An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

173rd FW Pays Respect to Former Airman, WWII Veteran

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing
The 173rd Fighter Wing honored a former Kingsley Airman and World War II Veteran who passed away in late November, with the missing-man-formation flyover, Dec. 8, 2017.

Lt. Col. Karl Garlock retired from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in 1969 after a distinguished flying career in which he survived captivity by the Germans after being shot down during combat. 

He was highly decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three devices for Heroism in Aerial Combat, two Purple Hearts, American Defense Medal and the WWII POW Medal.

 Flyovers for funerals are rare and reserved for a very distinguished group of Airmen; the wing honored his time as a prisoner of war specifically as well as his distinguished flying career.

Garlock’s eldest son, Peter, thanked the wing in a letter (see below) saying “I want you to know that our family and all those who attended the military honor internment service on a bitter cold afternoon were so deeply moved, proud, and honored by the Missing Man flyover. We can never adequately express our thanks and appreciation to the pilots, and all of the support teams of 173rd Fighter Wing that made this event possible.”

Garlock was born in Lockport, New York and enlisted in the Army Air Corps following his high school graduation where he became an airplane mechanic.  Not long after he was assigned to flight school where he learned to fly the premiere fighter aircraft of that day.

He flew the P-38 lightning aircraft on 55 missions escorting bombers deep into German airspace and targeting German railyards. At 21 years of age he was then shot down and captured near Warlow, Germany May 21, 1944, just two weeks before D-Day. He spent a year in captivity and endured a forced winter march of hundreds of miles with little food and clothing, those who fell during the march were shot. He was freed in May of 1945 when Gen. George S. Patton’s Army liberated his POW camp.

Following the war he flew a number of aircraft including the P-47 and T-33 jet trainer.  While assigned to Kingsley Field he was the deputy of materials for the F-101 fighter interceptor wing.

“May we never have to endure the sacrifices of those that fought for this country as part of the ‘Greatest Generation,’” said Lt. Col. Richard Giampietri, the flight lead for the formation in a message to the wing. “But knowing we all started this journey with the willingness to do just that makes me proud to work with every one of you.”

In response to the December 8 flyover, Peter, Garlock’s eldest son penned the following letter ~ Ed.

I am the oldest son of Lt. Col. Karl Garlock.  I’m writing you to express our family’s deepest appreciation and give you a sense of why what you did was so meaningful to us.

Yesterday, our family celebrated the incredible 95 year lifespan of the most amazing person I’ve ever known, who was also a true war hero.  Born and raised in the Great Depression in upstate NY, he joined the Army Air Corps out of high school and became an aircraft propeller mechanic in Portland OR.  His senior NCO was so impressed with his leadership, work ethic, and ability to quickly learn complex systems that he encouraged him to apply for flight school and become an officer.  He was soon accepted and quickly advanced to become one of the first pilots assigned to learn how to fly the newly introduced P-38 at McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington.  After only a few months of training, and barely familiar with the awesome capabilities of this aircraft when the war broke out, he was sent to England in the first fighter group that took the P-38 into operational combat in Europe.  Few pilots had any combat experience in the P-38, but my father quickly developed the necessary skills and fearlessness to become a highly effective fighter pilot in the P-38.  He was barely 20 years old.

He went on to fly 55 long, and exhausting missions deep into Europe, obtaining three confirmed kills in aerial combat.  He told of how on missions in the dark and at high altitude, the superchargers on the engine exhausts would glow red, yet it would be bitter cold in the cockpit.  On one occasion upon his return, he was so exhausted that his crew chief had to straddle the cockpit and lift him out of his seat by his parachute straps.  Two weeks before the D-Day landing, he was shot down from ground fire on an early Sunday morning as he made a second high speed, low level pass to strafe and destroy German fighter aircraft on the ground at an airfield in northern Germany.  With one engine shot out and on fire, and the knowledge that the P-38 was nearly impossible to bail out of because of the horizontal stabilizer and no ejection system, he crash landed into a wheat field.  Because it was early in the morning, and the field was heavy with morning dew, the engine fire was extinguished.  Though badly injured, he was able to climb out of the aircraft. As he ran for the nearby woods, he was shot at and captured by local farmers who severely beat him until he was turned over to the German Luftwaffe.  Eleven P-38’s were shot down that day, and my father was one of only 7 to survive.  After intense interrogation, he spent the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps until he was liberated by Patton’s 3rd Army.  

This was how my father’s life began as a member of the “Greatest Generation”.  He returned home after the war, married our mother who supported him as he went on to serve 26 years in the U.S. Air Force in various assignments all over the globe.  He ultimately retired from the 322nd fighter interceptor squadron, based at Kingsley Field, where he taught me how to fly in a Cessna 150.   My mother, who survives my father after 71 years of marriage, and brothers and sister were extremely fortunate to have lived and traveled the world where my father’s Air Force career took him.  He was a great leader, mentor, and best friend to our family and all who knew him.  Most of all he loved to fly.

Few knew of his valor in combat during the war because he spoke little of it, and just said “we did what we had to do”.  Yet he told me of the most amazing stories and perspective of that time in our country’s history through the eyes of someone who lived through it all.  Yesterday was filled with moving eulogies and celebrations of a life well lived through difficult times and challenges by one who gave more than he received. He gave us all a sense of direction and values that could only come from someone who experienced life as he did. He impacted so many lives in his 95 years.

I want you to know that our family and all those who attended the military honor internment service on a bitter cold afternoon were so deeply moved, proud, and honored by the Missing Man flyover.  We can never adequately express our thanks and appreciation to the pilots, and all of the support teams of 173rd Fighter Wing that made this event possible.  The flyover was done with incredible precision, and at the precise moment it was scheduled.  I realize this required a great deal of planning on short notice, and close coordination with active commercial and military aircraft landing in the nearby area of the VA cemetery.  You should also know that this relatively new VA cemetery now holds more than 4,000 veterans who were also honored by your fighter wing.

The fact the flyover was performed by fighter pilots and aircraft representing our country’s strength and current capabilities as defenders of freedom, made it even more special.  My father was always proud that he played a small part in pioneering the art of air warfare.  Your Missing Man flyover was the absolute perfect tribute to my father’s incredible life, and his time as a combat pilot and POW in WWII.  Please feel free to share this with everyone who made this event possible, and extend our deepest appreciation for the respect and honor you have provided my mother and our entire family for an American hero.  It is one of the greatest memories of my life that I will personally never forget.

Thank you,

Peter Garlock