June 26, 2010 (by Joel Fortner) - The F-16 "Viper" located at Gate 2 Arnold AFB was dedicated Saturday in a private ceremony in honor of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Harpe.
TSgt. Danielle Morris prepares to unveil the plaque during the F-16 dedication ceremony on June 26th, 2010. The aircraft was dedicated to Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Harpe who died on December 5th, 1988 in a crash in Madrid, Spain, during a training mission. [USAF photo by Joel Fortner]
The highest ranking active-duty officer to die in an F-16, the general perished Dec. 5, 1988, when his aircraft #86-0316
crashed in Madrid, Spain, while on a routine training mission.
He was the commander of 16th Air Force, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, at the time.
"My father's sudden death was a great loss for us and the Air Force with the only solace being that he died dong what he enjoyed most and while serving his country," said son, Randy Harpe.
Known by his family as "a noble man, a knight of skies," General Harpe was born in 1937 in Thomaston, Ga., and graduated from Cedartown 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 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.
"My father was true blue Air Force," Harpe said. "He lived it, loved it and promoted it as the best branch of the military. He was a proponent of research, development and testing and spoke excitedly of new technologies, some of which were surely evaluated here at Arnold Air Force Base."
General Harpe's sister, Suzanne Byrd, described her brother as a born leader who, as a child, "always had a gaggle of kids following close behind."
"America needs heroes," said AEDC Vice Commander Col. Eugene Mittuch. "Not the movies heroes we see coming out of Hollywood, but great Americans from small towns across the country like Thomaston, Georgia. Major General Winifield S. Harpe was one of those great Americans, and this F-16, which sits just off Interstate 24 and will be visited by hundreds of people a year, will stand as a testament to his memory and to all those who have given their lives building the greatest Air Force the world has ever known."