Obituary - Henry Garlington

Henry Fitch Garlington, born in Paris, France, 1922 and died Saturday, February 23, 2019.  He was the son of the late General Creswell Garlington, Sr. and Elise Alexandrine Fitch Garlington.  He was preceded by his parents, his twin brother Creswell Garlington, Jr., sister Sally Garlington Barlett, wife Jeanne Morrell Garlington and son-in-law David Gant.

As an Army brat, after returning to the United States, he traveled to several Army stations including Savannah in the early 1940s.  Henry graduated from Solebury School in New Hope, PA.  That summer he applied to Army Air Corps for pilot training.  While waiting for assignment he attended The Citadel until early 1943.  He completed his pilot training and was assigned North Africa and his fighter group went to Italy where he was shot down and captured.  He spent over a year as a POW in Germany.  At the end of the war, he was sent to Air Corps training command as a flight instructor.  In 1949, he married Jeanne Hunter Morrell.  In 1955, he retired from the Air Force he moved to Savannah where he lived the rest of his life.

For six years Henry worked for the city of Savannah’s Recreational Department as athletic director.  After which, he became the director of the newly formed Chatham County Recreational Department.  Then he was hired by Savannah Bank and Trust Co.  After attending the National Trust Graduate School at Northwestern University, he was appointed a trust officer at the bank.  Henry was a volunteer reading for the blind, with Georgia Radio Services for 20 years and was a lifelong blood donor to the American Red Cross.  In 1975, Henry was the recipient of the Athletic Officials of Georgia High School Association Award and in 2000 the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award. He was former member of the Oglethorpe Club, Savannah Yacht Club, Savannah Golf Club and the Century Club.  He was also a member of the St. Andrews Society and the Society of Colonial Wars.  Henry was a life time member of Christ Episcopal Church where he also sang in the choir.

He is survived by two daughters Katherine Garlington of Tybee Island and Nina Gant of Plantation, FL; two grandchildren Audrey and Eric Gant (Aimee); two nieces and one nephew.

The family would like to extend special thanks to the Oaks caregivers especially Twyla Hill.

A graveside service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, March 2, 2019 in Bonaventure Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to Christ Church Episcopal on Johnson Square, 18 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31401 or any veterans association of your choice.

Christ Church Communicant Profile – Henry F. Garlington

April 6, 2014

 We welcome back today long-time member Henry Garlington who has been away after an extended illness.

Henry and his twin brother Creswell were born in Paris, France on February 1, 1922.[1] Henry’s mother, Elise Alexandrine Fitch, was from the Philadelphia area and his father, Brigadier General Creswell Garlington[2], was from a long line of military heritage.[3] Both were faithful Episcopalians.

In 1932, Brig. Gen. Garlington was assigned to be the Commander at the Army Corp of Engineers here in Savannah and the Garlington family began attending Christ Church at that time.

Creswell and Henry both graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., then enrolled in the Citadel and, prior to graduation, Henry joined the Army Air Corp and Creswell joined the Army.  Both fought in World War II.  Creswell, a second lieutenant, was a platoon leader with Company I, 355th Infantry.  He was part of the European invasion around the time of the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism and the Purple Heart.[4]  On December 1, 1944, Creswell carried a wounded member of his platoon through intense artillery fire.  He was wounded that day and died two days later on December 3.  He is buried in the American Military Cemetery near Margraten in the Netherlands because his mother wanted him to be buried with his fellow troops. Creswell is also listed on the Christ Church World War II memorial plaque which hangs on the church’s south wall.

Henry was also a second lieutenant and, on June 5, 1944, as the tide was turning in Europe for the Allied forces, he was shot down in Italy as his fighter plane was hit by enemy fire.  He was taken to Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe-run POW camp near the town of Sagan, 100 miles southeast of Berlin. Stalag Luft III had gained notoriety because of an October 1943 breakout by some Allied officers through a self-dug tunnel – in what later became known as “The Great Escape,” from which the 1963 film was based. Henry recalls that, while the rations afforded to the men were scant, he and the other prisoners saved what little they had to be able to pool with others in the barracks to have treats for all. “None of us ever really considered escaping,” Henry said. “Once we got out, we really wouldn’t have had anywhere to go or know where to go, so we just stayed put.”

