Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Ells Martling, 83, died December 27, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He was born at Fort Sheridan, Illinois to Col. Merrifield Graham Martling and Agnes Amelia Hamilton Martling. He graduated from Frankfurt Dependents High School in Frankfurt, Germany and attended the University of Arizona on a freshman swimming scholarship. In 1951, he enlisted in the Army as a Volunteer Officer Candidate before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While there, he was on the swimming and soccer teams. He graduated in the Class of 1955.
While on assignment in Germany, John was reunited with his college sweetheart, Eleanor Mae Lundberg. They were married in Heidelberg in 1957. In their 25 years together they raised three children and were especially fond of time spent on Morningstar Ranch in Colorado. John and Elle divorced in 1982. In 1987 John met and married, Erma Swanson Raeber, to whom he was devoted until her death in 2014.
During his 24-year Army career, Colonel Martling commanded Infantry units at every level, from a platoon in an Airborne Infantry Company through Battalion Commander and Deputy Brigade Commander. Following commissioning, his initial assignment was with the 11th Airborne Division, in Augsburg, Germany. In 1958 he received certification as a qualified Parachutiste at L' Ecole des Troupes Aeroportee in Pau, France where he was the first American to freefall with the French Army. He also served as Commander of the Guard for Spandau Prison, guarding war criminals Hess, Funk, Von Schirac, and Speer. In the early 1960's after serving as the Aide de Camp to the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe, he attended the Advanced Infantry Officers' Course at Fort Benning, Georgia where he was retained after graduation as an Instructor in the Department of Tactics. In 1962, he served in Viet Nam as a Battalion Advisor to ARVN 46th Special Regiment in the highlands of Viet Nam.
After returning from Viet Nam, he returned to Fort Benning where he attended the Ranger Course, winning the coveted Ranger Tab. He was assigned to the 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas where he was the G-3 Operations Officer and a Company Commander in the 2nd Armored Infantry Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment. After Fort Hood, he attended the US Army Command and Staff College, followed by graduate school at Purdue University, receiving a Master's Degree before assignment as Assistant Professor of Leadership, Office of Military Psychology and Leadership at West Point . In 1968, he returned to Viet Nam on a special assignment and after completing his tour at West Point, returned to Viet Nam as Inspector General of the 101st Airborne Division and Deputy Commanding Officer of the 2nd Brigade and the 3rd Battalion, 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment (Currahee) Task Force Pursuit at An Khe in the Central Highlands, the only independent infantry task force in Viet Nam. On his return from Viet Nam, he was assigned to Headquarters Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia as the Joint Airborne Plans Officer. His final assignment was as Professor of Military Science at Northeast Missouri where he raised the program to be the fifth largest in the United States. His military decorations and badges include the following: Silver Star, Legion of Merit (2) Bronze Star, Air Medal (12), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (4), RVN Cross of Gallantry, RVN Medal of Honor, RVN Civic Action Medal, RVN Staff Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutists Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Expert Marksman Badge, French Brevet de Parachutiste Militaire.
Retiring in 1975, he returned home to Morningstar Ranch in Fraser, Colorado where he fulfilled his retirement dream of building a ski lodge in the tradition of those he had come to know in Germany and Austria. In 1976, he was elected to the Grand County Board Of County Commissioners. Serving as Chairman and Director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments he was the principal author of the Wilderness Act of 1979, establishing the Indian Peaks National Recreation Area and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. He developed, and supervised the implementation of the Fraser Valley Land Use Plan, an award winning plan still in use after more than twenty years. He also contested and won major litigation with trans-mountain water diverters which saved existing water supplies for Colorado's headwater counties and created new federal law establishing the primacy of counties in the development of real estate. His pastimes included adventures with the Colorado Mountain Club, hiking, climbing fourteeners, skiing and golfing. He was a Ski Instructor with the Winter Park Handicap Program 1981-1992.
He was a Life Loyal member of Sigma Chi fraternity, The Rotary Club, and numerous other civic and service organizations.
He is survived by his daughter, Lynn Chamberlin Martling of Los Rozos, Spain, his son, John Fitzgerald Martling of Naples, Idaho and his daughter, Susan Graham Martling of Freeport, Maine.
He was cremated and will be buried with Erma in the West Point cemetery in June.