Millard Harmon

Millard Harmon

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Millard Harmon was born in the United States in 1888. He attended the West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1912 (74/95) and joined the United States Army. He learnt to fly and served with the French Air Service during the First World War.

By the outbreak of the Second World War Major General Harmon was placed in charge of the 2nd Air Force. In January 1942 he chief of staff of the United States Air Force.

In July 1942, Harmon was appointed chief of US Army Forces in the South Pacific. The following year he took command of New Georgia.

Harmon was made head of all USAAF units in Pacific in August 1944. Millard Harmon died when his aircraft crashed on 26th February 1945 while on route to Hawaii.

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Millard F. Harmon was born at San Francisco, CA, January 19, 1888. As such, he was one of the older pilots to sign the Tucson Register. He became, along with many other Register signers like Doolittle, Kirtland, Armstrong, Andrews, Arnold, Bertrandias, Eaker, and others, one of the prime movers and participants in air power in the early and mid-20th century.

He was a prolific visitor as both pilot and passenger to the Airfield, signing his name at least 19 times between 1928 and 1935. All his landings were in three primary military aircraft models: Boeing, de Havilland, and Douglas. He was based at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Barksdale Field in Shreveport, LA, and at Riverside, CA, March Field during the period of the Register.

Interestingly, most of his landings were as part of multi-aircraft flights. For example, on Friday, March 30, 1928 he landed with four other pilots, Nathan Twining, Leo H. Dawson, James L. Grisham and Idwal Edwards. On Friday, November 9, 1928 he landed with Leonard D. Weddington, headed east to Lordsburg, NM (probably then to El Paso or San Antonio) from Riverside. They returned together from Lordsburg to Riverside on Wednesday, November 14, 1928. Likewise, his last landing on Wednesday, May 15, 1935, was as part of a three-plane flight of Boeing P-26 aircraft from Riverside to El Paso, TX, probably on their way to Barksdale. His fellow pilots were Carlton Bond and Oliver P. Gothlin.

He landed as a passenger twice, on Thursday, September 5, 1929 with pilot Barney Giles, and on Monday, February 13, 1933 with pilot H.M. Wittkop. In the latter landing he was with six fellow passengers in an unidentified Ford C-9 Trimotor transport.

His NASM biographical file (cited, left sidebar) is rich with news articles and biographical information, but sparse with early photographs. Following his graduation from the US Military Academy, June 12, 1912, he began his career as 2nd Lieutentant of Infantry, and was stationed successively in Minnesota, Kentucky, Texas and the Philippines. while with the 27th Infantry he was, in November, 1915, attached to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, and assigned to flight training at San Diego, CA. He completed training on October 15, 1916 and was attached to the 1st Aero Squadron with the so-called Punitive Expedition into Mexico. He was rated Junior Military Aviator, June 16, 1917.

During WWI, he was assigned the inspection and laying out of landing fields, and various other staff assignments in France. Recalled to Washington, DC in May, 1918, he was assigned as Chief of the Flying Branch, Schools Section, Office of the Director of Military Aeronautics. On August 6, 1918, he was tasked with heavier-than-air training.

In a whirl of assignments and reassignments, in October, 1918, he was assigned to the command of the First Provisional Wing at Mineola, L.I., NY and served there until January, 1919, when he was ordered to Panama to assume command of the air forces to be placed in operation in the Canal Zone. He was commanding officer of France Field, Panama C.Z.

In April, 1921, he was assigned to duty in the Office of the Chief of Air Service, serving there until January, 1922, as a member of the Advisory Board and then in the Training and War Plans Division. In the fall of 1923, he went to the General Service Schools, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, and the Army War College. After graduation, he was assigned as commanding officer at Bolling Field, Washington, DC, and in September, 1925 as a member of the War Department General Staff. With the re-establishment of March Field, Riverside, CA as a Primary Flying School, he was, in April, 1927, assigned as Commandant thereof, and remained there until August, 1930, when he was placed on duty at Ft. Leavenworth, KS as Instructor at the Command and General Staff School.

In June, 1932, he was assigned to Barksdale Field, LA as commanding officer of the 20th Pursuit Group. By virtue of that assignment, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel. This history of the 20th broadens the scope of the role Harmon played in the group during his four-year tenure, October 1, 1932-October 6, 1936. Please note that there are internal contradictions on that site regarding dating of aircraft transitioning. For example, it gives October, 1934 for the switch from P-12s to P-26s, but elsewhere on the site that date is given as October, 1932.

We find Harmon at Tucson in this command role on Tuesday, February 21, 1933. He is alone flying an unidentified Boeing P-12-E. He identified his rank as Major, thus arriving at Tucson before he was promoted. He was eastbound from Riverside, CA, March Field to Barksdale. The purpose of his flight was noted in the remarks column of the Register simply as "Ferry". As of July 15, 1935, he had accumulated over 2,000 flight hours.

He continued to be promoted during the late 1930's/early 1940's (Lt. Col. to Colonel, 1936-38 Brigadier General 1940). As of June 23, 1941, he had accumulated 3,435 flight hours. He was promoted to Major General July 11, 1941.

It wasn't long before Maj. Gen. Millard Harmon was a commander of Army air forces in the South Pacific during WWII. He was assigned that role as part of the shake-up in management that took place after Pearl Harbor. The Army Times of December 27, 1941, gave the reason as, ". the Army and Navy were not on the alert when the Japanese attacked . "

Millard Harmon, (C profile), Pacific Area, WWll

M.F. Harmon, Pacific Theater, August 15, 1943

Above, a photograph from the National Archives showing him in his new role. Interestingly, this image is a rogue's gallery of Register signers. Left to right are: Brig. Gen. Martin F. Scanlon (not a signer), General Harmon, Major General Elmer E. Adler (signer), and Brig. Gen. Lawrence J. Carr (sunglasses signer).

