Lt. Gen. George C. Axtell (USMC Ret.) An American Hero

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(Nov. 29, 1920 – Aug. 20, 2011)
Lt. Gen. George C. Axtell (USMC Ret.), 90, of Tryon Estates, Columbus, passed away Saturday afternoon, Aug. 20, 2011 in the Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills, Landrum.
George was born on Nov. 29, 1920 in Ambridge, Pa. His parents were George Clifton Axtell and Cora Mae Perrine Axtell. He graduated from Ambridge High School and studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Alabama.
When it was evident that we were going to war he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a private and was sent to flight training. After earning his wings and being commissioned a second lieutenant, he became a flight instructor at the Pensacola Air Training Center. George was later sent to the Naval Academy to study meteorology before being assigned as VMF 323’s squadron commander, a new squadron commissioned on Aug. 1, 1943. George, at 22 years and 8 months, was the youngest squadron commander in the Marine Corps.
On March 21, 1942, George married his childhood sweetheart, Phyllis Crafton, at the Naval Academy Chapel. Phyllis followed him to Laguna Beach, Calif., until his squadron was sent to the South Pacific.
While in the South Pacific George’s squadron had great success. The squadron had 124.5 kills, the highest in the Okinawa campaign, and resulted in 12 fighter aces, including George. For his extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations, George was awarded the Navy Cross by the president on April 28, 1945. In 1999, a book about George and his squadron’s legacy, called “Death Rattlers,” was written and published by Dr. William Wolf.
George graduated from George Washington University with a law degree in 1952 and a master’s degree in financial management in 1958. He was admitted to the Supreme Court Bar in Washington, D.C. in 1956.  He also graduated from the National War College at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C. in 1964.
George was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis, who died in September of 1975. He is survived by a large and loving family. Shirley Barnes Axtell, his wife of 34 years, resides at Tryon Estates in Columbus. His brother Bill and his wife, Dorothy, reside in Beaver, Pa. George and Phyllis’s sons, Lt. Col. Grey Axtell (USMC-Ret.) and Guy Axtell, gave George four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Grey’s children are Holly Axtell Deutsch and her husband, Alan, and their children, Alexia, Alan, Joshua and Arik, who reside in Factoryville, Pa., and Geoffrey Clifton Axtell and his two daughters, McKenna and Samantha, who reside in Norriston, Pa. Guy and his wife, Virginia, have two children, George Clifton Axtell and his wife, Natalie, and their children, Morgan and Garrick, who reside in Richmond, Va., and Guy Crafton Axtell and his wife, Kendall, and their children, Ella Kate and McKenna, who reside in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
George will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers it is requested that contributions be made to Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, 130 Forest Glen Drive, Columbus, N.C. 28722 or the House of Flags Museum, 363 Green Creek Drive, Columbus, N.C. 28722.
An online guest register is available at
McFarland Funeral Chapel, Tryon.

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