Winfield Scott Harpe – Major General, United States Air Force

Commander of U.S. Air Force personnel at all bases in the Mediterranean, he flew fighter aircraft in the Vietnam War.

He was killed on December 5, 1988 when the F-16 (Flying Falcon) jet fighter he was flying crashed near Torrejon Air Force Base outside Madrid, Spain. An Air Force spokesman said the general was participating in a training mission, flying in formation with three other planes and was near the end of a 90-minute training flight when he crashed into a mountain near the town of Chiloeches, Spain, about 20 miles northeast of the Air Force Base.

An investigation was underway to determine the cause of the crash. Since 1987, he had commanded the 16th Air Force which included 15,000 troops stationed at ten U.S. bases (2 in Spain, 3 in Italy, 2 in Greece, and 3 in Turkey).

Before his last assignment, he held several staff and combat commands. Since 1980, his posts have included those of Commander of U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service and Personnel Programs Director in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel. He was promoted to Major General in June 1984. In October 1976, he was named Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff For Peronnell.

He held that post until he moved to Spain. He had served three tours of duty in Southeast Asia. In 1966 and 1967, he was based in Thailand and flew more than 100 combat missions in F-105 Thunderchief fighter aircraft over North Vietnam. During two other tours in the early 1970s, he again flew from bases in Thailand against targets in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and participated in “Linebacker II” operations.

A command pilot, he had more thant 5,000 hours of flying time. His medals included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with twenty Oak Leaf Clusters, 2 Air Force Commendation Medals and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

He was born in Thomaston, Georgia, January 12, 1937. He received his commission after receiving a BA degree in economics at Florida State University. He later received a Masters Degree in business administration at Auburn University and was a graduate of the Air Command and General Staff College, the Air War College, Northwestern University Management Institute and the Harvard University School of Government Program for Senior Managers.

He was buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery, beneath a stone which reads:

“A noble man. A knight of the skies.”

Died December 5, 1988

Major General Winfield S. Harpe was commander of 16th Air Force, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, with headquarters at Torrejon Air Base, Spain. He is responsible for U.S. air forces in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

General Harpe was born in 1937, in Thomaston, Ga., and graduated from Cedartown (Georgia) High School in 1955. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from Florida State University in 1959 and a master's degree in business administration from Auburn University in 1970. The general was a distinguished graduate of Squadron Officer School in 1965, Air Command and Staff College in 1970 and the Air War College in 1978. He also is a 1979 graduate of the Institute for Management, Northwestern University, and a 1983 graduate of the Harvard University School of Government program for senior managers.

The general was a distinguished graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1959. He attended primary flying training at Malden Air Base, Missouri, and basic flying training at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama, where he earned his wings in September 1960.

Most of General Harpe's career has been in fighter aircraft. After initial flying duties in KC-135s at Beale Air Force Base, California, he received transition training to F-105 Thunderchiefs; and earned the outstanding graduate award. In 1966 and 1967, during the intensive air campaigns against North Vietnam, he was assigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, and flew 100 combat missions over North Vietnam. Many of these missions were into the heavily defended Hanoi area. He returned to the United States in September 1967 and was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as an F-105 instructor pilot with the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing. While there he trained pilots for F-105 duty in combat, and also served an extended temporary tour of duty flying F-4 Phantoms at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

He then attended Air Command and Staff College, and upon graduation in August 1970, was assigned as the F-86 adviser to the Royal Thai Air Force at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. As the only American military individual at Takhli, he negotiated details of the bed down of a full U.S. Air Force fighter wing at Takhli in 1972 with the Thai military. In addition to F-86s, General Harpe flew C-47s, T-28s, T-33s and T-41s during this two-year tour of duty in Thailand.

In August 1972 the general was assigned to the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing and received transition training in A-7s at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina. He then returned with the wing to Thailand for combat operations from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. During two extended temporary duty tours there, he flew missions again  over Hanoi, North Vietnam, as part of Linebacker II operations, as well as many missions over Cambodia, Laos and the Republic of Vietnam.

In June 1974 he transferred to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, as assistant for personnel plans, programs and analysis at the Air Force Military Personnel Center. In July 1977 he entered the Air War College and, after graduating in December 1978, assumed command of the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. In addition to training pilots for the U.S. Air Force, General Harpe's wing had one of the largest contingents of foreign pilots in training in the United States. General Harpe returned to Randolph Air Force Base in June 1980 and served initially as vice commander of the Air Force Military Personnel Center. In March 1982 he became commander of U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service. He was appointed deputy chief of staff for technical training, Headquarters Air Training Command, also at Randolph, in September 1983. In October 1984 he was assigned as director of personnel programs, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., and in October 1986 became assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel. He assumed his present duties in July 1987.

The general is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 20 oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.

He was promoted to Major General July 1, 1984, with date of rank Oct. 1, 1980.

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