March 29, 1931 – March 6, 2020
Colonel George Jatras, USAF (Ret.), 88, of Camp Hill, PA, passed away March 6, 2020, after a battle with cancer. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, as well as a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot whose career included over 200 combat missions in Vietnam, assignments to Bitburg, Germany and Athens, Greece, and service as Senior U.S. Air Force Defense Attaché in Moscow, USSR. Colonel George Jatras was born in Clairton, Pennsylvania on March 29, 1931. His parents were both from Laconia, Greece (the region of Sparta), with his father Agisilaos Iatreidis (anglicized as August Jatras) from (to the best of Colonel Jatras’s knowledge) from the village of Melitini (also called Zelina) and his mother Coula (Poulikakou) originally from Mani but having grown up in Stefania. Jatras’s wife of 60 years, Stella (Stavroula), who died in 2013, was born to parents from the same region: Louis (Leonidas) Katsetos from Krokee’ (also called Levetsova) and Marini (Sakellariou) from Tarapsa (also called Vasilakion). After graduating from Anderson High School, Indiana in June 1948 Jatras attended Ball State Teacher’s College in Muncie, Indiana, and the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland; he ardently courted and in June 1953 married Stella Katsetos. He graduated from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana in May 1954 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He also held a Master of Science Degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California and is a graduate of the USAF Squadron Officer School and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Jatras began his active duty service in February 1955 when he reported to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for preflight training and then Marana Air Base, Arizona to undergo primary pilot training. Basic pilot training followed at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas and in April 1956 he was awarded his pilot’s wings. In September 1956, following advanced interceptor training, Jatras began his first operational assignment with the 2nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Suffolk County Air Force Base, Long Island, New York. While there he served as a pilot and instructor pilot in F-86D, F-102A, F-101B/F, and T-33A aircraft. He was next assigned to the 525th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Bitburg Air Base, the Federal Republic of Germany. From May 1962 to June 1965 he served as a pilot, instructor pilot, and flight commander. Jatras return to the United States and the 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio with duty as Training Flight Commander. During this tour, he attended the Intercept Weapons Instructor School at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Jatras entered F-4 combat crew training in November 1968 at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. Upon completion of the combat training course, he was assigned to the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. During the period of July 1968 to June 1969, he served as Assistant Operations Officer and flew 235 combat missions and logged over 300 combat hours piloting the F-4 “Phantom” fighter-bomber. Serving a consecutive overseas tour, Jatras was again assigned to Bitburg Air Base, initially as Assistant Operations Officer of the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, and later as Wing Scheduling Officer for the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing. His next duty, from July 1971 to June 1973, was with the Air Force Section, Joint United States Military Advisory Group, Athens, Greece as an Air Offense/Defense Operations Officer. While in Greece he was attached as an operational ready pilot with the 342nd All-Weather Squadron of the Royal Hellenic Air Force at Tanagra Air Base where he helped the 342nd develop an Air Combat Tactics Program. (During his time assigned in Greece, Jatras made no secret of his dislike for the military junta then in power. Jatras and his family maintained a close relationship with Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, the caretaker prime minister ousted by the April 21, 1967, coup, who was Jatras’s uncle by marriage, with Kanellopoulos’s wife Nitsa the sister of Jatras’s mother.) Jatras returned to the United States and was assigned as the Senior Air Force Advisor to the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group, Texas Air National Guard, Ellington Air Force Base, Texas. In March 1976 he transferred to the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he served as Director of Student Operations and Director of Curriculum at the Squadron Officer School (SOS). Jatras was promoted to the rank of colonel effective May 1, 1976, with a date of rank of May 20, 1975. He remained at SOS until April 1978 when he was assigned to Washington, DC to begin training for an attaché assignment to the Soviet Union. Following two years as the Senior USAF Defense Attaché assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Colonel Jatras returned to the United States where he served as Senior Air Force Advisor to the President of the Naval War College and Instructor in the War College Strategy Department in Newport, Rhode Island. He retired from the United States Air Force in 1984. Jatras’s military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal with 15 oak leaf clusters. He was a command pilot with nearly 5,000 flying hours. He was also a lifelong competitive pistol shooter and locally a member of the West Shore Sportsmen's Association in Lewisberry, the Middletown Anglers’ and Hunters’ Association, the West Shore Team of the William Penn Pistol League, and the National Rifle Association. Colonel Jatras was predeceased by his wife Stella Jatras, his son Jeffrey (Leonidas) George Jatras, and his brother August Jatras. He is survived by his son, James George Jatras, his granddaughters Jillian Marina Jatras Shupert, Alexandra Schmalzbach, and Christina Jatras, his daughter-in-law Laurie Jatras, and seven great-grandchildren. He loved God, his country, his family, his friends, and his community and will be deeply missed by all who knew him. Visitation will take place on Sunday, March 15 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at Neill Funeral Home; 3401 Market Street, Camp Hill, PA 17011. Funeral services will be held on Monday, March 16 at 11:00am at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1000 Yverdon Drive Camp Hill, PA 17011, following which he will be laid to rest next to his adored Stella at East Harrisburg Cemetery, 2260 Herr Street, Harrisburg, PA 17103.
- James George Jatras, Son
- Jillian Marina Jatras Shupert, Granddaughter
- Alexandra Schmalzbach, Granddaughter
- Christina Jatras, Granddaughter
- Laurie Jatras, Daughter In-Law
George is also survived by seven great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents; Agisilaos latreidis (anglicized as August Jatras) and Coula (Poulikakou) Jatras, his wife, Stella Jatras, his son, Jeffrey (Leonidas) George Jatras, and his brother, August Jatras.
- Visitation Sunday, March 15, 2020
- Funeral Service Monday, March 16, 2020
- Interment Monday, March 16, 2020
Tina (Christine) Oliver
March 20, 2020
George and I spoke over the years atleast every 2-3 months. We made sure to call each other if we hadn't heard from the other in that long. We would chat, laugh and speak candidly about everythingfor an hour or two at a time. I miss him and those chats so much!
March 11, 2020
George and Stella were one of our most cherished friends. We both arrived in Bitburg Germany the same time in 1962. They were Godparents to our son Tom who was born in Bitburg. We traveled to Berlin on the train together, the ladies in separate cars— German protocol!!! We visited them in Athens and were honored to meet George’s Uncle in his residence They picked us up in McQuire AFB when we rotated back to the states in 1965 and we have visited with each other numerous times since. We will surely miss them but we have many great memories.
Rod and Joan Bentson Lt.Col. USAF ret.
March 9, 2020
George was one of the Suffolk County fighter pilot posse, along with my dad Jake, Al DeGroote and Gage Mersereau. He and Stella were two of my parents' dearest friends and he graciously spoke at my dad's funeral two years ago. Telling Voodoo stories of 60 years before, he, like my dad, came alive and his memories were infectious. We will miss you, George. Glad you're flying a tight formation with Dad and Gage again.
Colonel, USAF (ret)
Jen van der meij
March 9, 2020
Uncle George was one of the kindest, wittiest, most welcoming people Ive had the pleasure of knowing. When I married into the family, he welcomed me (and my daughter) with open arms. His stories will continue to be shared, and his memory will live on always. We love you, Uncle George! 💜
March 9, 2020
I will always see myself as one of the luckiest in the world to have gotten to be his grand daughter. I love you, and I’ll miss you always, Papou.