David Spencer Harmon

David Spencer Harmon

U. S. Air Force

Enlisted in the Wisconsin Air National Guard (ANG) while a senior at Oconomowoc High School in February 1954.  Attended ANG Boot Camp Training at Alpena, Mi.,  ANG Training Base that summer and “Classification Specialist Training Course”  later that year at Scott Air Force Base (AFB) Illinois.   Drilled with the ANG until entering United States Air Force (USAF) Jet Pilot Training as an Aviation Cadet in December of 1955.

Completed  “Preflight Aviation Cadet” training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas; primary Pilot Training at Spence Air Base, Moultrie, Georgia, flying the T-34 and T-28 and Basic Jet Pilot Training at Bryan AFB, Texas flying the T-33.  Received commission as a 2/Lt. Reserve Officer  and awarded Pilot Wings in April of 1957.

Returned to the 126th. Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Wisconsin ANG at General Billy Mitchell Field (GBMF), Milwaukee, flying the F-89 “Scorpion”, T-33, C-47, B-25 and KC-97 aircraft.  (Married Virgina Margaret Kleba in 1959)

Transferred to the 933rd. Troop Carrier Group, Air Force Reserve, at GBMF, in 1962 and flew the C-119 “Flying Boxcar”.  Recalled to active duty during the “Cuba Missile Crisis” in the fall of 1962 and elected to remain on active duty rather than accept a class assignment with Delta Airlines.  (Daughter, Debra Jean, born during this period.)

Assigned to Dyess AFB, Tx in 1963, flying the C-130 E “Hercules” as an aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot.  Flew many missions throughout Europe, North Africa, Central and South America, and Asia.  One of these missions included the largest formation of C-130’s ever assembled (142) for a mission to the Dominican Republic.  Also graduated from Squadron Officers School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama and was tendered a commission as a Regular Officer.  Promoted to Captain. (Son, Douglas John, and Daughter Diane June, born during this assignment.)

Assigned to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia in 1966 as an instructor Pilot in the Central Training Flight, giving combat readiness training to pilots destined for overseas assignments.

Assigned to Chen Chan Kang Chinese AFB, Republic of China, in 1967, as a C130E Aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot.  (Unaccompanied Tour)  Most missions were flown in Vietnam and other places in Southeast Asia and many involved the “Tet Offensive.”  (Son Daniel Jaye, was born back at Langley AFB during this assignment.)

Returned to the US in 1968 and completed training in the C-130 A model at Ellington AFB, OH for assignment to Naha Air Base, Okinawa. (Accompanied Tour)  Continued flying missions in Southeast Asia as an Aircraft Commander, Instructor Pilot, Flight Examiner and Special Projects Pilot.  Promoted to Major. (Daughter, Donna Jane, born on Okinawa during this assignment.)

Assigned to Defense Contracts Administrative Services Office, Birmingham Municipal Airport, Alabama in 1971 as test Pilot at an Air Force aircraft overhaul faculty.  Flew acceptance test flights in numerous models of the C-130 and B-57.  (Completed studies at the University of Alabama – Birmingham for a Bachelors Degree during this assignment.  Also completed seminar programs for Air Command and Staff College and Industrial college of the Armed Forces.)

 Assigned to Clark Air Base, Philippine islands, in 1975 as a Planning and Programming Officer at 13th. Air Force Headquarters.  (Accompanied.)  A busy assignment involving the relocation of Air Force assets from Southeast Asia back to the U. S.  job description required flying, so flew the T-33 as target for F-4 “Phantom” fighters.  This came in handy for flying to Taiwan for many business trips.  Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  (Completed studies with the university of Southern California – Far East Division for a masters Degree in Systems management.)

Assigned back to C-130s at Little Rock AFB in 1976 as a Squadron Chief Pilot and as a Squadron Operations Officer.  Also assigned as Mission Commander for several multiple aircraft deployments in the U.S. and Europe.

Assigned back to GBMF in 1979, as Senior Air Force Advisor to the 440th. Tactical Airlift Wing; once again flying the “A” model of the C-130.  Position included supervising the Air Force Advisor contingents at Chicago O’Hare, Il and Selfridge, Mi. Air Force Reserve Bases.  Also flew missions throughout North, Central and South America and deployments to Europe and Hawaii.

