George Wanat was born in 1945 in Waterford, Connecticut. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army through the Army ROTC program at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, on January 30, 1969, followed by the Armor Officer Basic course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, from February to April 1969. His first assignment was as an Assistant Executive Officer, Executive Officer, and instructor with the Armor School at Fort Knox from April 1969 to April 1970, and then as an instructor with the CBR School at Camp Drum, New York, from April to September 1970. Lt Wanat then returned to the Armor School at Fort Knox, where he served as an Executive Officer from October 1970 to April 1971, followed by the Military Assistance Training Advisor course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from April to May 1971. He served as an advisor in South Vietnam from July 1971 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War after the battle of Loc Ninh on May 4, 1972, having evaded the enemy for nearly a month after the battle. After spending 285 days in captivity in Cambodia, Capt Wanat was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and was medically retired from the Army on June 19, 1973.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
Captain George K. Wanat, Jr., Armor, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life from 5 to 8 April 1972 while serving as Acting District Senior Advisor, Loc Ninh, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 5 April 1972, the 5th Viet Cong Division launched a massive ground attack against Loc Ninh. The attack was supported by artillery and tanks. Captain Wanat skillfully directed tactical airstrikes and helicopter gunships in support of Loc Ninh District Forces. During the battle, Captain Wanat fought magnificently. Time and again he exposed himself to enemy direct fire on top of his own position to drive off the attacking enemy. Recognizing that command and control was faltering, Captain Wanat repeatedly endangered himself to withering enemy fire while moving from bunker to bunker to rally and command friendly forces. The combination of Captain Wanat's personal example and professional skill coupled with available firepower kept the numerically superior enemy at bay for more than two days. Despite the valiant efforts of the defenders, the City of Loc Ninh was completely overrun by the enemy on 7 April 1972, but Captain Wanat, through his courageous actions, extracted a horrendous price from the enemy for their tactical accomplishment. Captain Wanat's conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon him and the United States Army.