However, they would not stay put for long. In January 1945, the Russians were making their way into German-occupied territories and with the Red Army less than 30 miles from Sagan, Henry and the others were told to grab everything they could.  They marched to Moosberg, another POW camp, but the march would take several days in the frigid German winter.  “It was a tough march, and not all of the men made it through,” Henry recalled. Over the next few months, conditions continued to worsen, as it became increasingly apparent that the Germans were losing the war.

One day in late April, the sound of artillery fire could be heard in the distance, and a short while later, General George Patton and his Third Army division crashed through the gates and began the liberation. Henry had gone out that day to try to find a few eggs and upon his return was met by one of Patton’s aides.  “He asked me where the hell I had been, so I told him,” Henry said. “He replied, ‘Patton’s been looking for you.’” Henry’s father, a general, was a friend of Patton’s and had asked Patton to check every POW camp he liberated for signs of his son. While a member of the 314th Fighter Squadron, Henry was awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. 

Henry returned to Savannah after he was liberated and, in 1949, he married Jeanne Morrell[5] at St. John’s Church in Savannah.  They were stationed at several Air Force bases around the country and returned to Savannah in 1954 when Henry was honorably discharged. They attended St. John’s until in the early 1960’s and then returned to Christ Church where he and his family have continued to worship.

While Henry and his wife settled in Savannah and raised their two daughters Katherine and Nina, he never spoke of his war-time experiences until recently. “One day, my dad just started talking about all of his memories from the war and being in Stalag Luft III,” Katherine said. “We asked him if there was anyone he wanted to get in touch with, and he said ‘The only person I want to find is Charlie Skinner.’” Last year, with the help of his daughter, Henry was reunited with Mr. Skinner, his fellow POW whom he had not seen in close to 70 years.  As they talked, the two looked at one another and smiled, his friend lightly punched Henry on the arm. While they might have been sitting in overstuffed chairs in the U.S., their minds were in war-torn Germany, reviving memories with one another they thought they would never get to discuss again. “After all this time, it’s a blessing to be able to sit here and talk with someone who went through the same things I did,” Skinner said. Henry nodded his head in agreement. “There aren’t many of us left these days, so getting to see Charlie here again is just great,” Henry said.

“We give thanks for the incredible life and continuing witness of Henry and his family,” said our rector Michael S. White. “Henry exemplifies the Christian spirit of faith, hope and love, is a true Episcopalian and has served not only his church but also his community and country with great honor and distinction.”

Henry’s daughters are Katherine Garlington (who serves as the senior warden for All Saint’s Episcopal Church on Tybee) and Nina Garlington Gant and his grandchildren are Audrey and Eric Gant.

[1] Several years later, their sister Sally Garlington was born in Kansas.

[2] General Garlington graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1910. He died in Savannah on March 11, 1945.

[3] General Garlington was a veteran of World War I and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross. His father (and Henry’s and Creswell’s grandfather) was Medal of Honor Recipient Ernest Albert Garlington who was also an 1876 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was a Brigadier General. He was awarded to Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in action against hostile Sioux Indians on Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota on December 29, 1890.

[4] The Distinguished Service Cross citation for Lt. Garlington states, “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant (Infantry) Creswell Garlington, Jr. (ASN: 0-547375), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as a platoon leader, Company I, 335th Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces from 29 November to 1 December 1944. Second Lieutenant Garlington's platoon was temporarily stopped during an attack by the fire of four enemy machine guns approximately three hundred yards away. He crawled forward and with hand grenades eliminated two of the positions while a member of his platoon eliminated the other two. Later the same day, he and one of his men broke up enemy patrols which tried to infiltrate through their lines. On 30 November 1944, during an enemy counterattack, he and four of his men crawled to an advantageous point and killed or wounded sixty of the enemy. On 1 December 1944, Second Lieutenant Garlington carried a wounded member of his platoon through intense enemy artillery fire to a place of safety. While directing the fire of his men, an artillery shell hit approximately ten yards away. While at the aid station he insisted that others less seriously wounded be treated first and tried to show his men the position of a concealed enemy machine gun. Second Lieutenant Garlington's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 84th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”

[5] In the late 1960’s Jeanne Garlington became the Director of Religious Education at Christ Church after ten years of teaching Bible and English at the Savannah Country Day School. She was also instrumental in bringing EFM to Savannah.  Mrs. Garlington died in August 2003.