COL JOHN M FITZGERALD II, USMA x1956
Born August 19, 1934 Died August 21, 2006
From his birth in New York City to Herbert and Natalie Fitzgerald, Jack was programmed to attend the Military Academy. His mother was the widow of Bert Muse (USMA ’29) who had died in flight training and his father, a long time sailor and railroad man, agreed that the Army would be a fine career goal. This was strengthened when his father entered the Army during World War II as a Captain and integrated as a regular after the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. Jack, his mother, and brother Preston (USNA’65) joined the Colonel in the Philippines as soon as dependent travel was authorized in 1945.
Jack attended the American School in Manila except for eight months in 1947 when he slipped away and joined the Military Sea Transportation Service. He was in Shanghai where his ship, LST 898, was being held in the repair yard by the newly arrived Communist regime when his father got him sent home on a minority discharge as a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class. Attending school day and night to catch up, he was a junior when the family returned home to the U.S. in 1949. Jack was fluent in Spanish and found his last two years of high school in Brooklyn very easy after the tough taskmasters in Manila. Graduating at 16, he shipped out with the Waterman Line to Europe as a Deck Cadet until he was 17 and was allowed to join the Army. Arriving at USMAPS in October 1951, he won a Presidential appointment to USMA finishing seventh in the nation.
Jack’s year at West Point was an adventure in itself. He was turned out in June with a section one standing in four academic subjects. Jack returned to the ranks as a Corporal and entered the University of Pittsburgh following placement examinations as a second semester sophomore. Now a Staff Sergeant, he applied for a commission under the ROTC act when he graduated in August 1955.
Jack was assigned in Air Defense and served in both New Jersey and Alaska. In Alaska he was XO of a Battery of 120mm ADA. After the ADA units were converted to Nike, he was assigned to the Field Artillery and trained as an aerial forward observer. Jack would command a company, integrated RA in the Transportation Corps, of the Armored Carrier Company. Jack also played on and coached Army football and basketball teams.
Returning to the Lower 48, Jack commanded the 1098th Transportation Company (Medium Boat) for two years after graduating first in his Transportation Company Officer Course. In 1962, the Army spotted the Spanish language capability and sent him to Fort Bragg to join the forming 8th Special Forces Group which would deploy to Panama. Assigned to the Civil Affairs Detachment, he was deployed over the next two years in Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. Decorated by both the US and Bolivia as the Advisor to the Bolivian River and Lake Force, he supervised the delivery of their boats through Brazil and trained the 3rd Ranger Battalion in their use. The Rangers would be involved in the capture of Che Guevarra. Offered a branch transfer to the newly formed Intelligence branch, he accepted and upon returning to Washington in 1965, he attended the Defense Intelligence Strategic Intelligence Post Graduate Course graduating with distinction and the Intelligence Advance Course graduating number one.
In October 1966, Jack, now a Major, was off to Viet Nam where he was assigned as the J-2 I Corps Desk Officer in the MACV Current Intelligence and Indications Branch. Splitting his tour between Saigon and I Corps, he earned the Legion of Merit among other decorations and was requested by the Marine Corps as a student at their Command and Staff College which he attended after earning his Masters Degree at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. A tour at the Pentagon (ACSFOR) followed after which Jack assisted in the activation of the new Test and Evaluation Agency and then returned to Viet Nam as Deputy Chief of the Four Party Joint Military Team investigating status of POW and missing allied soldiers in North Viet Nam.
Jack served as the commander of the Security Detachment for the Topographic Center of the Defense Mapping Agency and completed the Air War College before joining the Joint Staff as a worldwide exercise director. During this time he also became certified and officiated baseball, football, and basketball at the high school and smaller college level. Promoted to Colonel, Jack ended his career with four years as the Army Attaché to Singapore where he initiated an attaché program with the Sultanate of Brunei, arranged for Singaporean officers to obtain advanced degrees in the United States and attend the Army War College, and initiated the first combined exercises involving Singapore and the United States. He retired in December, 1983 after 32 years service and was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal.
He worked closely with four future presidents; Barrientos of Bolivia, Torrijos of Panama, Somoza of Nicaragua, and Marcos of the Philippines, all in their formulative and most effective years. He commanded artillery, amphibious, armored, and intelligence units; held every staff position at the battalion level; and served on both the Army and Joint Staffs. He sorely missed the Army when he retired, but it can be said that the Army missed Jack as well.
Retiring in Jacksonville, Florida, he taught for two years at Jones College and rose to the position of Dean of the Evening College. In 1986, Jack joined Grumman Aerospace as a Business Analyst at their St. Augustine facility. When he accepted early retirement in 1998, following Northrup’s acquisition of Grumman, he had served as Proposal Manager and Director level representative of Grumman Aerospace in St. Augustine. While serving on the board of his grandson’s computer company, Jack took advantage of his leisure time to begin a third career as an author. Always a prolific magazine contributor during his Army career, he now wrote his first book about the guerrilla war in the Philippines during World War II. “Family in Crisis” was critically acclaimed especially in the Philippines. He also had published his first novel, a civil war tome called “O’Hara’s War”. Both these books have a strong academy bent.
A typical A-1 file, Jack was garrulous, jovial by nature, and a prodigious worker. Jack loved the Army and West Point equally as well. Late in life he battled cancer twice and won once and he fought a long draw with diabetes. He is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Marianne; four children, seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. One of his last comments to his grandson namesake was, “I might have been at route step, but I was always marching in the van of the Long Grey Line”.
His awards include:
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Legion of Merit
- Bronze Star
- Defense Meritorious Service Medal
- Meritorious Service Medal (Army) (1 OLC)
- Air Medal
- Joint Services Commendation Medal
- Army Commendation Medal (1 OLC)
- Bolivian Merito Naval
- Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm
- Vietnamese Honor Medal (1st Class)
- Vietnamese Staff Honor Medal (1st Class)
- Army Good Conduct Medal
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