Manchester NH Casualty of Vietnam War: Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

Photograph of Gerald J. Helmich recognition plaque, located in Manchester NH at the corners of -- and -- Streets. Copyright of Martin Miccio for the City of Manchester, and used here with permission.

Photograph 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.

Gerald Robert Helmich was born 17 November 1931 Manchester NH, the son of Herbert G.

Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

& 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].

Photograph of Major Gerald R. Helmich

Photograph of then Major 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.

======PARTIAL GENEALOGY of Gerald R. Helmich=====

Ernst Carl Paul “Hermann” Hellmich, son of Karl/Carl Hellmich, b. 28 Aug 1859,  Germany, d. 19 Dec 1916 in Manchester NH; m. in Germany to Pauline Heinrich, daughter of William & Christine (Winkler) Heinrich.  She b. 30 June 1861 in Germany and died 16 Dec 1935 in Manchester NH. He was cremated and buried in Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge MA on 22 Dec 1916 [per his death record].  She was buried in Pine Grove cemetery. This family immigrated in 1909 on ship S S Pennsylvania [see below].
[from Langenbielau/ Lower Silesia/ Germany (now Bielawa/ Dolnoslaskie/ Poland)] []
Ship: S.S. Pennsylvania from Hamburg Germany to NYC, U.S. May 11, 1909
Hellmich, Hermann 49 weaver
Hellmich, Pauline 47 wife
Hellmich, Hermann 28 weaver
Hellmich, Ida 26 wife
Hellmich, Elisabeth 3 none
Hellmich, Herbert 2 none
1910 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Manchester
Herman R. Hellmich 29
Ida A. Hellmich 27
Elizabeth H. Hellmich 4
Herbert G. Hellmich 3
Herman E. Hellmich 50
Pauline Hellmich 47
Children of Ernest Hermann & Pauline (Heinrich) Hellmich:
1. +Robert Herman “Hermann” Hellmich, b. 27 Nov 1880 in Germany

Robert Herman “Hermann” Hellmich, son of Hermann and Pauline (Heinrich) Hellmich,  born 27 Nov 1880 in Schlesien, Germany, d. 6 January 1958 Manchester NH; m. Ida Schiminsky.  She b. 8 July 1882 in Peterwaldau, Schlesien Germany, and died July 1973. Occupation: loom fixer, cotton mill. They resided 351 Boynton Street in Manchester NH. In 1942 he was employed by Verney Mill in Peterborough NH. He immigrated in 1909
1930 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Manchester
Herman R. Hellmich
Ida Hellmich
Herbert Hellmich son
Erwin Hellmich son
Pauline Hellmich mother F 68 Germany
1958 Manchester NH City Directory
Helmich, Robert H. (Ida) died Jan 6, 1958.
Children of Herman & Ida (Schiminsky) Hellmich:
1. Elizabeth Helmich, b 24 Jan 1906 in Oberlangenbelou, Germany, d. 19 Oct 1978 in Manchester NH; she m. 27 Aug 1923 in Manchester NH to Francis Leo  Gallagher, son of Joseph L. & Esther W. (Cahill) Gallagher. He was b. 20 Sep 1903 in Abington, Plymouth Co. MA and died 3 March 1989 in Manchester NH. CHILDREN (GALLAGHER): (1) Virginia F. Gallagher b abt 1924, d. 21 July 1936 age 12; (2) Joseph R. Gallagher, b abt 1927; (3) Maureen Gallagher, b betw 1930-1935 and m. Robert Poehlman; (4) Gail Gallagher, m. Robert Longchamps
2. +Herbert G. Helmich, b abt 1908 Schlesien/Silesia, Germany
3. Erwin Curt Helmich, b 1 May 1911 in New Hampshire, and died 5 Dec 1991 in Manchester NH; he m. 2 Aug 1947 in Manchester NH to Ina Amelia Kelley dau of John & Amelia (Lindholm) Grier. She was b abt 1907. [Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Casualties: HELMICH, Erwin Curt, Ship’s Cook, 1c, USNR. Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Herman Helmich, 351 Boynton St., Manchester [NH]. Wounded in Action].

