SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Army Captain

Gerald Clifford Swayze

Wilmot, South Dakota, Roberts County

 May 5, 1941 --December 30, 1969

Died From Wounds Received in Action in Vietnam

Gerald Clifford Swayze was born in Peever, South Dakota, on May 5, 1941, to Clifford and Rose Ella (Sykora) Swayze. He has three siblings, Orrie, Mick, and Sharellyn. First Gerald went to school at Spring Grove #5 county school and then Wilmot public school. He graduated from Wilmot High School in 1960 and then enlisted in the Army and served for several years before going to college at SDSU in Brookings, graduating in 1966, and commissioned as a second lieutenant through the ROTC program. He loved art, bow hunting with friends, and archery contests.

After graduating from SDSU, Gerald Swayze reenlisted in the Army, this time as an officer. He first went overseas to Korea, returned to the United State for helicopter training and then was sent overseas to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in Company C, 229th Aviation Battalion, 11th Aviation Group, 1st Cavalry Division. In a letter dated December 23, 1969, Captain Gerald Swayze reminded his brother, Orrie, an Air Force pilot, of the time they gave each other rides: Orrie got a ride in Gerald’s helicopter and Gerald got a ride in Orrie’s jet. That was the last time Orrie heard from his brother.

U.S. Army Captain Gerald Swayze died on December 30, 1969, from wounds received in action. He was only 28 when he was mortally wounded while piloting his helicopter for takeoff from a small forward base. The helicopter immediately crashed and Gerald’s lifeless body was pulled from the helicopter by a close friend. All the others aboard the helicopter survived with only minor injuries. His body was returned to the United States, and his funeral was held on Saturday January 10, 1970, at the First United Presbyterian Church in Wilmot. He was buried with the military honors in the Wilmot cemetery.

Gerald’s parents have since passed away, but his current survivors are his two brothers, Orrie and Mick, of Wilmot and his one sister, Sharellyn, of Minneapolis.

Some closings comments regards to the Gerald are from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website. One is from one of his old buddies, Fred Zacher, who wrote:

He was a great guy. I enjoyed his sense of humor. He told me that he had a
lot of fun on R&R while he was in Australia. I remember the radio call,
“My peter pilot (co-pilot) has been shot and I think he’s dead. Our CO
said the Doctors did every thing they could do to save his life.

The other remembrance is from Darla Lambertz, a second cousin on her mom’s side who wrote:

I was a little girl when you stayed with my grandmother during the summer while you were attending college. I remember how you would throw the football with my brothers and how you would tell my sisters and I stories. I was 13 when you were killed in Vietnam. Too young to understand
the war but old enough to feel the pain your loss brought to our lives.

Gerald’s brother Orrie wrote, “ Several years ago that close friend, George Grey [who had pulled Gerald’s body from the wreckage] and his wonderful wife Teresa made a special trip to Wilmot to meet Gerald’s family and recount the good times he and Gerald had enjoyed together. George and Teresa’s thoughtfulness and kindness are appreciated and we look forward to their visit again this summer.”

Gerald was the second member of the Swayze family to fall in war. His uncle, Murl Swayze, was killed in action on Luzon in the Philippines during WW II.

Gerald with trophies won in competitive archery.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Kelsey Antuna, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on October 6, 2005. Information for this entry was provided by Orrie Swayze. Profile approval by Orrie Swayze.



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