George L. Gavaria

Posted on March 23, 2010


George was assigned to Charlie Troop on August 15, 1965 and was Killed in Action on December 1, 1965.George wasa helicopter crewman but was killed while on the ground fighting with the short-handed Infantry. He was awarded the following Medals: Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a set of Crew Member Wings.

If any family member or friend reads this blog, please contact me as I am looking for pictures and personal stories about this brave man.

George and I arrived at Fort Benning Ga in the first part of 1965 Mar or Apr and where assigned to C-Troop 3rd Squadron 17th Cav 11th Air Assault which became C-Troop 1st Squadron 9th Cav on July 1965 and went to VietNam together. George and I along with Michael Glisson, and Andrew Hagerud were real close friends and brothers in arms. We all enjoyed the packages he would receive from home and would always party together. George was a real close friend and I was sad when he was killed in Dec. I left in Oct 66.

Pat; Re: your request for information, let me talk about two of the KIA’s from this month.


Sp5 George Gavaria. He was a crew chief on a UH-1B gunship. He had a heart of gold, and didn’t consider a day done unless he helped someone. He was a big fella, and a good mechanic, and I often had him help or instruct the younger crew chiefs, which we had a lot of because of the rapid buildup of army aviation during Vietnam. Sometimes, his enthusiasm got a little ahead of his capabilities, and here would come George, to confess his problem and ask for help. Some of his mistakes would flabbergast me, but I couldn’t stay upset with him anymore than I could a hurt puppy dog. OK George, let’s go fix it. He was everybody’s friend, and the day he was killed, a lot of tough soldiers cried.


Dec. 1st. Blue was in a hell of a gunfight. George’s helicopter was in field maintenance, so he was temporarily out of a job. We were sending a re-supply UH-1D out to Blue, and I saw George run over and jump on. I went over and asked him what he was doing, and he said he had to go help Blue. I told him SFC Samuels had enough problems, and he didn’t have time to watch over George. I said drop off the supplies and come back, understand? What I got was a hurt look, and as the helicopter took off, he threw me his billfold. I thought, ah shit. A few hours later, word came back that George had been killed. That night, I sat down for a late supper with SFC Samuels. He said George ran out and got between Blue and Charlie, and flopped down behind a dike, but his rifle went over the other side. Sgt Samuels hollered for him to stay down, and they would get to him. Instead, George tried to get to his rifle, and was killed. He died trying to help his friends. A heart of gold.

1st Lt. McAuliffe.  When I got to the division  replacement center, The div. Sgt.Maj. assigned all E-7s 8s and 9s. When I got my orders, they said C-1-9. I asked if they had helicopters. He said 27. I allowed as how that would do it, and shortly, my ride, the supply clerk on a mule, showed up. When I signed in at the orderly room, the 1st Sgt and I went for a beer and briefing. Next day, Lt. McAuliffe flew in from the field, and just couldn’t stop telling me how happy he was to have a maintenance sgt. He was the maintenance officer. We got along well, and when I told him that the policy of having the maintenance section in the rear was wrong, we went to Maj. Ritchie, and after some conversation, we moved out to the field. Where I soon discovered that half the crew chiefs were flying in helicopters that they didn’t know how to grease. When he was replaced by a TC Capt., we remained friends, and would often visit over supper. Two weeks before he was killed, his wife had a baby boy. He found me in the chow line, and said, “Sarge, I’ve got a boy”. And gave me a big cigar.

Dec. 18   I was standing in the chow line, and saw Lt. McAuliffe. I asked how that boy was doing, and if I remember, he showed me a picture that just came in the mail. He said he was flying radio relay that night. First light, Dec. 19. A search was launched to find Lt. McAuliffe’s helicopter. About an hour later, The Maint. Officer and I, went to the crash site. The transmission and rotor were about 75 feet in front of the fuselage. The pilots armored seat, with the cockpit floor still attached, was about 10 feet out. The co-pilot, WO McDonnell, had snapped the 3” wide nylon seatbelt and gone through the windshield. The crew chief, Jerry Berggran, was wearing a gunners harness and was tossed about like a rag doll, finally going over the top of his m-60 which was stowed vertically. The hand grips in the  gun cut two groves in his chest plate, which was on the ground. Jerry survived. There was a pup tent on the left front skid. Some concertina wire was scattered about. Fog had moved in that night, and as Lt. McAuliffe was making his landing approach to the runway, he was being talked down by GCA. Fog is treacherous. When he could see down through the fog and see the runway lights, he went off GCA, but then when he needed horizontal vision, he had lights glaring into fog all around him, and got vertigo. He veered left, just a few feet off the ground, went across the camp, took a pup tent right off it’s owner, hit the perimeter wire, and then dug the skids into the ground. Pilots coming out of flight school were often given a “tactical instrument ticket”. Which means they were given just enough instrument instruction to get killed. Lt. McAuliffe was a really nice guy. I’ve often wished I could tell his son about his dad.

Although I’m certain I talked to WO McDonnell at times, I don’t remember him well.


Steve Hundley

Crew chief H-19, crew chief H-34, Sp-6 crew chief of 62-1880. One of the first 11 UH-1B gunships in Vietnam. Nov 62, Nov63

SFC Maint Plt sgt C-!-9  July 66 May67

The following is from Mike Kelley 1965-66 Charlie Trooper.

-sp5 George Gavaria was one of my buddies back in 65-66, he was a master huey gunship crew chief-door gunner. he taught me how to maintain my gunship and fly as a door gunner. George was from Chicago, an Italian kid, age 22, who was deeply religious. we used to call him “father george”. he was alway going the extra mile to help anyone. That”s how he got killed. his gunship was shot up pretty bad at bong son and after they slung loaded it back to An Khe George helped load ammo on a slick that was going out to the village of Tu Hu 2 where our blues were in a fire fight. George took off with the slick and helped carry the ammo up to the blues defense line in the jungle. the platoon Sergeant told George he had a couple of wounded men laying in a ditch but could not get to them as they were under fire. what do you think “father George” did next?? right!! He slid into the long ditch and crawled forward to rescue the wounded.he did not get far. A VC sniper shot George twice, mortally wounding him.SP6 Craig Kassel, of the Scouts, also from Chicago, escorted George’s body back home. I was going home (Deros) along with sp kassel and Pfc Richard gable.we took off from Pleiku air base on Dec 2, 1966,  on an air force cC141 Starlifter with George’s body on board. when we arrived at Travis Air Base in California, kassel went his separate way with George on another plane. fast forward to August,2000. my wife and I flew out to visit George’s mom, Lillian who lived in the suburb of harwood Heights west of Chicago. i had been writing to her since 1974 via the red cross. she treated us like family. cooked us dinner and we stayed in George’s bedroom. that was the closest i ever felt to George since Vietnam. in the evenings, we sat on the back porch and she told us stories of George when he was a boy. sadly, George was her only child, she had him late in life. her husband bob died a few years before our visit so we did not get to see him.however, we did see both of them when they came out to Boston in the early 1980’s for a family wedding. they came to our house for a visit and met my three kids and my family. in 1982,when they dedicated the Vietnam memorial wall, I was there with a few of my Vietnam veteran friends from my home town and i got a rubbing of George’s name. his is the first name, top left of panel  13 e, line 001.he was a good man and i will never forget him.—-mike Kelley, MSG, US Army Retired..