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In Memoriam

Major General Winfield Scott Harpe

Major General Winfield Scott Harpe

5 December 1988

Major General Winfield S. Harpe is 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 (Ga.) 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 of 1959. He attended primary flying training at Malden Air Base, Mo., and basic flying training at Craig Air Force Base, Ala., where he earned his wings in September of 1960.

Most of General Harpe's career has been in fighter aircraft. After initial flying duties in KC-135s at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., 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, Ariz.

He then attended Air Command and Staff College, and upon graduation in August of 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 of 1972 the general was assigned to the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing and received transition training in A-7s at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C. 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 of 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 of 1977 he entered the Air War College and, after graduating in December of 1978, assumed command of the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. 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 of 1980 and served initially as vice commander of the Air Force Military Personnel Center. In March of 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 of 1983. In October of 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 of 1986 became assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel. He assumed his present duties in July of 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 on July 1st, 1984, with date of rank on October 1st, 1980.

The general died when the F-16 he was piloting crashed in Madrid, Spain, while on a routine training mission.

Visitor Comments

Major General Scott Sharpe
R Richardson, Aug 07, 2009 - 09:35 AM

I was stationed at Torrejon at the time of the Generals crash. I remember the disbelief & shock felt throughout the squadron. I did not know Gen. Sharpe personnaly but recall his visits to the ramp & always marvelling as to how large a man he was to be able to fit into the 16. God's speed...

Major General Harpe
Anonymous, Aug 18, 2010 - 06:42 PM

General Harpe is buried at Arlington , not too far from where my father is buried.

Based on the research I have done on his time in the USAF, I believe he was one of the best officers that ever served.

I was at Torrejon/Royal Oaks Spain, on acation the following year. The base personnel regarded him as a great leader who served by example, and the morale of the installation was high as a result.

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