Giacobello, Frank A. Jr

The following hero story is adapted from a series of newspaper articles by Joe D’Angelo. These articles were published in the Coatesville Record and Downingtown Ledger in two parts in November, 2007.

As we remember Veterans Day, I would like to express my gratitude to all of the brave young service members of our military, past and present, who protect America’s way of life.

Veterans Day comes and goes each year. Usually family members, relatives and friends will remember their lost loved ones. They are fathers, sons, daughters, etc. Heroes who selflessly fought for our country and other nations’ freedom.
Memorial services are held throughout the country as flags are placed at gravesites, cemeteries or memorial monuments. Yet it is only this one day out of the year that those who shed blood in the cause of freedom are remembered. But it is something worth remembering each and every day, as we should always give thanks, honor, praise, and never forget the sacrifice of these brave young heroes.

According to the Combat Area Casualty File. (CACF) report, which is the basis for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Wash­ington, D.C., approximately 58,169 soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War. One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. And on June 14, 1967, one local brave soldier was part of that casualty statistic. Coatesville-born and raised hero, Frank A. “Frankie” Giacobello, Jr., while serving with Company B First Ranger Infantry Division, was killed while protecting his fellow Army comrades.

Bill and Gert Dunn with a photo of Frank

Not knowing his fate, Frankie had written to his family, his Uncle Bill and Aunt Gert Dunn of Downingtown two weeks prior to his death. Bill's parents, John and Helen Dunn, took care of Frank as a teenager.

On June 1, 1967, he wrote home to his aunt and uncle to congratulate them on the arrival of their first newborn baby, Billy.

In the letter, Frankie writes:

Dear Bill and Gert,
Just a note to let you know I am fine. Also, congratulations on the new mem­ber in your family. I know you are both very happy now and I am glad. And I know your son will be happy and healthy and will more than likely be a baseball player. Right?
How old is the little one? Is he doing any walking yet, or is he at the stage where he is pulling everything off the table! That must be a lot of fun for you, Gert.
Is Bill still in shock? Or did he come out of it. Would you please send me a picture of the three of you? I do miss you all very much and would like to see you soon. So see what you can do, OK?
It should be getting nice back home about now, is it? Are the leaves green on the trees yet? It has been very hot over here, about 103 degrees. Today it will reach 110 before the day is over.
I heard it was snowing in parts of the States. Is that anywhere around you? Thank you for the jokes. Gert, send some more. That one joke about the zipper cracked me up. Well, I’ll say good-bye for now, write soon.
Love always, Frankie.

On June 5, 1967, Gert Dunn writes to Frank:

Dear Frank,
I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. Everyone at home is just fine. Well I just got Billy to sleep so I thought I’d drop a few lines.
What did you think of his pictures? He’s about 15 pounds now, and ornery as hell (just like his father). Bill is so crazy about him and spoils him rotten. He’ll be four months on the 14th. Just think, Frank, you also will be a daddy in a couple of months. I really think it’s wonderful for both of you. There’s nothing in the world like having a baby of your own. We’ve never known such happiness until Billy came into our lives.
I hear it’s getting rough over there, Frankie. I pray every night for world peace and your safe return. Now all this trouble starting up in Egypt and Israel. The news just came over TV that war was declared there this morning.
I have some more jokes. But I can’t mail them in this kind of envelope so I’ll stick them in another and put it in the mail, OK? If you have any pictures, Frank, send us some, will you? I know you don’t have much time to take them.
Jim is still at home. He hasn’t made up his mind at what he wants to do. And Bill is now interested in horses and I don’t mean riding. I mean racing. He’s a racetrack bum. Ha, ha, ha!
Well, Frank, I better close for now and get Billy fed. He loves to eat just like his father. So please be careful and take good care of yourself. May God bless and keep yourself safe always.

Love, Gert.

Two days later, Frankie writes back on June 7, 1967:

Hi Bill and Gert and Billy,
Just a few lines to let you know I am okay and doing fine. How are things going for you old man? Still working hard? Are you still working in Downingtown or did they move you?
How are Gert and the baby doing? I, bet she has her hands full now. How are Mom and Pop doing? Is Mom still sick? I hope not. What was wrong with her anyway?
We will be moving out for the Cambodia border again in two more days. Charlie is acting up again. He is nuts. He can never win this war!
We just got off operation Dal­las. Didn’t run into anything, haven’t seen anything for about two weeks now. Just some sniper fire and they can’t hit a damn thing and I think they’re blind. I shouldn’t talk about being blind. Ha! Ha! Ha! Well, Bill, I’ll close for now. Write soon and give everyone my love.
P.S. Send me some Kool-Aid and ice tea and some kind of nuts, okay? See you in 20 days. Love, Frankie.

