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Gone Too Soon: The Story of Private First Class George Coutrakis

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

George Coutrakis

George Coutrakis, a native of Stockton, California, was born on March 27, 1948. His parents were Corporal Joseph and Mrs. Maria Coutrakis. His paternal grandfather, Ioannis, had rízes in Chorafakia and Kounoupidiana in Chania, Crete, Greece. It is not known which villages were Ioanni's maternal or paternal villages. His mother, Maria, is said to have rízes in Rethymnon, Crete, Greece.

George was one of six siblings, two are known to have passed away thus far. He graduated from Ripon High School in 1966. Even though he aspired to play high school football, his parents insisted that he work alongside his brothers, working long hours for a local Greek dairy owner. During his free time, he was quite popular, having no problem making friends wherever he went. Right after graduating, George began basic training at Camp Pendelton on June 14, 1966. After he completed it, George was sent immediately to Vietnam.

Approximately 20 days after enlisting, PFC (Private First Class) George Coutrakis learned that his father had died, and he immediately left boot camp to be with his family. Then, almost a year after his father's death, The Ripon Record reported that George was first injured while in combat, likely in Vietnam.

During the Vietnam War, the 1st Battalion 9th Marines earned the nickname of The Walking Dead for its high casualty rate. The battalion endured the longest sustained combat and suffered the highest killed-in-action (KIA) rate in Marine Corps history.

1st Battalion 9th Marines

In November of 1966, when George was "in the country," the 1st Battalion, 9th Division had patrol areas near Dai Loc, Do Nam Hoa Tay, and Giao Thuy southwest of Da Nang. The hamlets were just north of the Thu Bon River. George likely came in as a replacement as the battalion had been in operations for five months chasing the VC R-20 Battalion and was due for a rest and sent to Okinawa for refit (restock and repair). George was briefly hospitalized in Okinawa to heal from newer injuries. Admirably, George then healed up and tenaciously returned to Vietnam, ready for more combat.

Near the beginning of 1967, George's battalion was at Khe Sanh and Con Thien. In June 1967, near Con Thien, 'A Company' was sweeping east of the Combat Base with 'B Company' and ran into a heavy North Vietnamese Army ambush during Operation Buffalo called the “Marketplace Ambush.”

The battalion suffered 113 Marines killed in action, 290 wounded, and one Missing in Action for the month of July 1967 – most of the causalities were from the Marketplace Ambush. After the Marketplace Ambush, the battalion was sent to Cam Lo for another refit and to receive replacements. More than likely, PFC George Courtrakis was killed in the opening ambush fire on 'A Company' as they remained pinned and unable to maneuver for most of the day.

During the evening of Monday, July 3rd, 1967, Marine officers spoke with George's mother, Maria, and told her the last thing any mother wants to hear. Her son was killed in action at Quang Tri, Vietnam. Maria never mastered the English language, and she didn't understand much about what was happening around her then. She was not a stranger to war because she was in her mid 20's during the Battle of Crete and remembered many scary details. But Vietnam was different in comparison. She had no idea what it could mean for George that his chances of coming home alive were much more slim. So when George was killed, she died inside, too.

George Coutrakis Honored Posthumously by Marines

On July 13th, 1967, The Modesto Bee reported that George's funeral would be the following day. In addition to the funeral, all businesses had closed from 12 PM to 3 PM, and all flags were flown at half-staff for one week in George's honor.

Many people in the local community responded to their loss by sharing heartfelt letters to the editor directed toward his mother. Maria also received a purple heart for George's service, and the community also dedicated a plaque in his honor which was placed outside the city hall. PFC George Coutrakis would have been 75 years old this year. This Sunday, July 2, 2023, marks the 56th year of his tragic passing.

Plaque in George's Coutrakis honor which was placed outside the city hall

Everyone at Rízes Hellenic Genealogy Research thanks PFC Coutrakis for his service.

Semper Fi and Memory Eternal.

Special thanks to the Coutrakis family for allowing Rízes Hellenic Genealogy Research to share PFC George Coutrakis' story with

the global Greek community. We extend our heartfelt condolences to you. In addition, we also thank

Sgt. Bruce Hodgman, military historian for The Third Marine Division Association, for his contributions.

All citations are available upon request.

Copyright © 2023 Greek Family Search LLC

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