HARRIS, LESLIE EARL, JR
HARRIS, LESLIE EARL, JR
Rank / Branch:
LTC, U.S. AIR FORCE
Date of Birth:
Awards & Decorations:
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LESLIE EARL HARRIS, JR. LIEUTENANT COLONEL, U. S. AIR FORCE, SAN ANGELO, TOM GREEN COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Senior Air Force Pilot Wings with Star, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation’s Medal, Air Force Longevity Medal with Three Arrow Heads, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal with 2 stars, American Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nation’s Service Medal (Korea), Vietnam Service Medal, Southeast Pacific Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal
Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Earl Harris was born in Gary, Indiana, the son of Helen J. and Leslie E. Harris, Sr. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he grew up. He graduated from Baylor High School in Chattanooga in 1941. He attended the University of Chattanooga his freshman year and then Purdue University his sophomore year. He enlisted in the U. S. Army following his sophomore year and served in the India and Burma Theatre of operations for almost 2 years, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant.
He was selected to attend West Point on a Congressional Appointment by Representative Estes Kefauver of Tennesse. He returned from the Far East and attended a preparatory school at Cornell University for three months before enrolling as a plebe in the fall of 1945. Many of his classmates were entering the Academy within a short period of time following high school and he was considered to be a man of the world by the other cadets.
He graduated from the USMA in the summer of 1949 and due to his desire to fly, he elected to take a commission in the Air Force.
United States Military Academy-Class of 1949
He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and began flight training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. There he met his wife to be, May Hemphill. She was the oldest granddaughter of one of the founder's of the Hemphill-Wells Department Stores of Texas. She was a divorcee with a son. They married August 14, 1950 in San Angelo and he adopted her five year old son, William Paul "Scooter" Harris.
He became a bomber pilot and was one of the first pilots trained in the B-50. In 1951, he was involved in a crash of a B-50 in the U.K. and walked away. He served as a bomber pilot in the Korean War.
At West Point, wearing Civilian Clothes-1949 After the Korean War, he served in various capacities in the Air Force and the family moved frequently. He had service at Savannah, Georgia, Lake Charles, Louisiana and then England Air Force Base at Shreveport at the 2nd Air Force Heaquarters. In 1963, he was selected to attend the Air Force Command and General Staff College and then served as an assistant to the Chief of Air Force Operation’s Planning and Training at the Pentagon for four years and the family lived in McLean, Virginia. While in Washington, he earned a Master's Degree in Business from George Washington University.
He began a tour in Vietnam on May 21, 1967, and his wife re-located back to San Angelo while he was overseas. His son was a student at Texas A&M College. His tour began on May 21, 1967.
Lt Colonel Harris-Pleiku, Vietnam-1968
He was assigned as the operation's officer for the 4th ACS, 14th ACS/SOW, 7th Air Force. In March 1968, he took his R&R in Hong Kong and met his wife. He was preparing for his next assignment as a faculty member of the Air Force Command and General Staff College. Upon returning to Vietnam and within two weeks from completing his tour on May 5, 1968, he was the commander of an AC-47D. The aircraft was flying a "spooky" mission near Pleiku supporting ground troops. As his aircraft approached the area, his crew observed hostile rockets being launched. Lt Colonel Harris flew his aircraft toward the area and the aircraft received intense ground fire and was shot down and all aboard the aircraft perished.
He was buried with full military honors in the Fairmount Cemetery, in San Angelo, Texas. This was the home of his wife's family. He was survived by his wife and his son. He was also survived by his mother, Mrs L.E. Harris of Chattanooga, Tennesee and his sister, Mrs. J. D. Stephens of Cleveland, Mississippi. Lt Colonel Harris was awarded a posthumous Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, along with the Purple Heart.
His wife remained in San Angelo for a few years, then moved to Austin and finally to Amarillo to be near her son. Mrs. May Harris passed away December 2, 2007 and she rests next to Col Harris at the Fairmount Cemetery in San Angelo.
Harris Hall, a dormitory at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas was named in his honor in 1985.
Fairmount Cemetery, San Angelo, Texas