Lackawannock Township, Mercer County, PA
U. S. Army – Vietnam
In Mercer County, Capt. Maurice Garrett Jr. is one of the most recognizable names among those on the Vietnam War Memorial. That’s largely because of the long-standing uncertainty as to whether or not it should be there.
The doubts started from the time of the initial investigation of his helicopter crash on October 22, 1971. Capt. Garrett was flying an AH1G Cobra on an armed visual reconnaissance mission out of Quang Tri, along with three other helicopters. The weather was “marginal,” so Capt. Garrett ordered the other copters to hold while he flew into a valley to check it out. Five minutes later, he reported that he had zero visibility and would return to Quang Tri on instruments.
He never made it. His helicopter apparently crashed after hitting some trees. The aircraft exploded with such force that few identifiable parts of the aircraft remained. A search of the area found the remains of his co-pilot, but none of Capt. Garrett.
That left investigators with two possible conclusions. Because of violence of the explosion, they concluded that Capt. Garrett couldn’t possibly have survived the inferno, and that his body had been completely destroyed in the fire.
However, there remained the slight possibility that Capt. Garrett had somehow survived because something should have survived, such as helmet, watch, dentures, boot eyelets, and dog tabs. But none of those were found.
This second possibility was reinforced in 1984 when the Garrett family was told by a private source that Capt. Garrett was alive. Seven other families received similar word. Although the U.S. government said the information was false, it renewed the hope that Capt. Garrett was still alive, possibly a prisoner of war – a hope shared by his family, friends, and MIA groups.
Whatever his fate, Capt. Garrett was a true hero in the Vietnam War. A paratrooper during his first tour in Vietnam from December 1967 to December 1968, he was wounded three times, and was awarded his first Silver Star for “utmost bravery and heroism.”
Back in the U.S., he learned to fly the Cobra, then returned to Vietnam in December, 1970. Before his helicopter crashed, he had received a second Silver Star, a National Defense Medal, two Bronze Stars with valor device, three Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and several Vietnamese medals.
Capt Garrett is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Garrett, Lackawannock Township.
On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Panel 02W Line 047