Charles and Enid Garrison 1943
Prisoner Of War
Missing in Action
World War II and Korea
884th Fighter Squadron
Lt Garrison was awarded the following:
Air Medal with 2 Gold Stars
Purple Heart Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with Bronze Star
Combat Action Ribbon
Korean Service Medal with 4 bronze stars
United Nations Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp
World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal
Gold star Lapel Button
This is his story.
"This is Snapper One! I've been hit! I've been hit!" Charlie "Snapper" Garrison, leader of the "One Eye" Division, came on the air with abrupt suddenness, and there was urgency in his voice. For Snapper this was most unusual. He was a short, stocky, sandy-haired guy from Adrian, Missouri. He wore a small brush of a mustache, was about 31 or 32, and had a wife and two children Stateside. He had one of the most wonderful personalities I've ever found in a man. Without exception everybody liked Snapper, and they respected him, too. He was a good, skillful, steady flier; never got excited; always had things well under control.
The One Eye Division got its name and device from Snapper's habit of pushing his lip mike up to a position right in front of one eye, where it looked like a black patch. We flew Corsairs off carriers, cruising the middle and north coast of Korea. Mostly our missions were close support of ground troop tactics. There were four aircraft in the Division, and we pilots wore helmets painted fluorescent yellow, with a single eye on the front.
When Snapper yelled "I'm hit," his was the third in a line of four Corsairs diving on a North Korean truck convoy. I'd spotted the target, was leading the others down, first in line. Lieutenant Bob Warner from Kansas City, Missouri, my wing man, was right behind me in line. Snapper was next, and his wing man, Ensign Marion Dragastin (we never called him anything but "Drag") was right behind him.
"I'm right with you, Snapper!" replied Drag instantly. "Turn South! Turn South!! You'll soon be over friendlies!"
Simultaneously I broke off my run at about 3,000, and made a wide circle to the right. A split second before, destroying that Red truck convoy had been important business. Now it didn't amount to a piddle! Saving Snapper was the one and only significant job for all of us.
"This is Snapper One!" came the Division leader's voice again. "My cockpit's filling with smoke! I must be on fire somewhere forward!"
All this and more had happened in split seconds and less than split seconds. Snapper had managed to head south, and Drag (Snapper Four) was with him, but in the hilly terrain over which we were flying they had both passed out of sight of Bob and me, who had used up time circling to try to find out what the score was. Bob and I were now heading after Snapper and Drag, but we couldn't see'em yet. We heard everything though, through our radio headsets-and it was pure murder to have to listen to!
Drag: "Snapper Four to Snapper one! You are on fire! Repeat. You are on fire! Prepare to bail out!"
For seconds my headset chattered unintelligibly. Then Drag came in again, loud and clear:
"Snapper! Your aircraft is blazing! Bail out! For God's sake bail out now!"
Again there was a brief interlude of "gobbledygook," and the Drag came back on the air, giving the rest of us a blow-by-blow:
"Snapper's gone over the side, but he hit the stabilizer, and he's hung up there! His aircraft is about to dive in flames!"
Grimly we flew after the two of them. For the moment there was nothing else we could do. Then Drag again:
"He's fallen free! His'chute's opened! He's on the way down."
Another aching moment, and then Drag came in again: "My God! Snapper's fallen out of his'chute harness!"
Luckily Drag's last report was inaccurate. A pack, bearing medication, rations, etc., which is part of every parachute rig, had broken free from Snapper's gear and gone spinning dizzily into space; but our boy was still riding the parachute, although we were all pretty sure he was landing in enemy territory.
"I'm right with you, Snapper," yelled Drag into his mike, although of course the man in the parachute couldn't hear him. But how truly Drag spoke certainly he himself didn't know! He was with Snapper, and he was to stay with Snapper. Thirty minutes-maybe a little longer-later he would fly his aircraft full throttle into the side of a low Korean mountain and meet death instantly in a tremendous red ball of exploding high octane gasoline and ammo. We'd find Drag's body later; identify it by the teeth; and bring it back Stateside for proper burial. But, fortunately, none of us knew those things then, and we concentrated on trying to protect Snapper on the ground.
