Appropriately for one of America’s “winningest” military aviators, Vermont Garrison was born in Mount Victory, Kentucky, on 29 October 1915. Raised in the Appalachians, he farmed and worked in timber while in high school and then earned a teaching certificate in college. After teaching in one-room schools for 5 years, he decided to join the Army Air Corps and was accepted for pilot training. Just short of completing the course, he left the Air Corps and joined the Royal Air Force where he not only completed the training, but also soon instructed air-to-air gunnery in British P-51 Mustangs.
After rejoining the US Army Air Forces in July 1943, he flew P-47 Thunderbolts and later P-51 Mustangs in combat with the famed 4th Fighter Group. In December of that year, he logged his first aerial victory–partial credit for the destruction of a Ju 88 transport. By February 1944, Garrison was an ace, with three FW 190s and two Me-109s to his credit. Flying P-47s and P-51s from England, he destroyed a total of seven enemy planes and shared credit in an eighth victory before his aircraft was severely damaged in a battle over Germany. He bailed out over the coast of France, was captured, and remained a prisoner until liberated by Russian troops near the end of the war.
Upon return to the States, Garrison completed jet fighter training and went on to lead the winning team in the worldwide gunnery meet held at Nellis AFB in 1948. After leading the 4th Fighter Group’s aerobatic team flying P-80 Shooting Stars, and later F-86 Sabres, he attended gunnery school at Nellis AFB. He commanded the 3596th Training Squadron at Nellis until November 1952, when he rejoined the 4th Fighter Group again for combat in Korea. He became a jet fighter ace when he downed his fifth MiG-15 in June 1953. Before leaving Korea in late 1953, he shot down 5 more MiGs to become one of the few “double jet aces” of the Korean War.
Following numerous staff assignments in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he returned to combat in 1966. Flying F-4C Phantom IIs, he led missions over North Vietnam as Vice Commander of the legendary 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. Returning to the States, he flew F-101 Voodoos and served as Commander, 408th Fighter Group at Kingsley Field, Oregon, and then as Vice Commander, 26th Air Division, Adair AFS, Oregon. His final tour was as Base Commander at Hamilton AFB, California. During his career, he flew combat missions in three different wars and is one of only seven men to become a “fighter ace” in two of them. Colonel Garrison retired from active duty in March 1973.