George Petrie was born on June 21, 1939, in Lenoir, North Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 23, 1958, and attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After completing Jump School he was assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. From 1959 to 1960, Petrie was assigned to the 20th Field Artillery Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division, and he then served with the 503rd Airborne Infantry Battalion of the 82nd Airborne until 1961. Sgt Petrie next served as a radio operator and light weapons specialist with the 5th Special Forces Group from 1961 to 1963, and he was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in 1963. He then served with the 8th Special Forces Group in Panama, deploying to the Dominican Republic in 1965, followed by another tour in South Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group from 1967 to 1968. Petrie then served with the 3rd and the 6th Special Forces Groups, receiving a direct commission to 1st Lt on January 23, 1970. Lt Petrie participated in the Son Tay Raid on November 21, 1970, and was the first person on the ground after the controlled crash landing of his HH-3E. He again served in Vietnam in 1971 where he participated in various Bright Light missions to recover POWs. Capt Petrie was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group from 1971 to 1973, and served in Southeast Asia with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center from 1974 to 1975. During this time, he helped plan the evacuation of Saigon and was on one of the last helicopters out of the American Embassy. His next assignment was as Operations Officer for the 35th Infantry Battalion of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, from 1975 to 1976, followed by service back at the Joint Casualty Resolution Center at Barbers Point, Hawaii, from 1976 until his retirement from the Army on June 1, 1980. After retiring from the Army, George worked for Electronic Data Systems with Ross Perot in Dallas, Texas, and also for various Law Enforcement agencies in Texas. During this time, he also owned a Private Investigation and Security Company and was the President of Chapter 31 of the Special Forces Association for 19 years. In 2007, George was awarded the Gold Order of Saint Philip Neri, the U.S. Army Special Forces' highest award for his accomplishments in the Special Forces. Navy Capt James M. Hickerson, in the U.S. Navy and POW section of this web site, is his first cousin. George Petrie died on April 15, 2011, and was buried at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas, Texas, on April 27, 2011.
His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint US Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. After crash-landing in the assault helicopter inside the prison compound, Lieutenant Petrie led his element in a search-and-clear action across the open and exposed portion of the compound courtyard to the main gate and gate tower to engage entrenched enemy personnel. Lieutenant Petrie, in the face of automatic weapons fire, personally charged the gate tower, clearing it with rifle fire and grenades. Then, with complete disregard for his life, he maneuvered to an exposed position in order to deliver covering fire for the remainder of the assault group. At this time Lieutenant Petrie was confronted with a counterattack, and, from this critical position, he placed accurate fire on the advancing enemy, repulsed the attack, and caused the enemy to flee. The enemy counterattacked a second time, and in a calm and efficient manner Lieutenant Petrie directed his element against the enemy and quickly eliminated this recurring threat. Lieutenant Petrie withdrew to the extraction point under fire, only after the compound search was completed and the order to withdraw was given. Lieutenant Petrie's conscious disregard for his personal safety, extraordinary heroism against an armed hostile force, and extreme devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him and the United States Army.