First Lieutenant Hugh Robert McKibbin, Jr., graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1966.
During the Vietnam War, he was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 34th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) when he was killed-in-action on February 2, 1968 at Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam.
Hugh Robert McKibbin, Jr., known to his family and friends as “Skip,” was my only brother and my closest friend. We grew up as navy juniors, spending most of our early childhood years in San Diego, where we were born, and in Monterey, where our father taught at the Naval Postgraduate School. Dad was a graduate of the United States' Naval Academy at Annapolis and was a career naval aviator and line officer. We both loved the service life, and it enabled us to see and do things that most people only dream about. Our favorite tour of duty was in Taipei, Taiwan, where our father was the MAAG Chief of Staff. We learned to speak Mandarin, and we had exciting times meeting presidents, such as Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Sheck, and other dignitaries.
Upon returning to the States from Taiwan, Skip entered Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia for high school. While he was there, he earned the “Outstanding Gentleman” award, and made many close friendships. One of those friends was Dave Hurley, who had decided to go to West Point. Dave received the principle appointment to West Point through Massanutten, and Skip was a first alternate. He did not make it in the first year, so he joined the Army
and entered through the West Point Prep School at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia with the Class of 1966.
Skip was a very dedicated individual who easily took to academy life. He was not the first of our family to attend West Point, and among those was General Wm. T. Sherman, a cousin of our great-grandmother, and two generals named McKibbin. Skip did well academically, and received the top award in Automotive Engineering, which was a large tool chest, upon graduation; he was later chosen to attend graduate school in Automotive Engineering, and would have if he had lived. The West Point pistol team was one of Skip's major interests, and he was All American on that team. Prior to leaving for Vietnam, he had a gun specially made and sighted just for him. Skip was also fond of skiing, and could often be found on the West Point ski slopes.
As fate would have it, Skip's last year at West Point was my husband's first year as an instructor there in the Mechanics Department. Skip and I were able to spend some time together, and I got to know his classmates and friends. I have fond memories of our days in our quarters on Winans Road, where Skip would often spend weekends and entertain my three small children. There was always a joyful noise in our house when “Uncle Skip” would come to visit. I can still see a picture in my mind of a 6'2″ tall, blond, blue-eyed cadet officer in his parade dress uniform with his tarbucket in his hand, who used to meet me at Trophy Point after the parades. He was the image of our father, and he had the same smile and sense of humor. Many have written to us about the stories and jokes that Skip told to the other cadets at West Point.
Skip always loved anything mechanical, something he inherited from our father, and cars were something he loved. No one was surprised when he elected to go into Armor, because tanks to him were like oversized cars. After graduation, he attended several schools; one of them was the Jungle Warfare School in Panama, something he liked to brag about.
Skip volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wanted to go before he married and had a family, and he believed that he was needed there. He left for Vietnam one year after graduation. He first served with the 24th Infantry, and later was a member of B CO, 34th Armor, Ist Infantry Division. I received a phone call from my father late one night in February, and he told me that Skip was missing in action. We were still in our quarters at West Point, and I was aware that missing often meant dead. One month later we received the news that Skip had been killed during a fire fight while trying to rescue two men. A rocket impacted against his tank, and he died on a helicopter on the way to the hospital. He is buried at West Point with his Class of 1966. The Class of 1966 lost many men in Vietnam, which is detailed in the book “The Long Gray Line” by Atkinson, where Skip in mentioned. We have preserved some twenty tapes that Skip sent us from Vietnam, and in them one can hear the concern that he always had for his men. His final tape to us told of how he hoped to buy a Jaguar XKE when he returned to the States, and how he was looking forward to graduate school; the tape arrived one month after he died.
Skips' name is honored on memorials in San Diego, Massanutten Academy in Woodstock, VA, at the Arlington, Virginia Courthouse, and at West Point. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and several others. He will live on in the memories of his friends and family. Skip died for his men, and for the country that he believed in. Duty, Honor and Country were words that he lived by, and he has honored
us all by making the supreme sacrifice. My words to him are, “Rest in peace,” little brother (Shau Dee Dee in Mandarin), which was what I called him. We will never forget him.
His sister, Marilyn
NOTE: His father, Hugh Robert McKibbin, Sr, Captain, United States Navy, died in 1999 and Father and Son rest at peace with one another.
McKibbin, Hugh Robert
US Navy, CAPT,
Residence: Arlington, Virginia
Section 3, Grave 1691-RH
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard