George Axtell was born on November 29, 1920, in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on July 14, 1940, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program on September 6, 1940. Axtell was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Marine Corps on May 12, 1941, and was designated a Naval Aviator on May 15, 1941. He served as an instructor pilot at NAS Pensacola, Florida, from June to December 1941, and then transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy Postgraduate School where he graduated in January 1943. Maj Axtell served with Marine Air Group 32 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, from January to August 1943, and then joined Marine Fighting Squadron 323 (VMF-323) as its first commanding officer. He led the squadron through training in the F4U Corsair at MCAS El Centro and MCAS Camp Pendleton, California, at various bases in the South Pacific, and then into combat during the Battle of Okinawa from March to June 1945. During this time, he was credited with the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Maj Axtell next served as commanding officer of Marine Carrier Air Group 16 (MCVG-16) at MCAS El Toro, California, and aboard the escort carrier USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116) from July 1945 to April 1946, followed by service as commanding officer of VMF-452 from April to December 1946. He then completed the Amphibious Warfare School Junior Course at Quantico, Virginia, before being assigned to Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps at the Pentagon from July 1947 to February 1952. After completing additional training, he deployed to Korea with Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12) of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, where he saw combat flying the F4U as commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 312 (VMA-312). Col Axtell served in theater from April to November 1952, and then served with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Cherry Point from November 1952 to November 1953, followed by service as commanding officer of VMF-122 from November to December 1953. He was next made commanding officer of Marine Air Control Group 1 (MACG-1), serving in this position from December 1953 to January 1955. He served another tour at the Pentagon from May 1955 to May 1959, followed by service as Legal Officer for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Japan from June 1959 to February 1960. He was commanding officer of MAG-12 in Japan from February to August 1960, before serving as Legal Officer and Assistant Chief of Staff for G-3 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Cherry Point from September 1960 to July 1963. Col Axtell attended the National War College in Washington, D.C., from August 1963 to June 1964, and then served as Chief of Staff of Fleet Marine Force Pacific from July 1964 to September 1965. His next assignment was as Chief of Staff for III Marine Amphibious Force in the Republic of Vietnam from September 1965 to March 1966, followed by service as Commanding Officer of Force Logistic Command, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, in South Vietnam from March to October 1966. Gen Axtell then served as Assistant Chief of Staff to G-4 at Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps in the Pentagon from November 1966 to June 1970, followed by service as Commanding General of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic at MCAS Cherry Point from June 1970 to March 1972. His final assignment was as Commanding General of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic and as Commanding General of II Marine Amphibious Force at Norfolk, Virginia, where he served from April 1972 until his retirement from the Marine Corps on September 1, 1974. George Axtell died on August 20, 2011, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer and Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron THREE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Okinawa Area, on 22 April 1945. Intercepting an overwhelming force of hostile planes, Major Axtell led his squadron in a daring and skillful attack against the enemy who were threatening our Fleet units, shooting down five hostile planes, probably destroying three others and damaging three additional aircraft. By his gallant fighting spirit and expert airmanship, Major Axtell enabled our fighters to deliver a crushing blow to the Japanese without loss of aircraft or injury to our personnel, and his devotion to duty reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.