Retired from military service in 1985.

Military decorations and awards include: two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Meritorious Service medal, eight Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Distinguished Presidential Unit Citations, three Air Force outstanding Unit Awards, the Combat Readiness Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Eight  Vietnam Service Medals, six Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbons, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Military flight hours: 12,000 of which 1,035 were Combat Support.  Also flew in  nine of the eleven Vietnam Air War Campaigns.

Civilian flying includes the rating of Airline Transport Pilot and award of the Wright Brothers Master pilot Award for 50 years of safe flying.


A Flying Feat to Remember

During the period of 1960 to 1962, the 128th Fighter Interceptor Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, based at General Billy Mitchell Field, was equipped with the “J” model of the F-89 “Scorpion” Jet fighter interceptor.  This latest model of the F-89 was armed with two MB-1 “Genie” air to air nuclear rockets.  Each of these rockets contained a one-megaton nuclear warhead.  They were designed to be launched at an invading enemy bomber formation and detonated in front of that formation.  The resulting shock wave would destroy any aircraft flying into it.

After firing the rocket, the interceptor would do an “escape maneuver which would allow it to survive and escape the detonation.   The F-89 was the only aircraft to ever actually test this weapon system with a live nuclear warhead.  This test was performed at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  It proved that the weapon system and the escape maneuver both worked as designed.

Should the 128th have been called to active duty, the Air Force Command which would take command of the unit was the Air Defense Command (ADC).  This Command was also responsible for establishing the training, evaluation and operating procedures and standards for all Air National Guard Air Defense units.  During the above period the 128th actually maintained some aircraft and crews on active air defense alert.

When ADC evaluated a unit, it conducted an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI).  That inspection encompassed all operations, maintenance and support activities of the unit.  ADC also conducted less unit-wide inspections that evaluated only the operational (flying) functions. These inspections were either Standardization and Evaluation Visits or Operational Readiness Exercises (OREs).

For an ORE, ADC would , at random, select six of the aircraft reported by the unit to be operational and require aircraft and crews to be at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida in a short time frame and then serviced, armed and placed on alert within one hour of arrival.  This was no small feat for a unit composed mostly of “weekend warriors.”

The armament used for an ORE consisted of an actual MB-1 Genie Rocket on one aircraft under-wing rail (a “spotting charge” warhead was substituted for the nuclear warhead) and on the opposite rail, a measuring device which would record all phases of the intercept and determine if it would have been successful, had an actual rocket been launched.

Circa 1961, an ORE was sprung on the 128th and all six aircraft and crews arrived at Tyndall AFB within the allotted time frame and were serviced, armed and placed on alert without incident.  They were subsequently “scrambled” (five minutes maximum from claxon bell alert to take off) against a target (a “Firebee” drone) flying over the Gulf of Mexico.

All six interceptors successfully scrambled, engaged the target and launched their rockets scoring primary hits.  They were then positioned by ground radar for another attack using the minstalled scoring devices and all six fighters again scored successful primary hits.

TWELVE FOR TWELVE! No interceptor unit had ever done it before.  Anywhere!  It was a shame that all the folks back home could not have observed this feat first hand.  They would have been proud of this product of their community and would have more fully understood what a gem of a military unit existed and worked among them.

In true aircrew tradition there was an appropriate celebration at the Tyndall Officers Club that evening.  An evil featured concoction called a “Spin, Crash, and Burn” did most of the damage.  The 128th Wing Commander and the Mission Commander for this deployment was Colonel Tom Bailey.  He was at his finest the next day when he successfully negotiated our release for deployment home.

This writer was lucky to have been a part of that achievement and learned a valuable lesson that served him well for the rest of his military career.  Simply stated, it is that, in the profession of flying, there is no substitute for good aircrew training and good aircraft maintenance.  The 128th had the best of both then and still does today.

Long before and ever since that record shattering ORE of many years ago, units of the Wisconsin Air and Army National Guard have been called on to perform complex and often hazardous duty around the world.  They have always completed their assignments with professionalism.  They are the best of the “Citizen Soldiers” which have kept our country free and able to pursue happiness.

David Spencer Harmon, Lieutenant Colonel United States Air Force (Retired)


In: Member Military History