Snapper wore two revolvers, one in a shoulder holster and one in a waist holster, so he might have a chance against any individual Red who happened along. Meanwhile three ADs, who's been on the mission with us and had been circling high, started dropping down. Circling the spot, Drag gave us the dope: "He landed on a small knoll, got to his feet, and pointed to his stomach, then rolled into a shallow ravine where he'll be screened from enemy fire. He must be wounded. I have his'chute in sight!"
Drag was orbiting the spot at tree-top level, and I remember clearly that the coordinates were "Dog Tare 4,000," because the spot where Snapper landed was near a knocked out ROK truck convoy which we'd flown over and on which we had those coordinates.
About this time, Ensign "Pat" Fant, who'd been flying one of the ADs, joined Drag flying "rescap" (it stands for Rescue Combat Air Patrol) over Snapper. "I've got Snapper in sight," Pat told the rest of us, who were closing fast. "He's lying on his back and pointing to his belly. There's a guy in a little shack about 200 feet away, who keeps trying to reach Snapper. I don't know whether the guy's a friendly or not, but we'd best take no chances. I'm going to run him back into the hut every time he shows his nose!" And that's exactly what Fant did! Every time the Korean showed in the door of his hut, Pat gave him a burst. He wasn't firing for effect; just to keep the guy from reaching Snapper and possibly doing him harm.
Bob and I arrived at the scene just in time to see Drag get it. Pat was watching Drag and told us what had happened: "He must have been hit bad by small arms fire from the ground," said Pat. "I saw him slump over the controls. Then his aircraft went out of control, and flew right into the side of a hill."
They'd been orbiting over Snapper at tree-top level for nearly a half hour, and the small arms fire the Reds were putting up was rough! There wasn't an aircraft without a dozen or so bullet holes through it.
"Has anybody notified the ship? I asked over the radio circuit.
"Not that I know of," said Pat.
"Okay," I told him. "I'll climb to 10,000 and pass the word back." With that I started climbing, but I never got high enough to get into radio communication with our carrier. Less than a minute after I started up I heard Pat come back on the air: "I'm going to have to go higher!" he said. "I'm getting badly shot up down here!"
It was absolutely imperative that somebody keep orbiting over Snapper at tree-top height, yet I could well understand Pat's problem: His aircraft was rapidly being shot to pieces around him by concentrated small arms fire from the ground.
"I'm coming back down to relieve you, Pat!" I told him, as I tilted the nose of the Corsair once more toward the ground. Then Bob Warner broke into the act:
"I'll go up and get the message off," he told us, and as he started to climb I passed him going down. I found Pat still circling the area at full throttle, but he didn't leave when I joined him. Instead, the two of us continued flying rescap over Snapper, and after a time Bob Warner came back down and joined us again.
"I got the word to'Big Red' (the code designation for our carrier) and also to Muskrat Control," he told us. "I told'em Drag was finished, that we were orbiting over Snapper on the ground; gave'em the coordinates, and told'em we could stay maybe 30 minutes longer with the gas we have."
"What did Big Red say?" asked Pat.
"They said'Roger! We'll send rescap to relieve you!" But Muskrat Control hasn't a'copter available right now, because of other missions. They'll send one up as soon as they can break one loose though."
"That ought to do it," said Pat. "How you fixed for gas, Bob?"
"Not too bad," Warner told him. "I've got maybe 45 minutes." "Well, I'm afraid you and the other AD are going to have to take over," said Pat. "I've been flying down here at full throttle, and if I don't head for the barn soon I'll never get there!"
"That goes for me, too, Pat!" I chimed in. "I've about had it so far as fuel is concerned."
