GEORGE P BERG - CWO
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- July 16, 1946
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- February 18, 1971
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
George Philip Berg was born on July 16, 1946, in Seattle, WA. His family moved to New Jersey and he graduated from Toms River High School. His home of record is Belford, NJ. In 1965, he was the state indoor champion in the 440, Groups I and II. He starred on the cross-country team. George attended York Junior College where he also starred in track
Berg entered the US Army, attended Warrant Officer Flight School and attained the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (CWO). He received his wings and commission at Fort Rucker, AL, in March 1970, and left for Vietnam that May, assigned as the aircraft commander to Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. He was stationed near the demilitarized zone.
Berg was listed as missing in action on February 18, 1971. Leading a group of four aircraft, his helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission over Laos.
George willed his estate for the creation of a fund for trophies and medals for the track meets he had participated in. His father credited him with being instrumental in starting the Naval Air Reserve Indoor Invitational Track Meet in 1965, held annually at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station for high schools in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. His father was then Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit.
Warrant Officer George Berg, was the "baby" of the Berg family. Born after World War II, he was the only child of a family of three to have his father present at his birth. His older brother and sister were both born while Norman was overseas in the Navy.
George was physically compact from his training as an athlete. He weighed 145 lbs. on a 5'6" frame. He earned high school letters in football, track, and gymnastics. In college, he was a successful cross-country runner competing in three New York Invitational cross-country meets.
It was, however, his qualities as a friend that made him a warm, loving man, always aware of his world and involved with his family and his friends. He was innocently honest with others, always believing that he would never be hurt by anyone who was his friend.
He had complete and unswerving confidence in his ability to accomplish any goal he set for himself. He seemed to be able to "role play", in a sense, see himself as someone else. He had a warm tenor and romantic voice. He loved to sing the music of Pat Boone, a man who wore sweaters, saddle shoes, and wore his hair short. He began dressing like Pat Boone, imitating his idol. When his high school glee club was invited to sing at the Christmas tree lighting in New York City in the late sixties, George was the featured soloist. At that event, he was Pat Boone.
He was not a religious person, nor was his family. At fifteen years old, however, he asked if he had ever been baptized. When he found out he hadn't been, he began going to church on his own, and six weeks later he told his parents that they were invited to his baptism ceremony. George never explained why he felt the need for the ceremony. He had made the decision. There was no need for explanation.
George's relationship with his girlfriends, and there were many, since he was as handsome as he was charming, were those of dreamlike infatuations. His respect for women was total and uncompromising. His parents always said that if they could see into his mind, that they were certain they would find the faces of lovely young women, not homework assignments.
Before he was old enough to drive, he would "con" his dad or mom into driving him and his date to the movies or to a school dance. The two young people would sit in the back of the car while one of the parents acted as chauffeur. In George's words, this was being "swave and deboner." (suave and debonair) He had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous.
George was not a good student, though his parents were always amazed at how quickly he would learn his football plays, and yet bring home barely passing grades, just enough to stay eligible to participate in sports. His parents wondered how he would do when he decided, in 1969, to go into the Army's flight training program to become a pilot.
His father and mother attended George's graduation from the U.S. Army Flight School at Fort Rucker, AL in April 1970. His father, a highly decorated Naval Aviator, pinned his Army wings on his son's chest. George grinned at his father, and Norman recollects him saying: "See, Dad. They're not the gold Navy wings like you have, but I got them, just like you Dad."
Written by a family member
Synopsis (from the POW Network) as to the circumstances behind being listed as MIA:
WO Gerald E. Woods, pilot; WO George P. Berg, aircraft commander; SP4 Gary L. Johnson, door gunner; SP4 Walter Demsey, crew chief; were assigned to Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. On February 18, 1971, their UH1H was dispatched as part of a flight of four on an emergency patrol extraction mission on the West Side of the A Shau Valley in Thua Tin Province, South Vietnam. The patrol to be rescued included Sgt. Allen R. Lloyd, Capt. Ronald L. Watson and SFC Samuel Hernandez, part of Special Operations Augmentation, Command & Control North, 5th Special Forces Group.
The team was assigned to MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
During the attempt to recover the patrol, Woods' helicopter came under heavy fire and had to leave the pick-up zone with Lloyd, Watson and Hernandez attached to the three-staple rig. While in flight, the rope broke, and Hernandez fell 30-40 feet, landing in double canopy jungle. He was rescued the following day. The helicopter continued a short distance, and was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, crashed and burned.
On February 19, a Special Forces recovery team was inserted at the crash site to search the area. Woods and Berg were found dead in their seats. Johnson's body was found in a tree. One leg of Demsey, the burned crew chief, was found in the cargo compartment. All remains were prepared for extraction, and the team left to establish a night defensive position. En route, the team found the remains of Lloyd and Watson, still on their rope slings, in the trees on the edge of a cliff. Because of the rugged terrain and approaching darkness, the rescue team leader decided to wait until morning to recover these two remains. However, the following morning, the search team came under intense fire, and the team leader requested an emergency extraction, and in doing so, left all remains behind.
All the crew and passengers on board the UH1H downed on the border of Laos and Vietnam west of the A Shau Valley that day were confirmed dead. It is unfortunate, but a reality of war that their remains were left behind out of necessity to protect the lives of the search team who found them. They are listed with honor among the missing because their remains cannot be buried with honor at home.
Sources: Norman Berg (father) and NJVVMF.
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