Skip Navigation
West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial


George Austin Garlitz

"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.'"

:John F. Kennedy

Machinist's Mate Second Class George Austin Garlitz was born in Maryland on September 25, 1917, to James Hubert "Hugh" Garlitz and Lula McKenzie Garlitz. According to the 1920 Federal Census, his family then moved to Berlin, Pennsylvania, and, by the 1930 census, finally settled in Barrackville, West Virginia, a small coal mining community in Marion County. The 1940 census shows that George's father worked as a machine operator in a Barrackville mine, and George also did some work as a coal inspector. However, after he graduated from Barrackville High School, muster rolls show that George enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October of 1935. In 1938, Garlitz married Pauline Palmer in Arizona. Their marriage license reveals that both were living in southern California at the time. He had one sister, Iva Standifer, and was very close with her daughter, Judy Lee, who, according to an article in the Fairmont Times written after his death, purchased a $100-dollar war bond in support of her favorite uncle.

Garlitz grew up in a time of turmoil in coal communities in West Virginia. For many residents of the state, the Great Depression had become a reality long before the stock market crash of 1929, which propelled the rest of the nation into an economic depression. As early as the 1920s, the bustle of production during World War I had deteriorated. The coal industry in West Virginia quickly began to suffer from a number of factors, especially overproduction. Miners received diminishing wages and were constantly threatened by a growing unemployment rate, that, in some counties, reached as high as 80 percent. When the Great Depression hit West Virginia with its full force, many coal companies failed, and the already swelling unemployment rate continued to climb. In 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program promised relief to many of the hardships faced by West Virginians in the mining industry, like George Garlitz, a coal inspector, and his father, a machine operator. The purpose of the act was to regulate and ease competition in business and labor practices, as well as to foster communication between companies and frustrated workers through a process called collective bargaining. For a short time, many miners were re-employed, and wages increased. However, this victory was short lived, because only a few months later companies reverted to their practices of low wages and poor working conditions. This was due to the fact that companies now faced higher wage costs and growing competition from alternative energy sources.

Navy muster rolls show that, shortly after his enlistment in 1935, George was first assigned to the USS Idaho (BB-42), which was stationed in San Pedro, California. In 1940, Garlitz transferred to the USS Gold Star (AG-12), which was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater to participate in the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign. The vessel was responsible for the transportation of necessary goods such as food and equipment to ships and stations located inside the war zone. On the USS Gold Star, Garlitz worked as a machinist's mate (MM2c). This position entailed the operation and maintenance of the ship's propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and additional machinery, including the steering and hoisting mechanisms, food preparation equipment, and marine boilers and pumps. The Gold Star was stationed in Guam from 1924 until December 8, 1941, when the ship was summoned to the Philippines. Only a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded the Philippine Islands, then occupied by the United States. The Gold Star was accountable for providing and transporting supplies to the troops in the Battle of the Philippines, as well as in the rest of the Philippines Campaign. For its performance in this campaign, the Gold Star was awarded one battle star.
Gold Star

USS Gold Star (AG-12) moored in the harbor at Apra, Guam, circa 1920s. U.S. Navy photo now in National Archives, Photo #80-G-651919


Headstone for George Austin Garlitz, Arlington National Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy Anne Cady

After the U.S. began fighting in the Philippines, the Gold Star was commissioned as a coastal cargo ship in Australia, travelling between Australian ports with supplies and providing provisions for Allied forces in the Pacific. On April 5, 1942, when he was only 24, George died from an accidental explosion that occurred while his ship was docked in Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia. Raised Catholic, George was first buried at the Rookwood Roman Catholic Cemetery in Sydney, but his remains were later moved to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where he now lies at rest.


"Barrackville Sailor Killed." Fairmont Times, 11 April 1942, pp. 1, 2.

Pope, James G. "National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)., accessed 17 April 2018,

Thomas, Jerry Bruce. "The Great Depression." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 9 August 2012, accessed 17 April 2018,

Article prepared by Julia Battle and Abby Fife, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
March 2018


George Austin Garlitz

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History