"Okay, you guys," said Bob. "Shove off. We'll take over!" The other AD pilot acknowledged, and as the two of them moved into place, Pat and I headed for K-18, which was our nearest field, some 20 miles away. But we'd no more than gotten on the ground when the Air Force colonel in command told us they were packing up to abandon the strip! The Reds were making a tremendous push south, and our people expected to be overrun any minute. Even so, while there we got word that the Air Force had put some F-51 Mustangs over Snapper to fly rescap. These were reinforced by several carrier aircraft diverted from another mission, and we finally heard that a 'copter was on the way to snatch Snapper off the ground, right under the noses of the Reds.
"They'll get him!" I kept telling myself. "They've just got to get him!" All the way back to my own carrier I kept repeating those words, or variations of them. Because it was just plain inconceivable that we could lose the Snapper. We knew where he was, didn't we? We had the coordinates. When I'd left the spot I'd seen his'chute quite plainly, and now plenty of men and aircraft were on the job. "Yes, they'll get him!" I told myself fiercely-but somehow, deep down in my heart I feared I was lying, and I was!
Because they didn't get Snapper-and I don't suppose any man on this earth will ever really know why!
When the helicopter arrived at the spot which the rescap boys were circling and where Snapper should have been, there was no trace of him, nor any trace of his'chute either! They'd both disappeared as if by magic!
What happened? Well, a lot of things could have happened. Maybe the Korean in that nearby hut got to Snapper, finished him off, and rolled up his'chute. Or maybe, in the frequent changes of rescap patrols, our boys inadvertently lost Snapper entirely. A relieving pilot might have seen what he thought was Snapper or his'chute, and so reported, but he might really have been looking at something entirely different, and several miles away. That kind of thing had happened before, and it will happen again. It's inevitable. Anyway, we lost Snapper, and that was the long and short of it.
It was a year later, after I'd been back Stateside and returned once more to Korea, that I got permission to detach myself from a unit after completion of a mission and made my own private investigation. I flew to Dog Tare 4,000, and checked the coordinates. They were right as rain! There was the little hut where Pat had kept the Korean boxed in, and over yonder was a little airstrip the Reds had used. No, the coordinates weren't wrong.
By the time I made my own private investigation, Pat had received the Silver Star; Drag had been awarded a Navy Cross, posthumously; Bob Warner had received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and I'd picked up a DFC for another mission. Well, there was nothing to do but to head back to the ship, which I did. But as I passed over the coordinate point Dog Tare 4,000, I found myself whispering one last message:
"So long, Snapper! " We did our best".
USS Boxer: VF884 "Bitter Birds" squadron.
The following story is a remembrance from an Adrian fighter pilot, Soap Dowell, that we felt should be included on this page. He say’s:
I want to send a sort of long remembrance about Tuffy Garrison, and his shipmates. He is a perfect selection for the Memorial name. I'm honored to be part of a memorial that bears his name.
You probably know this story well, but it will be rewarding to write it down again. Tuffy was the third Adrianite (more about the rest later) to join the Naval Air Corps. He served with distinction in the Pacific during WWII and came home in fine shape. Then the Korean adventure started and experienced flying volunteers were called back. Tuffy was the only one among us that decided to go. He and his plane disappeared over the Japan Sea and he was listed an MIA for years, maybe still is. He was a true hero.
There were six of us as near as I can remember who were Navy fliers during and right after WWII. Dudley Long was the first, and I think enlisted even before it started. Then there was Gordon Lankford who went to the Aleutians. Then Tuffy. I was next, and went to Guantanamo and Guam. Then came Mo Bollinger, who went to the southwest Pacific. (Mo and I ran into each other one day at Alameda Naval Air Station, he just back and me headed for Guam.) Finally there was Dale Kimball, who made the Naval Air Corps his career and gained Commander Rank and squadron CEO before he hit a mountain on a training flight in southern California.
Perhaps there were others in that era but those are the six I always have felt honored to belong to. I think they are all gone except me. Surely there were more in Viet Nam and even now. That was a long time ago.
Thank you, Soap Dowell