The person with his back toward the camera is identified as follows by a site visitor, "You have a photo of Gen Harmon talking with other officers in Pacific in WWII. I believe it is Brig Gen Truman H Landon, commander VII Bomber Command. My knowledge is from other photos taken the same day." Landon is not a Register pilot.

Right, a news image from the NY Herald Tribune, August 15, 1943. The accompanying article cites Harmon as participating in the, ". campaign to capture Rendova and New Georgia Islands. ", and that he, ". has believed in 'quick and vigorous attack' ever since 1924 when, as a member of the Olympic fencing team, he was told his swordsmanship was so poor his only chance was to get in a thrust before his opponent was ready. "

In the same article, he was cited as saying, " . his men are after Japanese hides, ships, trophies in fact, their all, including their face. " For this he was called a "Rock of Gibralter" by Admiral Halsey. We hope "face" is metaphorical for "reputation". It was a different war, with different social and political sensibilities.

The New York Times of August 31, 1944 and December 10, 1944 reported on Harmon's assignment as the newly appointed Commander of the Strategic Air Force of the Pacific Ocean Area. The general sense of the articles is the vigorous reorganization of the ground-based Pacific air forces for the planned final assault on the Japanese homeland by way of the Pacific islands.

The New York TImes of December 18, 1944 is headlined, "HARMON SAYS JAPS WILL STILL FIGHT IN 1946". He stated that his newly-reogranized Pacific operations were, ". going fine for a start but they've only just begun." He was probably not in the information loop surrounding the development of the still untested atomic bomb.

The New York Herald Tribune of March 3, 1945 is headlined, "Lt. Gen. Harmon Reported Lost In Pacific Flight". The article, published while the Pacific conflict was still raging, was duly censored and obtuse about the itinerary he was on, or the type of aircraft. Nevertheless, despite the most intensive search by Army and Navy planes and surface vessels, no trace of the plane was ever found. He was 57 years old.

This download is an article, courtesy of John Bybee, from the Fall 2004 (Vol. 1, No. 3) issue of the magazine Bomber Legends, entitled, "The Search for General Harmon" (PDF 1.7MB). It was written with the cooperation of one of Harmon's wartime flight engineers. It alleges a possible cause of Harmon's disappearance. On Feb. 27, 1946, he was officially declared dead. A memorial gravestone is here. His official Air Force biography is at the link.

A general airman: Millard Harmon and the South Pacific in World War II.

Last summer's forced resignations of U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley scratched old scabs produced by decades of contention between the Air Force and the Nation's wider military establishment. Disputes over the proper role of airpower predate the court-martial of Billy Mitchell in 1925. In the years since, these arguments have been marked by transcendent issues, such as the command and control of aircraft, and matters more idiosyncratic to time and place, such as the pattern and practice of Air Force procurement programs. Setting aside whatever may be the relative merits in this most recent flap, the stewards of the Nation's air arm and those of the Department of Defense have been at this debate for a long time, sometimes with depressing results.

One indication of the persistent ebb in these relations is the dearth of Air Force representation among U.S. geographic combatant commanders. Since the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act in 1986, these officers have been the senior military men most responsible for fighting the Nation's wars. From that time, only three Air Force officers have held these vital positions, a scarcity that extends back to the birth of the Air Force in 1947. In fact, from that time to now, many dozens of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officers have occupied these powerful positions while fewer than a handful of these commanders have come from the ranks of the Air Force. (1)

Parochial Service interests might explain some of this imbalance. One recent attempt to assign an Air Force officer to a geographic combatant command illustrates how Service prerogatives have torpedoed Airmen's chances for these influential posts. In 2004, President George W. Bush nominated General Gregory Martin, USAF, to lead U.S. Pacific Command, long a bastion of Navy admirals. General Martin was supremely qualified for the job, not only possessing the expertise of his Service but also blessed with the comprehensive mind required of a joint force leader. Once in the Senate, however, his nomination crashed against the shoals of Navy interests. Senators with close ties to the Navy seized upon Martin's passing association with the ill-fated scheme to lease aerial tankers from the Boeing Corporation, dooming his chance for selection. Shortly thereafter, yet another admiral assumed command in Hawaii, as they had since before World War II. Martin's stillborn chance was remarkable not for its outcome--for the Air Force is often left the odd man out when it comes to these jobs--but for how close he came to command. Most Airmen never get anywhere near a Presidential nomination for a geographic combatant command.

If examples of Airmen as true geographic combatant commanders are few and far between, some flyers have served brilliantly in billets requiring expertise in more than air matters and in jobs where obligations ran well past narrowly construed Service interests of any color or hue. One such officer was Lieutenant General Millard F. "Miff" Harmon, the senior Army Air Forces officer serving in an Army--not an air forces--billet during World War II, whose service has hidden in the shadows for far too long. His younger brother Hubert, the first superintendent of the Air Force Academy and namesake of the school's Harmon Hall, has garnered most of the family's name recognition. But the older Harmon's service was every bit as illuminating.

Born into an Army family in 1888, Miff Harmon graduated from West Point in 1912, entered the Infantry, and served in the Philippines, which was the proving ground for so many of the Nation's bright young Army officers in the early 20th century. In 1916, he transferred to the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps and was a pilot in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico, making him among the first few American aviators to serve in combat. During World War I, he was in France as the Assistant Chief of the Air Service, in which capacity he certified William "Billy" Mitchell as a Junior Military Aviator. Later, he worked by Mitchell's side planning the seminal American air offensives of 1918 and with Edgar Gorrell on the latter's famous airpower survey of World War I.

