Lt. General Millard F. Harmon
U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) commander of SOPAC and AAFPOA
Missing aboard a C-87A Liberator Express February 26, 1945
Millard Fillmore Harmon, Jr. was born on January 19, 1888 in at Fort Mason near San Francisco in California. Nicknamed “Miff”. His father was Millard F. Harmon was a U. S. Army Colonel.
Harmon attended United States Military Academy (USMA) class of 1912 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-003406. His two brother also joined the U. S. Army and became officers. His brother Hubert R. Harmon was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and his other brother Kenneth B. Harmon was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
After graduating West Point, he was assigned to 28th Infantry Regiment and later the 9th Infantry Regiment. In 1914 he was assigned to the Philippines. In 1916 he was assigned to the newly organized Signal Corps, Aviation Section. He also participated in the Mexican Punitive Expedition and did aerial patrol work along the U. S. southern border with Mexico.
World War I
During March 1917 just prior to the U. S. entry into World War I, Harmon arrived in France and attended aviation school in Paris. Afterwards he served in the Allied headquarters then became a pilot assigned to the French 13th Group de Combat and participated in the Somme campaign. For his military service, he earned the Croix de Guerre.
By 1920 he was promoted to the rank of Major and stationed at France Field in Panama and transfered to the U. S. Army Air Service. In April 1921 assigned to Washington, D. C. as a member of the Advisory Board of the Air Service and graduating from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College. Next, he was an instructor of military science and tactics at the University of Washington in Seattle and at the Command and General Staff School. He also served two years in the War Department. Between 1927-1930 he was the commandant at the U. S. Army Air Corps primary flying school at March Field.
Between 1930-1934 he commanded the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During 1936 assigned to the to the 5th Bombardment Group (5th BG) based at Luke Field on Ford Island. In 1938 he returned to the United States to become Assistant Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama. After two years, he was assigned for brief periods at both Randolph Field and Hamilton Field. On October 1, 1940 promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and also held the ratings of command pilot, combat observer and technical observer.
In January 1941, Harmon was assigned to the Harriman Mission as an air observer and sent to the United Kingdom until April 1942. When he return to the U. S. assigned as Commanding General of 4th Interceptor Command, 4th Air Force (4th AF). On July 11, 1942 he was promoted to the rank of Major General and and a week later became the commander of the 2nd Air Force (2nd AF) at Fort George Wright in Washington State. In December 1942 assigned as the 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 of combat and command experience as both 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 (SOPAC) an area that was under U. S. Navy (USN) command. In November 1942 Admiral William Halsey Jr. assumed command of the South Pacific, and the two formed an effective leadership team. Admiral Halsey later 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 rank of Lieutenant General. Until September 1944, he commanded the Army Forces in the South Pacific Area (SOPAC) on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
Afterwards, he took command of the Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas (AAFPOA), created for unity of command for the B-29 Superfortress strategic bombing campaign from the Mariana Islands against Japan. Concurrently, he served as Deputy Commander of the 20th Air Force (20th AF) under the command of General Hap Arnold.
Harmon lobbied Headquarters AAF for operational control of all USAAF combat operations in the Pacific Ocean Area and partial operational control from his headquarters on Guam of the B-29 campaign against Japan. 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 (TF 93) Strategic Air Force, POA in December 1944.
In this new role, he clashed with General Arnold whose objective was to maintain control of 20th Air Force (20th AF) operations independent of any theater commands. During February 1945 when Harmon clashed with Major General Curtis E. LeMay, the new commander of the XXI Bomber Command about the command and use of the e Very Long Range (VLR) P-51D Mustang Fighter Groups assigned to the Twentieth Air Force as escorts for strategic bombers while Harmon felt that was an inefficient use of those fighters.
Missing In Action
On February 25, 1945 took as a passenger aboard C-87A Liberator Express 41-24174 that departed Guam piloted by Major Francis E. Savage on a special flight transporting senior officers to Kwajalein Airfield (APO 241) as the first leg of their flight bound for Hickam Field (APO 953) then onward for meetings about the campaign against Japan in Washington, DC. Aboard was Lt. General Millard F. Harmon, Commanding
General AAFPOA and Brigadier General James R. Andersen Deputy Commander of the 20th AF plus other senior staff.
On February 26, 1945 took off from Kwajalein Airfield at 10:45am on the next leg of the flight bound for Hickam Field (APO 953). The weather was reported as broken clouds at 3,000' - 6,000'. Last contact was by radio at 12:15 with Sgt Stanley H. Long, reporting the aircraft's position as 11° 15' north, 174° 15' east. This aircraft went missing over the Pacific Ocean between Kwajalein and Hawaii.
For his military service, Harmon earned the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), British Most Honorable Order of the Bath, French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on February 26, 1945. Administratively he was officially declared dead on February 27, 1946 a year after he went missing. Since this aircraft was lost over a non-combat area, none of the crew or passengers earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He was one of the three highest ranking U. S. Generals missing or killed during World War II including: Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. and Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair.
Harmon is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on court 7. He also has a memorial marker at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO.
Afterwards, Depot Field on Guam was renamed Harmon Field and postwar known as Harmon Air Force Base (Harmon AFB) until closed.
U. S. Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant General Millard F. Harmon (photo)
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Guadalcanal to Saipan Chapter 3: The Thirteenth Air Force pages 61-62, 63-77, 79-81, 83, 85-89
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Guadalcanal to Saipan Chapter 7: Chapter 7: The Central Solomons pages 203-204, 214, 223-224, 232-234, 237, 241-242
U. S. Army in World War II Strategy and Command: Chapter XVI: Command and Cooperation pages 352-357, 360-361
U. S. Army in World War II Strategy and Command: The First Two Years Appendix F Letter of Instructions to Major General Millard F. Harmon July 7, 1942
U. S. Army in World War II Guadalcanal: The First Offensive Chaper X: The December Offensive pages 232-233, 247
U. S. Army in World War II Guadalcanal: The First Offensive Appendix
A Letter from General Harmon to Admiral Ghormley Oct 6, 1942
U. S. Army in World War II Cartwheel The Reduction of Rabaul Chapter IX: XIV Corps Offensive pages 143, 149
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Matterhorn to Nagasaki Chapter 17: Preparation for Combat pages 510-512, 514-516, 518, 521, 522, 523-526, 528-531, 533-534, 537, 543
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Matterhorn to Nagasaki Chapter 18: Precision Bombardment Campaign pages 548-549, 556-557
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Matterhorn to Nagasaki Chapter 19: Iwo Jima pages 579, 584, 585-589, 596
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Matterhorn to Nagasaki Chapter 20: Urban Area Attacks pages 629
The Army Air Forces in World War II The Pacific Matterhorn to Nagasaki Chapter 21: The All-Out B-29 Attack pages 664, 665
Missing AIr Crew Report 12769 (MACR 12769) created March 4, 1945
Pacific Wrecks - C-87A Liberator Express 41-24174
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Millard F. Harmon
FindAGrave - LTG Millard Fillmore “Miff” Harmon, Jr (photo, courts of the missing)
FindAGrave - LTG Millard Fillmore Harmon, Jr (photo, memorial marker photo)