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Vietnam War Casualty: Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

Gerald R. Helmich recognition plaquePhotograph of Gerald R. Helmich recognition plaque, located in Manchester NH at the corners of Second and West Hancock Streets. Copyright of Martin Miccio for the City of Manchester, and used here with permission.

A plaque  near the Queen City Bridge, on the SW corner of Second & West Hancock Streets, in Manchester, New Hampshire reads: “COL. GERALD R. HELMICH. Born November 17, 1931. MIA November 12, 1969. Vietnam Pilot USAF. ” On Memorial Day 1999, the city of Manchester erected a memorial plaque to Colonel Helmich.

Many pass by the marker, probably wondering about Colonel Hemlich. His story is long overdue. It is mostly due to a friend, Donn R. Inglis, that we remember “Jerry” today in this way.

Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

Gerald Robert Helmich was born 17 November 1931 Manchester NH, the son of Herbert G. & Martha A. (Andrews) Helmich. The son of a watchmaker, and grandson of a loom fixer, he grew up in a house at 671 Hevey Street, on the city’s west side. He attended local schools, graduating from West High School in 1950.

At the dedication of the city plaque, friend Donn Inglis said, “He was a regular guy who enjoyed fishing, hunting, swimming and dancing,""He had many friends, including me, and a ready smile.” Helmich went on to become a member of the UNH ROTC, and to graduate in 1954 from the University of New Hampshire. As a pilot for the United States Air Force, he was a member of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, Pleiku Airbase, South Vietnam.

(Then) Major Gerald R. Helmich was “the pilot of an A1H, call sign “Spad 02,” that was scrambled to assist in the overall search and recovery (SAR) mission for the crew of “Owl 07,” a 2-man Army helicopter downed the day before.” He made a covering pass at the enemy while a rescue helicopter successfully recovered the downed airmen, then his aircraft was hit by hostile fire, crashed and exploded on November 12, 1969 over southern Laos. The following Monday he would have been thirty-eight years old [information from Task Force Omega see link above].

Major Gerald R. Helmich, USAFMajor Gerald R. Helmich, USAF

Major Helmich was declared missing in action from that date until 1978, when the government officially declared him killed in action.He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on September 16, the Air Medal on October 2, and another DFC on October 10. Because he was missing, not officially dead, Jerry Helmich was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1973 and full colonel in 1978. However, in December 1978, a posthumous awards ceremony was held at Dobins Air Force Base in Georgia, at which time Gerald “Jerry” Helmich finally got a grave marker, a 21-gun salute, and the medals he had earned on the last day of his life: another Air Medal, the Purple Heart for his presumed injuries, and the Silver Star for heroism.

His remains were not recovered, but he is not forgotten. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial. And as stated earlier, on Memorial Day 1999, the city of Manchester erected a memorial plaque to him near the Queen City Bridge.

Posted on 5 May, 2014 by Janice Brown