Harold Eugene McCoy – Colonel, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Military Academy:

Harold E. McCoy, NO. 17839
8 January 1928 – 19 April 1975
Died in Bethesda, Maryland
Interred in Arlington National Cemetery


Twenty-five have passed since the death of Harold Eugene “Real” McCoy, ­ husband of Evelyn and father of   Karen, Michael, and Patrick. His eight-year battle with cancer ended at the National Institute ofHealth (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland. Due to the nature of his illness, and considering his assignmentsin Viet Nam, his
death was officially attributed to exposure to Agent Orange.

Real was a native of Canton, Ohio, the son of Harry A. and Karin McCoy. Early on, he demonstrated natural leadership abilities, both in academics and in athletics. In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society, the band, and the Choral Society, and was a class officer all four years, culminating with his election as president of the senior class. An outstanding athlete for the Canton McKinley Bulldogs, he lettered in football, basketball, and track. His high jump record endured for more than 20 years, but his real love was football. He carried that love with him when he joined the Corps in the summer of 1946.

The’50 Howitzer quotes Real, “I would rather be  bald than red-headed.” The truth is, his red hair was symbolic of the intense competitiveness and determination to succeed that was a driving force in his life. The love ofsports he brought to the Academy included track his Plebe year, golf his Yearling year and, of course, football Yearling and Cow years. Real was proud that he was able to play against “the greatest team in the nation” every week. Will Henn remembered, “My
bond with Real was B-Squad football. We were a high-spirited bunch of “wannabees,” playing football more for the joy of the game than any glory. We were the scout team, learning new plays and formations every week to prepare the  A-Squad for their Saturday opponents. The B-Squad experience  built a very
special camaraderie. Real McCoy was a B-Squad player, a teammate warmly remembered.”

According to Ross Franklin, Real was the “happiest guy in D-1.” His roommate, Walt Vannoy, describes Real    as “consistently cheerful with a positive attitude and an abundance of good humor. He often proclaimed, ‘I am the luckiest guy in the world!’ He lived that belief in his good fortune, and his optimistic outlook served him well throughout his life. Real was a talented athlete and, befitting his red hair, he was a fiery competitor – ­courageous and loyal – essential elements of character to be a true friend, and that he was. Nevertheless, rumor has it that, despite the fact he
was a member of the Cadet Choir all four years, he tried to convince everyone he was Jewish so he could sleep in on Sunday mornings. He did not succeed, but sleeping in on Sundays did became a lifelong goal for Real!

After graduation, Real received pilot training at Perrin Air Force Base, Texas, where he met Evelyn, and at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.  After a tour of duty at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Real attended Purdue University, where he earned an MS in civil engineering in 1956. He served three years as Base Civil Engineer,   Burtonwood, England, then attended Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He became Civil Engineer for the DEW Line and then the BMEWS O&M contracts. During 1963-65, he served as Chief of Flight Operations at Stewart Air Force Base, New York, followed by a tour as Assistant Director, Airlift Control Center, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Viet Nam.

Real’s final Active Duty assignment, during 1966-72, was to the Office of the Director of Civil Engineering, Headquarters, USAF. He retired in 1972, due to disability, as a command pilot with approximately 4,000 hours of flying time.

After retiring, Real worked as a principal staff engineer for Computer Sciences Corporation until a week before his death. During the eight-year course of his illness, he was an outpatient at NIH. Throughout that time, he made many friends among the doctors, nurses, and other patients. He continued to be active, working most of the time and playing golf whenever it was possible.

Real was a very proud man. He was especially proud of his children – Mike, a University of Virginia football player; Patrick, an outstanding swimmer; and Karen, such a loving daughter. He would also have been proud of his grandsons – Silas, Chris, and Jeff Carleton.

Throughout his protracted and pain-filled illness, Real maintained his positive attitude, sense of humor, and smiling, friendly manner. He left us with memories of a man who lived a life devoted to the service of his country and his family. Ross Franklin says the Real he remembers is described in Philippians 2:14-15: “Do everything without questioning or complaining, that you may be blameless
in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation among whom you shine like stars in the sky.”

Real’s star will continue to shine through his children, grandchildren, and all the others whose lives he touched. We can all join in saying to him, “Well done. Be thou at peace.

– Evelyn McCoy Sharp and classmates

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