Harmon filled key air posts in the years between the world wars. In the mid 1920s, he was the commanding officer of the Air Corps' flying school at March Field, where he oversaw the flight training of such later luminaries as Hoyt Vandenberg, Nathan Twining, Haywood Hansell, and Curtis LeMay. In the 1930s, he commanded both a pursuit and bomb group and served as the inaugural commander of Barksdale Field in Louisiana. Later that decade, he was the Assistant Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School, where he was the de facto chief curriculum officer. In 1940, he was among a handful of officers that the air arm chief, General Henry "Hap" Arnold, sent to England to glean lessons from the aerial Battle of Britain. Harmon did this job to such satisfaction that in the summer of 1941 Arnold promoted him to major general and tapped him to lead the Army Air Forces' Air Combat Command, making Harmon the senior combat airman in the country. For the 6 months after Pearl Harbor, Harmon was Arnold's chief of staff in Washington, putting in 18-hour days as airmen strived to bring order to chaos, to begin building the air forces from perhaps 75,000 men to more than a million, and to get scarce planes and precious pilots to the four corners of the globe.

Harmon was by then an airman through and through, comfortable within the fraternity of pilots and acculturated to the canon of air doctrine. As early as World War I, he believed it essential that air operations be directed by an airman whose authority in the air war should override that of the most senior generals responsible for the ground fight. In the 1930s, he championed the concept of centralized command and decentralized execution of air operations, many years before Field Manual 100-20, Command and Employment of Air Power, made it a central battle cry for airmen. While in England during the Battle of Britain, he criticized the Royal Air Force's nighttime bombing operations, believing the American doctrine of daylight precision raids would have yielded far better results. And in an essay laying out an educational scheme for airmen that later became the basis for an independent Air Force's entire system of professional military education, he believed the Nation's air arm was destined either to achieve "parity with the Army and Navy in the scheme of National Defense or absorb them one or both." (2)

But he never became a zealot in the interwar years' heated skirmishes over airpower, maintaining instead a discriminating advocacy for military aviation. He had witnessed how the austere desert had wreaked havoc on the men and machines of the Punitive Expedition, and forever after trained a skeptical eye on some of the more fantastic claims being made for airpower. In the early 1930s, he mocked the notion that air war had mitigated age-old matters such as weather and logistics. "It is difficult to understand how adequate bases are to make flying in bad weather any less difficult," he wrote in response to one prominent Air Corps treatise, adding "surely an air force, like any other force, can be defeated by stopping its supplies or replacements." When the same text claimed the marvel of modern airplanes had made the men who flew them "inferior in importance," Harmon decried the fanciful "exactitudes" of contemporary air concepts, writing, "A note of caution should be sounded against the too ardent adoption of peace time theories and hypothesis." (3)

Harmon championed the integrative nature of airpower as an alternative to these views. When in the early 1930s the bomber mafia and its notions of autonomy gained ascendency, he clung to a belief, first articulated in World War I, that success in the air war sometimes required "as close a cooperation with the infantry as possible." Likewise, his student paper while at the Army War College had argued for the "closest cooperation and the most efficient coordination of effort between the Army and Navy" if the United States should ever confront large-scale maritime war. Later, while serving as the Assistant Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Harmon played a key part in restoring balance among the bombing, pursuit, and attack courses, even orchestrating close air support exercises with the Infantry School at nearby Fort Benning. This last endeavor earned him a rebuke from Arnold, who, from his perch as Chief of the Air Corps, warned Harmon his curriculum reforms threatened to transform the tactical course "from an air to a ground school." (4)

Despite this chiding, Harmon remained committed to most of the important airpower orthodoxies of the day, which saved him the ignominy suffered by iconoclast nonconformists such as Claire Chennault. By 1941, he was a Hap Arnold confidant, an Ira Eaker writing cohort, and a Carl Spaatz poker partner. According to Grandison Gardner, Harmon's boss at the Air Corps Tactical School in the late 1930s, Harmon was one of two officers whom Arnold leaned on the most in those crucial years before World War II the other was Spaatz. When war came to this greatest generation of airmen, Harmon was among the handful of senior pilots primed to contribute in the approaching air war. (5)

Island-hopping in the South Pacific

Then the war exercised its own prerogative. In the summer of 1942, it sent Harmon to the far end of the world to be commanding general of U.S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Ocean Areas, working for Admiral William Halsey. The move made Harmon the senior air forces officer serving as an Army general in a combat zone. His unusual appointment stemmed from concerns of both Soldiers and airmen in Washington about the conduct of operations in an overwhelmingly naval theater. When he took up his post in Noumea, New Caledonia, for instance, the South Pacific joint staff of 103 included just 3 Army or Army Air Forces officers and 100 naval and Marine men--all of whom were clamoring for Army Air Forces' B-17s to conduct maritime reconnaissance. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall wanted Harmon to leaven this staff with Army acumen, and Hap Arnold agreed to part with his trusted assistant to ensure a more appropriate use than patrol for the powerful and still-too-few B-17s. Technically, Harmon's orders conferred to him only administrative control of all Army and air forces units in the South Pacific--a command that eventually numbered over 100,000--but the idiosyncrasies of the South Pacific theater offered ample opportunity for forceful commanders to stretch toward tactical and operational control of combat forces. (6)

This is just what Harmon did, especially as that control related to the ground fight. He arrived in theater a week before the battle for Guadalcanal began on August 7, and he understood earlier than many the meaning of that colossal struggle. Almost immediately he pushed for a clear-minded focus on Guadalcanal operations. He waged a lonely staff battle to eliminate a supplemental landing planned for the small island of Ndeni, a move he argued would free up the 147th Infantry Regiment for important tasks on Guadalcanal. When difficult conditions on Guadalcanal persisted well into October, Halsey cancelled the Ndeni invasion and sent the 147th to the main fight on Guadalcanal, where it played a decisive role clearing space for a crucial airfield.

