David E. Garrett

CMSGT Retired

David Garrett was born April 6, 1921 to Vera and George Earl Garrett in Rockford, Illinois. His mother died when he was four and he was raised by a great-aunt, Lura Bell in Carbondale, Illinois.

His military career began when he enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1939 as a radio operator.  Assigned to the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field on the Philippines, Chief Garrett was stationed there on December 7th when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and hostilities in the Pacific began. He remained at Nichols Field maintaining and repairing aircraft for ongoing sorties. His unit was flying P-40 and P-35A aircraft. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombing, the Chief’s squadron and its few remaining aircraft were ordered to Pilar Airfield on Bataan. The unit completed its move on 24 December, 1941.

In early February 1942, all flyable aircraft were ordered to “island hop” south in hopes of reaching allied Australia. Chief Garrett’s squadron was sent to the Agaloma Point area in order to assist in repulsing Imperial Japanese landing forces attempting landings on the west coast of Bataan. Following several landing attempts, the Japanese forces were denied success and were virtually wiped out.

Chief Garrett’s squadron was then sent to Mariveles in order to establish a beach defense operation. Chief and three of his fellow defenders were assigned coast watch observation posts on a mountain top in order to report sightings of Japanese Naval craft approaching the mouth of Manila Bay. Despite facing disease and life threatening illnesses that were taking their comrades daily, and promised reinforcements and supplies that never came, they continued to fight for several more weeks.

Until, due to a massive lack of food, medicine, ammunition and supplies, and with disease at epidemic proportions, a surprise enemy force broke through the weakening allied defenses, forcing the surrender of Bataan.
On the evening of 8 April, 1942, the allies surrendered and the infamous Bataan Death March began, leading the men to Camp O’Donnell.

Following a short internment at Camp O’Donnell, Chief Garrett and his comrades were returned to Bataan and placed in forced labor. Next they were sent to Cabanatuan. The Chief, now ill with malaria, dysentery, and beri-beri, worked on a farm at the camp.

In August 1943, Chief Garret was son of the first 500 prisoners of war sent to Camp 17, in Omuta, Japan. There, he and fellow prisoners were used as forced labor in a cola mine. Most prisoners worked 15 days with one day off. The Chief worked in the coal mine until September 1845 when WWII ended with the surrender of Japan.

Upon repatriation, Chief Garrett weighed only 85 pounds. He was sent home to the United States for rest and recuperation. He was awarded the Bronze Star along with other awards and ribbons.

Chief Garrett continued his career in the military, retiring from the United States Air Force in September 1970.

David Earl Garrett passed away March 9, 2004.    Click here for his obituary.  

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