That day never came. On June17, 1967, on the front page of the Coatesville Record:

Frank A.Giacobello, Ranger, killed by sniper in Vietnam

Mr. and Mrs. John Dunn of Chestnut Street, Coatesville, received word that their grandson, Frank A. Giacobello Jr., 19, was killed in action in Viet Nam. According to Army Sgt. Quick, who visited the Dunns as a representative of the War Department, Giacobello was killed by a sniper about 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, 1967. Giacobello enlisted in the Army in July, 1966 and left Fort Dix, N.J. Feb. 19 for Vietnam, where he served with the Rangers of Company B, 1st Infantry Div. The rangers used small weapons and specialized in hand-to-hand combat in the jungle.

Born in Coatesville, Pfc. Giacobello spent his life in Coatesville. He attended St. Cecilia’s Parochial School and Gordon Junior High School and was a communicant of St. Cecil­ia’s Roman Catholic Church.

Hero Frankie Giacobello was with Bravo Company at the time of his death. The unit was involved in Operation Billings. This specific incident in June, 1967, is known to historians as the Battle of Xom Bo I. Three days later, on June 17, it would be known as the battle of Xom Bo II. Several 1st Div. Units walked to their landing zone rather than be airlifted in, a trek of about 40 km north, northeast of Saigon. Meeting Frank’s unit there were four companies of the 271st Viet Cong Regiment, who were waiting to ambush the Americans and Frankie’s unit.

Family and friends remember Frankie and his Heroism 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacri­ficed their lives in the Vietnam War. Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Yet the memorial itself is dedicated to honor the “Courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of all who answered the call to serve dur­ing the longest war in U.S. history.”

Coatesville native Frank A. Giacobello is one of those 58,000 on that honorable wall, who was devoted, dedicated and gave his life for his country and fellow com­rades.

“He was a friend who you could always count on and would always back you up. That’s the type of guy Frankie was,” Bill Laurento said. Laurento was Frankie’s best friend back when they were growing up during the 60s in Coatesville.

“He was a gung-ho guy!” Laurento said. “He was a great friend to be around and always loved to have fun; Laurento recalls of his best friend from 50 years ago.

“As kids we did the normal things youngsters get into. We played baseball, basketball, sports of all kinds. Frankie was a decent athlete and was the fastest kid I knew. He could out run anybody and anything. He was a very fast runner. He was on Gordon Jr. High School’s track team and won a lot of medals and trophies. But Frankie never went on to finish high school and graduate.”

"We used to live on Chestnut Street, went to the movies all the time and ended up working at the Silver Movie Theater, located in the East End of town, Frankie and I set up the marquee, featuring what movies were playing that week.”

“Frankie’s grandfather, I think, worked at Royal Crown Soda Company on Lumber Street and he and I worked there together load­ing trucks. We even took sodas when we weren’t supposed to,” Laurento recalled.

“Frankie was a good kid. He and George Sample and I were the best of friends. We didn’t get into much trouble, Just had lots of fun. Frankie dropped out of school in tenth grade and met his future wife, Bonnie Lee Butler, who then got pregnant but lost the baby girl dur­ing birth. He would talk about the Vietnam War and wanted to join the Army on a buddy plan,”

Laurento said.

 “Frankie tried to get me to go, but I turned him down because you had to serve three years. I only wanted to serve two years. I went into the Army and was sent to Alas­ka, while Frankie went into the Army and ended up in Vietnam. Frank was a great guy, a trusted and loyal friend who wouldn’t turn on you. Very loyal and supportive, and that’s how he died.”

“I was stationed in Alaska at the nuclear missile site in security when I first heard that Frankie died in Vietnam. My brother wrote me and told me about his unexpected death. It was a sad day for me, as I will always remember him,” Laurento concluded.

