ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) -- Retired Maj. Gen. Marion Carl, a World War II ace and postwar test pilot considered the "Chuck Yeager of the Marine Corps," was shot to death in a robbery at his home by a man who kicked in his door.
The 82-year-old Carl, one of the Marines' most highly decorated aviators, was shot in the head Sunday night. His wife, Edna, suffered a glancing shotgun blast to the head. Sheriff's deputies yesterday searched for the gunman in the wooded hills nearby.
"It's a hell of a way to lose a great American hero," said retired Marine Col. Denis J. Keily, spokesman for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in Pensacola, Fla. "I guess it's a statement of our times." Mrs. Carl told police that a young man who was wearing sunglasses and had a German shepherd with him kicked in the front door, asked for money and her car keys, and shot her husband when he confronted the intruder. The gunman stole $200 to $400 and drove off in the couple's car. Mrs. Carl said there may have been another person outside because there was a commotion in the driveway. The car was abandoned about five miles away, and a patrolman found the dog walking about a mile from the car. "It appears to be totally random -- random and irrational and not thought out," sheriff's Detective Joe Perkins said.
Carl's flying exploits spanned from World War II to Vietnam, that included 18.5 airial victories. In 1942, the Oregon native became the first Marine fighter ace, downing three Japanese bombers and a fighter plane over Guadalcanal. He ended his stint at Guadalcanal with 11.5 combat aircraft destroyed, according to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
After the war, Carl became a Navy test pilot, setting a world speed record of 651 mph on Aug. 25, 1947, at Muroc Field, now Edwards Air Force Base, in California. But his fame was fleeting and soon forgotten. Yeager, the Air Force's top test pilot, wrested away the title of world's fastest human by breaking the sound barrier two months later, also at Muroc. He flew a Bell X-1 rocket plane at Mach 1.07 -- 700 mph -- on Oct. 14. In 1953, Carl set a world altitude record of 83,235 feet and two years later flew U-2 photo reconnaissance missions over China. He returned to combat during the Vietnam War, commanding the 2nd Marine Air Wing. He retired in 1973 with 13,000 flying hours, a Navy Cross with two Gold Stars, the Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with four Gold Stars and the Air Medal with 13 Gold Stars.