To meet the continuing crisis on Guadalcanal, in November Harmon lobbied General Marshall in Washington and Admiral Chester Nimitz in Honolulu for the 25th Infantry Division, which was in Hawaii and tentatively slated for General Douglas MacArthur's invasion of Papua New Guinea. Having won the division's release over MacArthur's objections, Harmon then sent it directly to Guadalcanal, bypassing an intermediate stop in Noumea where Army officers had planned a more orderly introduction to combat. Redirecting an entire combat division while at sea was a risk that drew a sharp cable from Marshall to Harmon. In it, the Army chief did not "propose to question your decision as to the tactical utilization of forces under your command," but he did want to remind Harmon of the peril inherent in landing a large force "in an area where security is questionable and port facilities practically non-existent." Yet the division, led by Major General Joe Collins, reached Guadalcanal safely, raising both the morale and the fight of the Americans just as the last of the major Japanese reinforcements to the island arrived. (7)

Impressed by Harmon's keen judgment, in December Halsey rewarded the airman with "direct authority over tactical operations" on Guadalcanal, which in effect placed Harmon in operational command of the XIV Corps, comprised of elements of the 25th and 43d Divisions. In the years after World War II, much would be made of General George Patton's rhetorical offer in 1944 of a ground division for his air commander, the redoubtable O.P. Weyland. Two full years before those famous events on the Normandy plain, however, another remarkable airman had combat control of an entire Army corps--and nearly all of the fighting ground forces--in the most crucial offensive then being waged by Americans in any theater of the war. (8)

In February 1943, Harmon earned his third star, relinquished control of the fading fight on Guadalcanal to Major General Alexander Patch, and commenced planning the invasions of the New Georgia and Bougainville island groups, farther up the Solomons chain and closer to the South Pacific's ultimate objective of Rabaul. Command arrangements for these operations were muddled, providing yet more opportunity for Harmon as an Army general. For instance, although Halsey nearly always served as the overall commander as well as the Navy component commander, the respective invasion, ground, and air commanders were often different for each island campaign. Because operations on one island exerted operational influences on those of another, Halsey needed someone to act as his de facto deputy for the air and ground operations throughout the theater. As his confidence in Harmon grew, Halsey increasingly looked to the airman to fill this role.

Although he was serving in an unanticipated and wholly unprecedented capacity, Harmon did not shirk his responsibilities as a ground forces leader. When in the summer of 1943 the fight on New Georgia stalled, Harmon recommended the relief of the ground commander, Major General John Hester of the 43d Division, a move that the invasion commander, Rear Admiral Kelly Turner, vigorously opposed. Halsey sided with Harmon, not only replacing Hester with Major General Oscar Griswold but also directing Harmon to "assume full charge of and responsibility for ground operations in New Georgia." Hester's relief earned Halsey a hurried note from Nimitz, who worried about inter-Service discord, but as Halsey had relied on the recommendation of his Army commander Miff Harmon, he did not think the Navy open to harsh critique and indeed not much materialized. Later, in the fall of 1943, Harmon's misgivings about the planning for the invasion of Bougainville led him to again recommend to Halsey the relief of a ground commander, this time Marine Major General Charles Barrett, an intention that may have contributed to Barrett's probable suicide on October 7 in Noumea. (9)

A General in Name and Practice

These were tough times. The war's outcome was not yet clear, the South Pacific fight was brutal, Barrett's death was tragic, and the cruel combat on those remote islands would ruin more careers before the war moved on to other battlefields. In fact, when Halsey reflected about the South Pacific after the war, he recalled that "the smoke of charred reputations still makes me cough." But the Japanese were yet too strong--and the stakes to America far too high--to excuse poor performance or tolerate mediocrity. In the end, the Army's official historians praised Halsey for his prompt attention to all manner of challenges in the ground war, which was in their judgment "a mark of the efficiency of the South Pacific command." (10)

It was also a matter of Miff Harmon's contributions. Neither Bill Halsey nor any of the admirals who ran the South Pacific were adept at ground operations, and they relied heavily on the senior Army officer in the area. Nimitz himself once praised Harmon as a "first-rate selection" for the difficult South Pacific assignment. In this role Harmon was not perfect, however. He tended to meddle in the fine details of subordinate commands, a habit common among the airmen who had come from the small prewar Air Corps and who were unaccustomed to the workings of large organizations. Moreover, Harmon's own staff, initially overpopulated with air officers, struggled at first to conceive, plan, and direct ground operations. But in the South Pacific's early months Harmon grew and learned. His incessant preaching about hygiene and health in the trenches, something he had learned as a young infantryman, earned him credibility with rank-and-file grunts--and his devotion to joint planning, a conviction honed during an interwar teaching tour at the Army War College, purchased for him latitude to discover the art of ground warfare. (11)

All officers, if they become senior enough, confront unfamiliar horizons. This was Harmon's moment, and while in it he displayed an uncanny capacity to know when and to whom he should listen, and to know when to accept counsel and when to rely on his own sense. He was blessed with strong ground commanders, including Alexander Patch and two future Service chiefs--Archie Vandegrift of the Marines and Joe Collins of the Army. He wisely deferred to their judgment on many occasions. He also managed to reach difficult decisions about those less able to perform in the Solomons' harsh environment. Not once, not twice, but three times he redirected the movement of divisions or regiments afloat, each time against the advice of more experienced ground officers. Army historians later characterized these gutsy calls as "decisive," "inspired," and "brilliant," crediting the adjustments with helping turn the tide on Guadalcanal and assuring success in battles on New Georgia and Bougainville. From nearly his first day in the South Pacific, Harmon recognized that he was a general in both name and practice. The Nation asked no other officer of similar rank to stretch quite as far in quite the same way. In the process, Harmon managed to become something more than that from which he had come. (12)

