John D. Garner was born June 8, 1924 in Gainesville, GA. He served in the 8th Air Force, 13th Wing, 390th Bomb Group, 570th Bomb Squadron as a tail gunner on a B-17. His plane was the only one lost in a mission to bomb Berlin's Rail Station. It was his first mission. He was captured by Germans on May 19, 1944.
After interrogation and 10 days of solitary confinement, he was moved by truck and then train to Luft 4 near the Baltic Sea in Poland. He stayed there for 9 months before beginning the longest forced march of POWs in America's history. He left in February during the coldest winter of the century in Europe. There were 14 inches of snow, and it was 15 degrees. The march lasted 88 days in horrid conditions of little food or clean water and almost no medical attention. Of the 7,000 men who left the camp, 5,500 were liberated by Americans in France after they had walked over 600 miles.
After John's discharge with the rank of staff sergeant, he returned home and earned an education degree. He served as a teacher and principal for 30 years. After retirement, he operated a horse farm for many pleasurable years. He passed away May 18, 2014, one day before the 70th anniversary of his capture. He is survived by his wife of nearly 65 years, Leona. He has 2 daughters, 5 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.