Marrett, George J. 1935-

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Marrett, George J. 1935-


Born 1935, in Grand Island, NE. Education: Iowa State College, B.S., 1957.


Home—Atascadero, CA.


Writer, pilot. Worked for Hughes Aircraft Company, CA, as a test pilot for twenty years, retiring 1989; DP Industries, chief pilot; Estrella Warbird Museum, Paso Robles, CA, founder. National Test Pilot School, Mojave, CA, member of the board of trustees. Military service: United States Air Force, from 1957 through the Vietnam War; served in 188 combat missions.


Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with eight Oak Leaf Clusters, both for service in Vietnam.


Cheating Death: Combat Air Rescues in Vietnam and Laos, Smithsonian Books (Washington, DC), 2003.

Howard Hughes: Aviator, Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 2004.

Testing Death: Hughes Aircraft Test Pilots and Cold War Weaponry, Praeger Security International (Westport, CT), 2006.

Controls over the Mojave: The Golden Age of Jet Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 2008.


George J. Marrett was born in 1935, in Grand Island, Nebraska. Interested in science, he attended Iowa State College and graduated in 1957 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. From there, he decided to follow another interest—flying—and enlisted in the United States Air Force. Marrett began as a second lieutenant in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In 1959, he completed his flight training as a pilot at Webb Air Force Base in Texas, having taken up the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. Marrett continued pilot training at the advanced level, going on to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. There he flew planes such as the North American F-86L, SabreJet. Marrett went on to spend four years at Hamilton Air Force Base in California as a member of the 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. Then in 1964, he was honored with an invitation to attend the United States Air Force test pilot school. As a student there, he flew a number of different aircraft, including the Northrop T-38 Talon, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, and the General Dynamics F-106 Delta Dart. Once he completed that program, he took a position at Edwards Air Force Base, where he continued to fly such up-to-date planes as the McDonnell F-4C Phantom, Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter, and General Dynamics F-111A Aardvark. He served in Vietnam, flying into Thailand as a rescue pilot, and came out of the war with 188 combat missions flown, logging approximately 600 hours in combat. For his efforts, Marrett was awarded two medals: the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal with eight Oak Leaf Clusters.

Following his time spent at war, Marrett returned home to civilian life, going to work at Hughes Aircraft Company as an experimental test pilot, working for the firm for twenty years. He has written several books about both his experiences in the Air Force and on Howard Hughes and his company. In Cheating Death: Combat Air Rescues in Vietnam and Laos, Marrett offers readers an account of the rescue flights that were commonly flown during wartime in order to pull out forces who had been downed or trapped in some way behind enemy lines. Many books of this sort feature heroes who later applied their daring flight experiences to careers as test pilots, but Marrett was unique in that he had served as a test pilot for the Air Force prior to the Vietnam War, and so he had additional experience going in as a rescue pilot. Working with the Sandy Skyraider pilots, Marrett flew missions in a Douglas A-1 Skyraider that was leftover from World War Two, and in his book he recalls his adventures and the work of the men working along side of him, both his fellow pilots and the Jolly Green Giant helicopter pilots, as they risked their lives to pull downed airmen safely out of the war zones. In a review for Airpower, one contributor remarked that "Marrett … takes the reader through these dramatic and exciting rescue missions with a flashback memory and easy-to-read writing style all his own."

Marrett's next work, Howard Hughes: Aviator, is an in-depth look at the billionaire's intriguing life and his fascination with flight. The work stems at least in part from Marrett's personal experiences as a test pilot, and the two decades he spent in the employ of Hughes Aircraft Company in that capacity. Marrett chronicles Hughes's early interest in aircraft, an all encompassing passion that led him to not only learn to fly, but to work on aircraft designs and construction in a perpetual search for a better, faster, more efficient means of air travel. This interest led him to found Hughes Aircraft in California, near Los Angeles International Airport, and to work on planes designed both for military use and for civilian transport, such as the Constellation airliner. His interest extended to making movies that featured airplanes, and to businesses as well, including the purchase of Trans World Airlines. Hughes was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973 for his contributions to the industry. In a review for Air Power History, Paul C. Fritz praised Marrett's effort, remarking it "should be interesting and informative for any student/hobbyist of early U.S. aviation."

Testing Death: Hughes Aircraft Test Pilots and Cold War Weaponry goes inside Hughes Aircraft to tell readers of the various planes designed specifically for military use, and looks at how their design and testing was a direct result of the Cold War. Marrett describes many of these flights in detail, looking not just at the planes and their uses, but at the men who flew them. Mike Machat, in a review for Airpower, commented that "Marrett chooses to put the reader right into history itself by weaving colorful tales of his aerial exploits or those of people who touched the very history he writes about."



Marrett, George J., Cheating Death: Combat Air Rescues in Vietnam and Laos, Smithsonian Books (Washington, DC), 2003.


Airpower, September, 2003, review of Cheating Death, p. 62; September, 2006, Mike Machat, review of Testing Death: Hughes Aircraft Test Pilots and Cold War Weaponry, p. 60.

Air Power History, summer, 2006, Paul C. Fritz, review of Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 50.

Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 17, 2005, James Ott, review of Howard Hughes, p. 419.

Booklist, October 15, 2004, George Cohen, review of Howard Hughes, p. 371.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 2005, W.A. McIntyre, review of Howard Hughes, p. 1247.

Journal of Military History, January, 2005, John F. Guilmartin, review of Cheating Death, pp. 282-283.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2003, review of Cheating Death, p. 50; February, 2005, review of Howard Hughes, p. 30.

SciTech Book News, September, 2006, review of Testing Death.

Sea Power, January 2005, James Ott, review of Howard Hughes, p. 419.


Nebraska Department of Aeronautics Web site, (March 17, 2008), author profile.

U.S. Naval Institute Web site, (March 17, 2008), author profile.

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Marrett, George J. 1935-

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