NO. 17419 • 21 September 1925 - 6 November 1951
Died in air accident over Luke Air Force Base, AZ
John Mansell Garrett, Jr., was born in Birmingham, AL. He attended schools in Delta and Lineville, AL and graduated from Messick High School in Memphis, TN, in 1943. Setting his sights on attending West Point, John spent one year, 1943‑44, at the Marion Military institute, AL, to prepare for USMA.
Unable to obtain an appointment to West Point after Marion Military Institute, he joined the U.S. Army in August 1944. During the next 22 months John attended the USMA Preparatory School at Lafayette College, PA. He served out his enlisted duty with the Army Replacement Training Center at Ft. Knox, KY, leaving as a technician (fourth grade) with the Good Conduct Medal and Victory Medal and an Alabama at‑large appointment to West Point from Senator John H. Bankhead. John successfully passed his entrance examinations and entered and West Point in July 1946 as a member of the Class of '50.
John came to West Point well prepared academically and possessed a broad grin that practically guaranteed quick and lifelong friendships. He breezed through academics, finishing in the upper six percent of his class, while spending time and effort trying to keep some of his classmates proficient in their studies as well. That reflected the concern he had for others. John still had time to plan his weekend parties at the Greystone Mansion or Ft. Putnam and arrange dates for himself and others. His drags were so invariably "pro" that classmates looked on with amazement and even envy.
John credited his cadet success with being "bald and red headed," traits that the fairer sex found irresistible. Many laughed with him and credited his success to his ever‑present smile. John was an excellent team player, "All The Way," whether in sports, company activities, or cadet projects. His extracurricular activities were confined to track, rifle, and a number of clubs that could earn him an overnight or weekend trip. However, he did stay with the Pointer staff and Camera Club from Plebe through First Class years, resulting in countless hours in the club's basement dark room. John’s classmates had no doubt that his combination of intelligence, humor, wit, savoir‑faire, and happy‑go‑lucky attitude made him a perfect fit for the Air Force, which was his branch choice. At graduation he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
After completing graduation leave in August, he reported to Connally Air Force Base in Waco, TX, for Basic Pilot Training, then attended Advanced Single Engine Training at Craig Air Force Base, AL. He left Craig with his pilot wings and reported for Advanced Gunnery Training at Luke Air Force Base, AZ, in August 1951 with follow‑on orders to Korea in January 1952.
On 6 Nov 1951, John took off from Luke Air Force Base with a flight of F‑51s and proceeded to the Gila Bend Gunnery Range on a routine training mission. During the flight, he put his aircraft into a dive attitude following other aircraft in the flight. For some reason, he failed to recover from the maneuver and his plane crashed into the ground. John died instantly. In a letter to John’s father, the commanding officer of the 127th Pilot Training Wing stated, "John was known to all as a capable, sincere, and energetic officer who enjoyed the respect and admiration of his fellow officers and airmen of the squadron."
When John died, he left behind his father, who was a civil engineer with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Memphis District; his stepmother Sarah Prewitt; and his sister Margaret Thompson. He also left behind among his Academy classmates a lasting memory of a wonderful human being and a dedicated member of the Long Gray Line whose promising career was unfortunately terminated much too soon.
- Clyde Spence and other M‑1 Company classmates