According to Frankie’s father, Frank Giacobello Sr. of Lancaster, Frankie was a great kid. “I’ll never forget the day Frankie wasn’t com­ing back as long as I live. At that time, on that day, I took my daugh­ter Brenda to the doctor’s office in the early afternoon. It got extreme­ly cloudy, windy and very stormy outside.”

“I was sitting there in the doctor’s office and his phone rang. My brother-in-law Nick called the doctor to tell him about Frankie and the doctor said OK, I’ll take care of it. I was ready to leave the office when the doctor asked me to wait a minute and said I may need these pills (tranquilizers). On the way home, I figured something may have happened, but never thinking it was going to be about my son. When I got home, I was totally shocked as my wife 
Janet said that Frankie was killed in action in Vietnam. I’ll never forget that day because it was so shocking. Frankie was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism,” Giacobello sadly said.

On July 27, 1967 a letter from headquarters of the First Infantry Division from San Francisco reported the details of what happened to Frankie. Mr. Giacobello couldn’t bring himself to read the letter to me and gave his wife Janet the honor of doing so.

The letter reads:

Frank A. Giacobello Jr., Specialist Four E4 of the United States Army Company B, First Battalion, 16th Infantry, was awarded the Bronze Star medal with “V” device, date of action June 14, 1967 in the Republic of Vietnam, for heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile Viet Cong force.

On this date during Operation Billings, Specialist Giacobello was participating in a destroy mission in the vicinity of Chu Linh. As the unit moved through an area of dense jungle, they were suddenly attacked by a large, well-armed hostile force.

As Specialist Giacobello’s platoon maneuvered to the right flank of the company to establish a defensive line, his squad encountered intense machine gun and automatic weapons fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Specialist Giacobello laid down a base of fire for his platoon as they deployed to cover.

Although Frank was isolated from his squad and was attracting heavy volleys of insurgent fire, Specialist Giacobello elected to remain in place until his fellow soldiers could get into better firing position. His fire was so effective that he momentarily neutralized the Viet Cong fire and enabled his comrades to begin placing suppressive fire on the enemy.

While Specialist Giacobello maneuvered to rejoin his squad, he was mortally wounded by the Viet Cong fire. His great courage, as demonstrated by his selfless sacrifice for his fellow soldiers, enabled his unit to gain fire superiority and rout the numerically superior hostile force.

Specialist Four Giacobello’s outstanding display of aggressiveness, devotion to duty and personal bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the First Infantry Division and the United States Army.

At the time of his death, Frank A. Giacobello Jr. was 19 years old and was married to Bonnie Lee Butler Giacobello. They lost their first child shortly after she was born, but were blessed with a son who was born two months after Frank's his death. .

Frankie Giacobello is buried in Coatesville’s St. Cecilia Cemetery and is named on panel 21 E, line 101 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

A fellow soldier describes Frank in a note to sent to the Hall of Heroes website in 2015

My name is Phillip Botello Ha Lavi Garcia and I served with Frank A Giacobello;with the Rangers of the First Division, 1/16 Infantary , Co B. He was lots of fun and we called him AlphBet because no one could pronounce his name correctly. We joke about possible relationship due to my sir name Botello and Frank ending of his sir name...Bello. Which would have made him a Sephardic JEWS. In June of 2015 Gary B Kipp who served with us some photos you might like for your wall. I don't know what awards Frank received but he should have received a Bromze Star with a V device, A gutsy guy whom I counted many times.

Stardust Spacecraft

Frank's name was placed on the NASA Stardust Spacecraft on a microchip, along with other Vietnam War heroes. The Stardust spacecraft was launched on Feb. 7, 1999, carrying the two sets of microchips. Two copies of each chip were installed on the spacecraft, for a total of four chips. One set of microchips was mounted inside the sample-return capsule and was returned to Earth with the capsule when it landed in Utah on Jan. 15, 2006. The capsule, along with the microchips, was transported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on Jan. 17, 2006, where they currently reside. The other set of chips is mounted in the spacecraft body and will remain in space forever.

The Stardust mission helps promote public interest, awareness and support of the space program. It also provided a way to honor individuals and war hero veterans by enabling them to be associated with mankind’s most advanced technological endeavor and to be part of the quest of the human species to reach for the stars.


Information on Operation Billings, along with some letters he wrote to his parents from Vietnam, were contributed by Vietnam Veteran Ray Barth