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Garfield N. Thorsrud ( Missoula 1946 )

posted: Dec 2, 2014

Gar died November 23, 2014. He was living in Tucson, Arizona. Gar was born in Watford City, ND, to Norwegian immigrant parents and moved to Missoula when he was 8-years-old. He was a graduate of the University of Montana in 1951.

Gar began working for the USFS at age 16 on blister rust and fire crews and became a smokejumper in 1946. He jumped at Missoula from 1946 through the 1951 seasons. He received his “wings” in 1955 and flew in both the Montana and D.C. Air National Guard Units.

Upon government retirement, Gar founded Mountain West Aviation in 1975, which later became Sierra Pacific Airlines and served as its president until his death.

The major portion of Gar’s obit will have to be written in later years in bits and pieces. The 35-year plus Smokejumper/CIA connection has been covered in many articles in Smokejumper. Over 90 smokejumpers have worked overseas for the agency in many operations in Cuba, South America, Tibet, and throughout Southeast Asia. Gar was among the first to be recruited by the agency and headed up many of these operations starting with the Taiwan Project in the early 50s.

He was apparently recruited, along with another jumper, by the CIA in the early 50s when members of that group came to Missoula for parachute training. The agency decided that there was no reason to train their people in cargo dropping and parachuting into remote and mountainous terrain as the USFS already had those trained individuals. The whole story could fill a book. Who knows if this important part of U.S. and smokejumper history will ever be told?