George N. Penniman II (1968/03/26)
George Naylor Penniman II, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John K. Penniman, was born February 9, 1946, in Santa Cruz California, a third generation Santa Cruzan. His early years were spent growing up in Santa Cruz; however, when his father accepted a teaching position in Santa Clara County, the family moved to Los Gatos, California. Although George's new home was twenty miles distant, he and his family considered Santa Cruz their hometown.
George attended schools in Los Gatos until his graduation in 1964, and involved himself in as much school and other activities as his study time would allow. During those years, he was enthusiastic about sports and spent his free moments with friends and family bicycling, skiing, swimming, playing tennis, fishing or camping. Outdoor activities led George to the Boy Scouts, which were an especially enjoyable experience for him. His exposure to music in the lower grades inspired him to continue participating and studying in high school, where he became proficient in the saxophone. He was a member of the Los Gatos High School orchestra, the dance band and for three years, student coordinator and drum major for the marching band. In 1964, George was the recipient of the John Philip Souza Band Award for outstanding achievement.
Immediately after finishing high school in June 1964, George enlisted in the US Navy and following boot camp, was assigned to the USS Bennington. He remained as a member of the crew until his death in March 1968. Between December 1966 and April 1967, George was assigned to Task Force Seventy-Seven Kitty Hawk during its highly effective combat operation in Vietnam. Following that tour, he returned to the USS Bennington and his squadron, Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Eight. It was during this period that the Bennington became the primary ship in the Pacific assigned to the Saturn V-501 recovery operation for the Apollo 4 landing, November 9, 1967.
In 1968 the Bennington was preparing to re-deploy to Vietnam for the third time; however, due to the few months remaining prior to his discharge, George's deployment was cancelled. In March he selected a college to attend and had begun the process of completing entrance requirements when the fateful accident occurred.
On March 26, 1968, while participating in helicopter recovery maneuvers alongside the Bennington in American waters, George was lost at sea. His family and many close friends remember George for his warm, fun-loving personality, his engaging smile, his honesty and loyalty, and cheerful willingness to help others. His assigned duties in the Navy fulfilled this propensity. As Emiddio Massa, his commanding officer, noted in a personal letter to the family, "His [George's] personal contributions will live in the performance of the men he personally guided and trained and in those who had the opportunity to observe and benefit by his example."
(The remembrances of his mother, Mrs. Margaret L.B. Penniman December 2006)