This past Thanksgiving was an interesting one for my family. My mom put a post on The Wall website and then received an email from a soldier that was there the day my dad was killed. I am with holding his name for his privacy. We will call him "John".

"John" wrote to my mother and told her that he had information of interest to our family. My mother sent it to me as I am the queen of the internet! LOL

I was nervous writing to "John" because I was afraid he had some startling and possibly terrifying things to tell me. We had all heard different things concerning the day Major Frank Maki was killed.

So my first question was,"were you there when my dad died"?

He was THERE... and this is what John had to say:

Yes, your father was killed by enemy fire. A rocket hit his bunker (the command bunker) on Firebase Fuller. I was there. There was nothing sinister, strange, retaliatory or subversive about it. It just happened...

Was he courageous? It took a lot of courage to be on Firebase Fuller. Was he scared? Yes -- we all were. Was he a hero? Depends on your definition. If it's being under
fire and still doing your duty -- then yes, he was a hero.

There were five men in the bunker at that time.The Major and
myself included: two ARVN officers and a GI we called "News".

The incoming round that hit the Major was a "dud". It did not explode. Had it exploded, certainly we would have all perished. Instead, no one received a scratch, except for your father. 

Your father did not die alone -- I was with him. He did not suffer. There were many killed during the siege on Firebase Fuller, but your father was the only American.

What a relief to find out that Dad never knew what hit him, his death saved other people's lives and most importantly he was not alone or abandoned.

As I was writing my first post on this topic I found an article on Firebase Fuller concerning that day June 22, 1971 This Day in History

I sent an email to "John" after that post and asked his opinion of the article. He was kind enough to reply:

 Major Freank Rudolph Maki  March 13,1928-June 22, 1971

Hi Kimmer, Yes, essentially the article is correct. One thing is inaccurate: "a 500 man Vietnamese garrison" at Firebase Fuller. There was never more than 100 men on top of that hill. Probably
much less at the end.

To give you an idea of what it was like:

One evening about dusk on Firebase Fuller, I was standing around
watching a long column of ARVN soldiers walk onto the Firebase. Periodically, the ARVNs would rotate a company off the mountain and bring a new company of men to replace them.

Many of these men came from local jails and prisons. They could
get out of jail by serving in the Army. I asked an ARVN who spoke English what the two ARVN officers were talking about. They were obviously agitated/upset.

He said they had done a headcount of men at the beginning of the trek and it was 96, but upon arriving on Fuller the headcount
was 98! They now surmised that at least two men
in our midst were spies...

Wow -- I'm glad that was long ago and far away.
Thank you John! We are grateful that you were there when he needed you.

Maj. Frank Maki served twice in Vietnam 1968-69 and briefly in 1971. Sadly he was killed in action at Firebase Fuller just 3 miles south of the DMZ Here is what happened the day my father was killed.

June 22, 1971 From This Day in History South Vietnamese fight for Fire Base Fuller In a major engagement near the Demilitarized Zone, some 1,500 North Vietnamese attack the 500-man South
Vietnamese garrison at Fire Base Fuller. 

Despite U.S. B-52 raids dropping 60 tons of bombs on June 21 and a 1,000-man reinforcement on June 24, the South Vietnamese had to abandon the base since a North Vietnamese bombardment had destroyed 80 percent of their bunkers.

In an attempt to clear the surrounding area of enemy mortar and rocket sites, South Vietnamese forces swept the region on June 25. On June 28, a Saigon spokesman announced that 120 South Vietnamese had reoccupied.

My Dad's name on the Wall

Fire Base Fuller, but would not rebuild the fortifications. Casualty figures were reported at nearly 500 North Vietnamese dead, with 135 wounded.


Manz said...

Kimmer, this was a very insightful post.
Thank you to both John and yourself for sharing this story with us all.

I'm pleased that you were able to receive some positive news from John.

FYI: I did a blog post "Blue Ribbon Bloggers" to thank some fellow bloggers - you're on the list :)

Retro Kimmer said...

Thank you so much. It was an interesting time at Thanksgiving but such a relief to finally know what happened so far away. Thanks for the blue ribbon.

Retro Kimmer said...

Manz would you send me a link to the blue ribbon post? I am not finding it.

Hot Rocks said...

It must be a good feeling for you and your family, to know that your Dad was not alone when he died. Thank you for sharing your personal story.

Unknown said...

Kimmer thank you for sharing that story about your father, as I was reading it a feeling of sadness and joyfulness came over me at the same time and I thought how incredibly wonderful that you crossed paths with this truly heroic soldier!! Good things happen to good people Kimmer and you truly are a good person! Isn't the internet wonderful! Thanks again Kimmer.Marko

Retro Kimmer said...

thanks JD and Marko. I had the same feelings of dread, sadness, and then joy that he didn't suffer. It was almost 39 years ago. I was just 15. Now the story has more meaning to me too.
It was very interesting meeting "john"
he kept that story for that long before he finally found out where we were on the Wall.

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