Curiously, Harmon met with less direct success supervising the air war, the task for which he had spent a lifetime in preparation. When he first arrived in theater, seven of his nine staff cadre came from the air forces, including Frank Everest, Dean Strother, and Nathan Twining, a future Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such a staff was a clear sign that Harmon "intended to uphold the interests of the Army Air Forces in this predominately [sic] naval area." This proved difficult, partly because the Navy and Marine Corps had strong airmen of their own in the South Pacific, such as John McCain, Marc Mitscher, and Roy Geiger. Their collective excellence meant less opportunity for Harmon to extend his administrative responsibilities to operational and tactical command, no matter how much he worried about naval and Marine sensibilities regarding aviation. (13)

Accordingly, Harmon turned to organizational matters, aiming to gain what responsibility he could for the conduct of the air war. He convinced Arnold that a numbered air force in the South Pacific would better align the air arm's organization with Navy structures and further airmen's interests. When in December 1942 the Thirteenth Air Force stood up, Harmon placed Twining at its head and pushed to rotate operational command of the air war among the Services. Eventually, Twining took his turn in that role, as did Harmon's younger brother, Hubert. These South Pacific air commands (first the improvised Cactus Air Force and later the more formal Air Solomons Command and Air Solomons Command North) were hybrid organizations, being both joint and combined and comprised of assets from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, as well as from New Zealand. The potential for Service interest to detract these units from their primary task was great, and the rotational policy of command was one ingredient making possible their dogged attention to the more immediate and pressing matter of besting the Japanese in the air.

In fact, these were among the most successful air commands in all of World War II. Far from home, at the short end of logistical and strategic lines of communication, South Pacific airmen of every branch worked effectively to turn the tide of battle. For months, the fight there pitted relatively equitable ground and sea forces against each other, leaving airpower to arbitrate who would win and who would lose. Time and time again, tight ground fights and close naval encounters hung in the balance until aviation weighted the outcome. The Solomons air campaign constitutes a shining example of combined, joint, and effective air campaigning, and today remains an underappreciated and understudied part of the war. Many contributed to this success. If Harmon played a less direct role in the air war than he wished, as the senior Army Air Forces officer in the South Pacific he possessed the rank and position to broker air-ground differences, smooth the way with the Navy, and create the circumstances whereby subordinate airmen of every Service and individual pilots in cockpits could do what they did.

Harmon did intervene personally where he was able. Like Arnold in Washington, he disagreed with naval plans to use precious B-17s for maritime patrol in the South Pacific, worried about diverting these powerful weapons from their primary task over the skies of Germany. So in the fall of 1942, Harmon embarked on an aggressive airfield construction program throughout the theater, aiming to better position shorter legged naval patrol planes for reconnaissance duties. These airfields, which required scarce resources to build, also enabled the offensive use of bombers up the Solomon Islands chain, a fact that irked George Marshall, who had sent Harmon to conduct a defensive campaign consistent with the Nation's strategic orientation toward Europe. But Harmon pressed forward. The matter of proper bomber employment was the subject of dozens of official memorandums, staff studies, personal letters, and diary entries. In the 2 years he served in the South Pacific, Harmon probably devoted as much time trying to preserve the strategic use of bombers as he spent on any issue, and was persistently willing to court the ire of his Navy and Army superiors in so doing. (14)

Harmon did not always do the air forces' bidding. George Marshall and Hap Arnold had sent the airman to the Pacific with different marching orders, and once there Harmon found himself harnessed to a largely naval command that ran through Halsey to Nimitz in Hawaii and on to Admiral Ernest King in Washington. So while Harmon had responsibilities to both airmen and Soldiers subordinate to him, he also had sometimes competing obligations to superiors--to Halsey and the immediate fight in the Solomons, to Marshall and the Army in Washington, and to Arnold and the legions of airmen prosecuting the air war around the globe. These were all people of goodwill with a common commitment to the Nation, but each brought particular interests and beliefs to bear in his judgment about how, when, and with what resources to prosecute the war. Successful officers in Harmon's circumstance reconciled these influences, made them congruent when possible, and balanced them effectively otherwise. Whether he appreciated it or not, no other condition of his service indicated better that he had indeed become a senior commander.

If Harmon's dogged stewardship of the South Pacific bombers heartened Arnold, his pursuit of P-38 fighter planes to replace his commands' aging P-39s annoyed his air boss. Harmon believed the newer planes were necessary to combat the agile Japanese Zero, while Arnold--who had his own obligations to prioritize the fight in Europe--felt the older planes were "good enough for fighting the Japanese." Undaunted, Harmon pressed his request within Navy channels, first through Halsey and ultimately via Nimitz, who, in Arnold's words, then "took up Harmon's battle cry and shouted to high heaven until every brass hat in Washington heard the echo." Harmon got his P-38s, but at a cost. "Tell General Arnold it won't be long now before I am wearing bell bottom trousers," he wrote to a friend on the Air Staff in an effort to both explain his position and maintain his standing among pilots. "Of course, it's a bit tough at times not to be operating one's bombers and to listen to a Navy chap talking about 'my B-17s,' but everything goes as long as we lick the Japs." Arnold, who believed that "success in the Pacific Theater will not win the war" elsewhere, was not so sure. (15)

Arnold and Harmon, friends of 30 years' standing, never quite found the sweet spot where their respective obligations might find equilibrium. As the South Pacific fight waned in the summer of 1944, the air chief reassigned Harmon as the commanding general of all Army Air Forces units in the entire Pacific. This affirmation of confidence was more apparent than it was real. The job made Harmon, among others things, Curtis LeMay's proximal boss in the strategic air campaign against Japan, although the position conferred, once again, only administrative and logistical authority. Unhappy with the Navy's stranglehold on the conduct of the Pacific war, and perhaps wary of Harmon's close working ties with Halsey and Nimitz, Arnold had decided to retain operational control of LeMay's Twentieth Air Force and its air war over Japan.

