasp for being a great naval officer.
Midshipman Fitzgerald earned his commission in the U.S. Navy on 5 June 1963.
After graduation from Annapolis, Ensign Fitzgerald reported to USS CHARLES H.
ROAN (DD 853), where he rose from "Boot Ensign" to Weapons
Department Head, a position of great responsibility.
Following ROAN, Lieutenant Fitzgerald reported to Naval Amphibious Base
Coronado, California, where he attended counterinsurgency training. Upon
completion he was assigned duties as the senior U.S. advisor at Costal
Defense Group SIXTEEN in Vietnam. This group's compound was located adjacent to
the village of Co Luy, near the delta of the Tra Khuc River, and about 70
miles southeast of Danang. In this position, he advised the South Vietnamese
Navy on defense measures and on the capture of military supplies and
contraband destined for Viet Cong forces.
At about 0300 on 7 August 1967, Costal Group Sixteen's compound came under
vicious attack by two Viet Cong battalions. The assault began with an intense
mortar barrage followed immediately by the advance of troops. Fitzgerald, the
senior American commander, immediately ordered a retreat of the civilians
within the compound. Because of the compound's location adjacent to a river
and the aggressors position, the only escape route was via water in small
boats. Lieutenant Fitzgerald and three others delayed their retreat as long
as possible in order to provide covering fire and to direct fire from
surrounding friendly forces. Many calls were made to orbiting gunship
aircraft, artillery units, and "Swift"-type fasr river patrol boats
to provide defensive fire. The Viet Cong attack, however was swift and well
coordinated. It soon became apparent that the South Vietnamese forces were
decimated and that the American bunker was the sole remaining source of
resistance. As the situation deteriorated, Fitzgerald ordered his last three
remaining defenders to retreat while he used arms fire to cover their escape.
Fitzgerald was mortally wounded in this action.
In honor of Lieutenant William C. Fitzgerald's loyal and selfless dedication
to his people, he was posthumously awarded the U. S. Navy's highest
decoration for valor The Navy Cross. Additionally, he was awarded the Purple
Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the
Republic of Vietnam Campaign ribbon bar.
LT Fitzgerald is survived by his wife Betty Ann, and their children who
continue to reside in and around Montpelier VT. Mrs. Fitzgerald was
designated sponsor of the ship named for her late husband and continues to be
active in both official and unofficial ship functions.
USS Fitzgerald's motto - " PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE " - is a lasting
tribute to the sacrifice Bill made for the people he commanded.
Fitzgerald Hall at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command in Newport,
Rhode Island, also is named for Lieutenant Fitzgerald.