Herbert G. Helmich, son of Herman R. and Ida (Schiminsky) Helmich; b. 1 February 1907 and d 1 Dec 1994 in Manchester NH; m. 2 April 1931 in Manchester NH to Martha L. Andrews, daughter of Henry & Rosalia (Fiske) Andrews. She b. abt 1912 in NH and d. –.  Herbert was a watch maker employed with Rogers Jewelry Inc in Concord but residing in Manchester NH, and by 1961 employed as watchmaker by Varick’s Jewelry. Herbert and Martha are shown in Manchester directories up to 1961. 1964 shows “HELMICH Herbert G. Watch Mkr Varick’s Jewelers H671 Hevey Street, with no mention of Martha. He married 2nd) Florence Hazel Davis, daughter of Isaiah Wellington & Edith Florence (Norton) Davis. [She also married Guy Edison Lebaron]. She was b. 10 Nov 1905 in Sherbrook Canada and died 1 December 1994 in Manchester NH.
1949 Manchester NH City Directory
Helmich, Erwin C. (Ina A) sausage stuffer h. 346 Main
— Gerald R. student r 671 Hevey
–Herbert G. (Martha A) watch mkr Roger’s Jewelry (Concord) h 671 Hevey
–Ina  stitcher Franklin Mfg Co. Inc r 346 Main
1953 Manchester NH City Directory
[same as 1954 except]
Helmich, Gerald R. studt r 671 Hevey
1954 Manchester NH City Directory
Hellmich Robt H (Ida) h 351 Boynton
Helmich Erwin C. (Ina A) sausage wkr h 371 Boynton
–Gerald R. USAF r 671 Hevey
–Herbert G. (Martha A) wtch mkr h 671 Hevey
–Ina A Mrs. stitcher P & M Mfg Co Inc. r 377 Boynton
–Martha A. shoe wkr IS Co r 671 Hevey
Child of Herbert G. & Martha A. (Andrews) Helmich:
1. Gerald R. Helmich, [subject of this story] b. 17 November 1931 Manchester NH; d. Nov 12, 1969; died Nov. 12, 1969, Laos; On June 1956, he was married in the Pease Air Force Base chapel in Newington, New Hampshire, to Gertrude Hamel. They had three children, named James, Jill, and Jerilyn. [Jerilyn Helmich m. 23 Sep 1994 in Sanford Maine to Ronald Joseph Gouin.]

[Editor’s Note: This article is one of several I have written at the request of Don Pinard, Department of Public Works, Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division, City of Manchester, New Hampshire.  It is a volunteer project (on my part) to better record and share the stories of the men memorialized by the city’s “Military Squares.”  All the information specifically within the body of this project is shared copyright free with the City of Manchester and its representatives, with the exception of photographs provided by family or friends who still retain whatever rights conveyed to them by law.]



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3 Responses to Manchester NH Casualty of Vietnam War: Colonel Gerald R. Helmich (1931-1969)

  1. Pingback: Manchester New Hampshire’s Military Squares and other Memorials | Cow Hampshire

  2. Joseph Alty says:

    My name is Joseph Alty. Just recently my brother passed away and as I was cleaning I came across a stainless steel wrist band with the insignia Col.Gerald R. Helmich USAF 12 Nov.69 Laos.
    I was wondering if someone in his family would like to have it. You can contact me at 603-749-2267
    or email me Thank you and God Bless.

    • Joseph Knothe says:

      Joseph, I am the AFROTC detachment commander at the University of New Hampshire, where Col Helmich earned his commission. If no family members have responded to take ownership of your brother’s steel wrist band, I would be interested in acquiring it from you. I intend to induct Col Helmich into the UNH ROTC hall of fame in 2023, and having a keepsake to attach to his plaque would add a “special something.”

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