This unusual arrangement meant that LeMay's planes would operate administratively and logistically within Harmon's area of responsibility, yet report operationally to Arnold, sitting in Washington and well outside the theater. At the same time, the Navy would continue to exercise its own privilege in the area, as would the ground Army, and Harmon would report not only to Arnold but also to Nimitz. Arnold knew well the straits in which all this promised to place Harmon. "If you find it beyond your capacity to reconcile these conflicting loyalties," he wrote Harmon in June 1944, "then I shall expect you to acquaint me with that fact and if I find that my interests are not being adequately cared for, I shall not hesitate to resolve this difficulty by relieving you of further responsibility as my deputy." (16)

As the senior air general in the Pacific, Harmon spent many months productively building the massive airstrips the new B-29s required for their assault on Japan. In December 1944, Nimitz greatly expanded Harmon's authority, giving him operational command of all land-based Navy and Marine planes as well as portions of the Seventh Air Force. Still, direct command of the Air Force's strategic bombers eluded him, and Harmon struggled with LeMay, 18 years and one grade in rank his junior, over the boundaries of their respective powers. This was especially true as it related to control of the Twentieth's escort fighters. Binding the fighters to the sole role of B-29 escort duty, Harmon feared, would render them "frozen" for the many other tasks in the Pacific when the bombers were not striking Japan. LeMay pushed back, insisting he "must have absolute operational control of the fighters" for the penultimate strategic air campaign of the war. It was a thorny situation, one that Arnold in Washington appeared disinclined to resolve, prompting the air forces' official historians to claim Harmon had "one of the most difficult and complex assignments of the war." (17)

To force a break in this and other jurisdictional problems, Harmon headed to Washington in February 1945. Girding for a fight, one air staff colonel encouraged LeMay not to take "bull from anyone, I don't care who he is," adding, "You probably know that General Harmon is coming here. We don't know what all he is going to raise, but [we are] fully prepared." Arnold's precise thoughts are not known--and were likely more nuanced than a colonel's convictions--but people on his staff surely believed that Harmon and other flyers in the Pacific "have been blinded by star-dust" and were "probably too old to cure." As Harmon saw it, however, in this dispute he was merely advocating a command setup that would best enable both the flexibility and versatility of the Twentieth's fighter planes. He, and not LeMay, occupied the doctrinal high ground. (18)

Legacy Lost in the Shuffle

It is hard to know who was right and who was wrong in all this. Just as George Marshall, Hap Arnold, and Bill Halsey had placed overlapping demands upon Harmon's loyalties in the South Pacific, elements completely within the air arm now competed for his allegiance. If it was a difficult circumstance, Harmon was a seasoned officer whose rank required that he solve or at least manage these irritants. LeMay surely had the cleaner command task: to push with single-minded intensity the strategic airstrikes against Japan, a duty for which he possessed a special talent. For his part, Arnold's position in Washington offered a horizon that extended beyond the war to legitimate matters of postwar defense structure and air arm autonomy, making him perhaps less sensitive to matters still festering within the war at hand. As for Harmon, it was not the first and would not be the last time war placed a senior commander between a rock and a hard spot. (19)

How well Arnold, Harmon, and LeMay together might have navigated these complexities will never be known. On his way to Washington in February, Harmon's plane was lost at sea. The largest air-sea rescue and recovery effort of the entire war failed to find as much as a rivet. Harmon's body was never found. A year later, he was declared dead, along with the others aboard, including Brigadier General James Andersen, for whom Guam's Andersen Air Force Base is named.

Harmon got considerably less recognition. Despite his contributions in World War II, he appears in only the most detailed of books and it is his little brother's name that graces buildings at the Air Force Academy. Harmon's untimely death surely accounts for some of this amnesia the rush of wartime events left little time to commemorate individuals. But there is more to the continuing silence that surrounds Miff Harmon's career. After the war, the Army and Navy had their own heroes to memorialize, and Harmon's joint Service legacy poorly fit the needs of a newly independent Air Force. Through much of the Cold War, the Air Force focused on its important stewardship of an autonomous atomic mission, so when this most forward-looking of the Services remembered World War II at all, it heralded flyers such as Jimmy Doolittle, Carl Spaatz, and Curtis LeMay. These and others were great airmen, worthy of enduring emulation.

Harmon deserves his place in this pantheon. One of the few reminders of his career is a building named for him at Maxwell Air Force Base. It is there, at Maxwell's Air University, home today for all Air Force officer education, where Harmon's service can begin to teach a new generation of Airmen. Early in his career Harmon came to believe that air war was an integral part of general war. Later, his World War II service underscored the imperative for airmen to be versed in all aspects of war if they hoped to command operations beyond the aerial fight. Yet today, Air University does not champion the integrative nature of airpower. A far better educational institution than its critics acknowledge, its classrooms nonetheless still aim to delineate the manner by which airpower changes war--which it certainly does--when they should strive to teach how airpower has become part of war--which it certainly is. To this day, the inspiration for its curriculum and aspiration for its students remain air war and air component command. In the past 10 years, four Air War College commandants have proclaimed as their primary intent to get--or return--the "air" into the college. Air generals have trumpeted the Air Command and Staff College as the "Cathedral of Air Power." And each school at Air University has vied to claim the proud heritage of the Air Corps Tactical School as their own, even though the Tactical School was always more concerned with air combat than with general war, and today would be as analogous to the Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base as any school at Air University. (20)

Air University should--indeed, must--advocate air war and teach its associated competencies. But it ought to do so in a tone more befitting the heritage of Miff Harmon, who once told a friend that the 1930s focus on bombardment at the Tactical School "irked me to no end," not because he did not share a faith in the idea but because it brokered an ignorance of airpower more broadly considered and of war more widely understood. Harmon did not see air war and general war as subtractive elements, where emphasis on one led to a diminution of the other. If this was a notion of limited appeal to a new Air Force consolidating its independence, it should be a proposition of wide allure to a more mature air arm. Already, an Air University student has produced a very fine Master's thesis extolling Harmon. But the school must do more to educate Airmen in the comprehensive relationship between air war and war. Perhaps it might even aspire for its students something beyond air component command. (21)

The enduring scarcity of Air Force generals in joint or combined command has convinced many Airmen that Beltway politics and Service parochialism have conspired against them. But this condition might also be attributable to how the Air Force nurtures and develops its own. It is time for Airmen to examine that possibility as well.

