Howard Willis Alexander – Captain, United States Navy

From a contemporary press report:

Howard Willis Alexander, 62, former test pilot and highly decorated naval officer, died July 5, 1994 of respiratory failure at Presbyterian University Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived in Leonardtown, Maryland.

Born in Union Township, Pennsylvania, he attended the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama, before graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1955. He became an aviator in 1956 and was assigned to attack squadrons on several aircraft carriers. He earned a master's degree in physics from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1963. He also received training in aerospace safety at the University of Southern California, US Navy Test Pilot School, where he was head of the Ordnance Branch's Weapons System Test Division. He also attended National Defense University and the Industrial College for the Armed Forces in 1976.

In 1980 he was named commanding officer of the Naval Air Facility in Detroit. In 1982 he was named chief of staff of Operation and Readiness at the Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center. In 1985 he retired from the military and went to work as program manager for the D.C.S. Corp. of Leonardtown.

He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Armed Forces Expeditionary and Vietnam Service medals, a Gold Wreath Award, the Legion of Merit award and numerous other medals and commendations.

He was member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, American Legion Post 613 of Finleyville, Pennsylvania, Henry M. Phillips Lodge 337 of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and the Sojourners of Patuxent River.

Survivors include his wife, Grace Stevenson Alexander of Leonardtown; a son, 3 daughters, his mother, a sister, 8 grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. Services will be held at 2 pm Sunday at L.M.Frye Funeral Home Chapel in Monongahela. Burial will be Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Howard Alexander died of respiratory failure on 5 July 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, having never fully recovered from a lung transplant operation in January 1993. He was a highly decorated naval aviator and test pilot.

Quite a number of Classmates attended his burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on 12 July. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Grace Alexander and her family.

Tom Kiefaber's column, Shipmate, September 1994

Regarding another fallen Classmate, Howard Alexander, his wife Grace sends along her appreciation for the grave side attendance and expressions of sympathy received from the Class.

Tom Kiefaber's column, Shipmate, October 1994:

Alexander, Howard W., Captain, USN (Retired) Aviation tours commenced immediately upon graduation with flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas with designation as a Naval Aviator in October 1956.

His first orders were to Fighter Squadron 11 at Key West, Florida. The Suez crisis caused by transfer to VF-22 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and assigned in three carriers flying Banshee jet fighters.

In June 1958, I was assigned to VA-44 as a flight instructor in the A-4 Replacement Air Group Squadron at Jacksonville, Florida. Next VF-21 for training and VA-72 for duty at NAS Oceana, Virginia, and a year flying from USS Independence and Naval Air Station Guantanamo, Cuba. Shore duty at Monterey, California resulted in a M.S. in Physics.

Returned to sea duty in 1963, as VA-144 Aircraft Maintenance Officer and deployed with two Air Groups in three carriers. During this tour I spent 16 months at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, I was involved in the rescue of Lieutenant Klusman and DCR Lynn shot down in the Plain of Jars from USS Kitty Hawk in June 1964, the destroyer and PT boat incidents in early August 1964, and the initial strikes into North Vietnam on August 5, 1964, when my friend and roommate LTJG Everett Alvarez was shot down and captured. During this period I flew over three hundred sorties into North Vietnam, South Vietnam and Laos.

After a shore tour at the Naval Air Test Center as an engineering test pilot and as the Head of Ordnance responsible for clearing various new weapons from all naval aircraft, I received orders to VA- 176 as Commanding Officer. Reporting for training in VA-42, qualified aboard the USS Independence, and then was attached to Air Wing Six in USS Roosevelt flying the A-6 aircraft. It was during this time that my squadron introduced the KA-6D tanker airplane for fleet use in 1971. We also were assigned the A-6B and A-6C airplanes which were specialized for night interdiction and anti radiation missiles. This tour, near the end of the Vietnam War, ended my sea duty.

Fully entrenched in aircraft weapon systems acquisitions, by duty and education, the next ten years were spent with the shore establishment. Graduating from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, duty followed as the Program Manager for A-6 and EA-6 aircraft. In December 1979 I provided the new A-6E TRAM weapon system to VA-35 in USS Nimitz while on station in the Indian Ocean. This was to me the most satisfying accomplishment of my shore duty career.

A short respite from the Washington arena was granted with command of a Naval Reserve Air Station in Mt. Clements, Michigan. The final tour was as Chief of Staff, Operations and Readiness at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, just south of Annapolis where it all began.

Each of my four children were born in different states. My wife, through it all moved us twenty times. The cities, towns, squadrons, ships, schools, and duties were all as wonderful as I could have dreamed even during the darkest ages of the Naval Academy. My wife has earned retirement. I should like to start again, go to sea, with an airplane of course, and have the same family.

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