(1) Of the six geographic combatant commands, only U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) is currently led by an Airman, General Victor Renuart. Over the past 60 years, only three other Air Force officers have led any of these organizations or their antecedents: General Lauris Norstad (U.S. European Command, 1956-1963), General Joseph Ralston (U.S. European Command, 2000-2003), and General Ralph Eberhart (USNORTHCOM, 2002-2004). The Air Force has fared better filling the functional commands. Of these, Airmen have on single occasions led U.S. Special Forces Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command, have always led U.S. Transportation Command or its antecedents, and nearly always U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) or its predecessors. Recently, however, Airmen's hold on USSTRATCOM, the descendant of General Curtis LeMay's vaunted Strategic Air Command, has weakened. Navy admirals and Marine generals led the organization during 1994-1996 and 1998-2007.

(2) Millard F. Harmon, "Preliminary Rough Draft on Policy for Future Military Education of Air Corps Officers," 245.04B, Air Force Historical Research Agency (HRA).

(3) "Criticism of Air Corps Tactical School Text 'Air Force,'" memorandum, 248.126-4, HRA, March 14, 1936.

(4) Millard F. Harmon, "Notes of Trip to the French Front in the Region of Chalons sur-Marne, June 1917," Millard Harmon Papers, 168.604-6, HRA, 7-8 Arnold to Harmon, February 1, 1940, Millard Harmon Papers, 168.604-11A, HRA.

(5) Grandison Gardner, Life Memories of Grandison Gardner, 160, HRA.

(6) Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II, vol. IV, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan August 1942 to July 1944 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1950), 32, available at <>. Harmon first reported to Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley, but spent the bulk of his time in the South Pacific working for Halsey.

(7) Cable, Marshall to Harmon, December 8, 1942, Millard Harmon Papers, 750.161-1, HRA.

(8) John Miller, Jr., U.S. Army in World War II: Guadalcanal, The First Offensive (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, 1995), 174, 232.

(9) Louis Morton, U.S. Army in World War II: Strategy and Command, the First Two Years (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, 1962), 509 Millard F. Harmon, "The Army in the South Pacific," report, June 6, 1944, Millard Harmon Papers, 750.04A, HRA Nimitz to Halsey, and Halsey to Nimitz, August 8 and August 19, 1943, William Halsey Papers, Library of Congress.

(10) William F. Halsey and J. Bryan III, Admiral Halsey's Story (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2008), 161 Morton, U.S. Army in World War II, 509.

(11) Nimitz to John McCain, July 27, 1942, Chester Nimitz Papers, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center.

(12) Samuel B. Griffith II, The Battle for Guadalcanal (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 142, Morton, U.S. Army in World War II, 509.

(13) Louis Morton, "Pacific Command: A Study in Interservice Relations," The Harmon Memorial Lectures in Military History Number 3, 139, available at <>.

(14) Harmon's personal papers at the HRA contain many examples.

(15) Henry Arnold, Global Mission (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), 337, 343 Harmon to Laurence Kuter, September 11, 1942, L/C Box 88, 8.59, Murray Green Collection, U.S. Air Force Academy Special Collections.

(16) Arnold to Harmon, June 6, 1944, 750.041-A, Millard Harmon Papers, HRA.

(17) Craven and Cate, 525, 530.

(18) S.A. Rosenblatt to LeMay, January 10, 1945, Curtis LeMay Papers, Library of Congress.

(19) Today, the Air Force devotes considerable attention to the nuances of authority, relative prerogatives and mutual obligations of administrative oversight, operational command, and tactical control. Although they did not have the benefit of the subsequent 60 years' experience with such matters, air arm leaders of World War II struggled with the same issues.

(20) The author bases this assertion on 12 years of teaching experience at Air University schools. The university policy of nonattribution precludes naming these officers. Air University is today a far more comprehensive institution than was the Air Corps Tactical School in the interwar years. Still, air war remains its cultural core.

(21) Harmon to Bart Yount, November 25, 1939, cited in Robert Novotny, "Tarmacs to Trenches: Lieutenant General Millard F. Harmon" (Master's thesis, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, 2007), 38. For more on the remarkable Miff Harmon, see Novotny's groundbreaking thesis.

Dr. Thomas Alexander Hughes is a Faculty Member in the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Air University.

Family tree of Millard HARMON

He was born in 1888 at Fort Mason, California. He was from a military family his father Millard F. Harmon. Sr. was a colonel, one brother, Hubert R. Harmon, a major general and another, Kenneth B. Harmon, a colonel. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1912 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, serving with the 28th and 9th Infantry Regiments. In 1914 he was ordered to the Philippines, and two years later detailed to the newly organized Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. That year he accompanied the Mexican Punitive Expedition and did aerial patrol work along the border.

© Copyright Wikipédia authors - This article is under licence CC BY-SA 3.0 .

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There are 243,000 census records available for the last name Harmon. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Harmon census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 12,000 immigration records available for the last name Harmon. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 60,000 military records available for the last name Harmon. For the veterans among your Harmon ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

--> Harmon, Millard Fillmore, 1888-1945

Millard Fillmore Harmon (b. Jan. 19, 1889, San Francisco, Calif.-d. Feb. 26, 1945), U.S. Army officer, graduated from West Point in 1912 and earned his wings in 1916. He served with the 1st Aero Squadron during the Mexico expedition and flew with a French aviation unit in combat in World War I. A graduate of Command and General Staff School and the Army War College, he became Chief of the Air Staff, Army Air Force, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces South Pacific, then Army Air Forces Pacific Ocean Areas through World War II. General Harmon was decorated with three Distinguished Service Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was lost on a flight over the Pacific on Feb. 26, 1945 and declared dead on Feb. 27, 1946.

From the description of Harmon, Millard Fillmore, 1888-1945 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10575469

Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Clark, Charles A. (Charles Asa), 1865-1929. Charles A. Clark and family papers, 1887-1968. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Records of the U.S. Marine Corps. 1775 - 9999. Intelligence Reports and Operations Records
referencedIn General Records of the Department of the Navy. 1941 - 2004. Moving Images Relating to Military Activities. 1947 - 1980. ARMISTICE DAY PARADE, NOUMEA, N. CALEDONIA
referencedIn Records of the Army Air Forces. 1902 - 1964. Motion Picture Films from the "Combat Film Report" Program Series. 1942 - 1945. AIR ASPECTS OF THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST MUNDA National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Henry Harley Arnold Papers, 1903-1963, (bulk 1940-1946) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Special Film Projects Relating to Military Activities. 1947 - 1970. TARGET TOKYO National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. 1860 - 1985. Special Film Reports. 1944 - 1945. INVASION PICTURES [AIRBORNE, ETC.] National Archives at College Park


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Can You Guess Who Outranks Who in Military History?

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Death and burial ground of Harmon Jr., Millard Tillmore “Miff”.

On 25-02-1945, a B-24 Liberator carrying General Harmon, and Brigadier General James Roy Andersen, age 40, his Chief of Staff, departed Guam for Washington, D.C. via Kwajalein and Hawaii. Their aircraft reached Kwajalein Island safely, but disappeared the next day after taking off for Hawaii. Despite the most intensive search by Army and Navy planes and surface vessels, no trace of the plane was ever fund and there were no survivors. He was declared dead on 25-02-1946, one year after he disappeared. There is a Remembrance stone on Arlington Cemetery.


He was born in 1888 at Fort Mason, California. He was from a military family his father was a colonel, one brother a major general and another a colonel. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1912 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, serving with the 28th and 9th Infantry Regiments. In 1914 he was ordered to the Philippines, and two years later detailed to the newly organized Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. That year he accompanied the Mexican Punitive Expedition and did aerial patrol work along the border.

Two weeks before the United States entered World War I, Harmon, then a first lieutenant, was on his way to France. There he attended aviation schools in Paris, served at Allied and American headquarters, and was finally attached to the French 13th Group de Combat as a pilot during the Somme defensive, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

In July 1920, Harmon, now a major and stationed at France Field in Panama, transferred to the Army Air Service, precursor of the Air Corps. In April of the following year, he returned to Washington where he served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Air Service. During the years of peace, he continued his training, graduating from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College. He taught military science and tactics at the University of Washington in Seattle, was assigned as an instructor in the Command and General Staff School, and served with the War Department General Staff for two years.

From 1927 to 1930, he was Commandant of the Air Corps Primary Flying School at March Field, California., during which time he came into contact with the young men then entering aviation training. He commanded Barksdale Field and the 20th Pursuit Group for four years. In 1936, as a lieutenant colonel, he went to Hawaii to command Luke Field and the 5th Bombardment Group. In 1938 he returned to the United States to become Assistant Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama. After two years of service there, he was assigned for brief periods to Randolph Field, Texas, and Hamilton Field, California. On Oct. 1, 1940, while he was in command at Randolph Field, he was promoted to brigadier general.

In January 1941, Harmon was sent to the United Kingdom as an Air Observer — he was already rated a command pilot, combat observer and technical observer — serving in that capacity and as a member of the Harriman Mission until April. On his return to the United States, he was assigned as Commanding General of IV Interceptor Command, Fourth Air Force. On July 11, 1942 he was appointed major general, and a week later was placed in command of the Second Air Force, with headquarters at Fort George Wright, Washington. In December of that year he was assigned as acting Commanding General of the Air Force Combat Command.

On January 26, 1942, he became Chief of the Air Staff, Army Air Forces. With 30 years combat and command experience as a ground and air officer, General Harmon was well qualified to command Army Forces in an area of increasing strategic importance where air power was to play a dominant role. In July 1942, General Harmon was appointed Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, an area that was under Navy command. In November, Admiral Halsey assumed command of the South Pacific, and the two formed a perfect team. In 1944, at the conclusion of his mission and before he went to another command, Admiral Halsey wrote, "I was particularly fortunate in having Harmon as Commanding General of the Army Forces his sound advice and wholehearted cooperation in attaining the common goal were outstanding contributions to the joint effort."

On February 2, 1943, Harmon was promoted to lieutenant general. Until September of the following year, he commanded the Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, and then moved to a new command, Army Air Forces in the Pacific Ocean areas (AAFPOA), created under the principle of unity of command in preparation for B-29 Superfortress strategic bombing operations against Japan from the Marianas. At the same time, he was "dual-hatted" as Deputy Commander of the Twentieth Air Force carrying out those operations, under the command of General Arnold.

Harmon desired his command of AAFPOA to be more than an administrative, service, and coordinating agency. He lobbied Headquarters AAF for operational control of all USAAF combat operations in the Pacific Ocean Area, and partial operational control of the B-29 operations against Japan, from his headquarters on Guam. Wearing his AAFPOA hat, he gained control of all Army and Navy land-based bomber and fighter operations when theater commander Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz named him commander of "Task Force 93" (Strategic Air Force, POA) in December. However this role brought him into conflict with Arnold's objective of maintaining absolute control of Twentieth Air Force operations independent of any theater commands.

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