Rear Admiral Harry E. Gerhard Jr., USN (Ret)
Golden Eagle Emeritus
It is my sad duty to report that Golden Eagle Emeritus Harry E. Gerhard Jr., RADM USN (Ret), made his Last Take Off on 21 October 2018. Harry was born in South Philadelphia in 1925 and grew up in Ocean City, NJ. Harry’s interest in the Navy was apparent at a very early age as he devoured the encyclopedia and Book of Knowledge for everything relating to the United States Navy! He enlisted in the Navy as a seaman apprentice in the U.S. Naval Reserve in May 1943 and under the V-12 program attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, until March 1945. He then attended Columbia University as a midshipman and was commissioned an ensign in the U. S. Naval Reserve in July 1945. Harry then served aboard USS Goodrich (DD-831) in the Far East and then served aboard USS E-LSM 445 as part of the COMOPDEVFOR staff. He then transferred as Night Fighter Director Officer on the Battleship Mississippi, (EAG-128) which had been converted to a gunnery training ship and was the OPDEVFOR flagship, until January 1948.
Harry was selected for flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in October 1949 as part of the Navy’s second jet transition class. His first fleet assignment was with VF-21 flying the F-4U aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43).
After six months at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Harry reported to CNVANTRA Advanced Training Unit 201, as an instrument and tactics instructor. In July 1955 he reported to VX-3 and flew several different aircraft including the F-7U, F-8U, and the F-9F, which he flew aboard USS Bennington successfully testing the first mirror landing system on an aircraft carrier. Harry also made the first instrument night F-8 shipboard landing, and as a Project Officer, completed tests on the Sidewinder missile and developed initial ACM maneuvers for the F-8.
After short tours as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to COMCARDIV Six and as a Training Officer at NAVPHIBSCOL Little Creek, Harry reported to VF-174 as the Operations Officer in the F-8 Replacement Pilot Training squadron until June 1961. Cycling back as a student studying amphibious warfare at Marine Corps Senior School, Quantico, VA, he then reported as XO of VF-103 in July 1962 and assumed command in November 1963. Embarked on USS Forrestal (CVA-59), VF-103 flew both the F-8E and the F-4B. It was during this tour that Harry, at the request of COMSIXTHFLT, disabled a Soviet cruiser in the Mediterranean by making multiple supersonic passes over the ship that cracked bricks in the ship’s boilers, requiring the ship to be towed back to her homeport. Following his squadron command tour, Harry became Commander Carrier Air Wing 7 in December 1964 embarked on USS Independence (CVA-62) off the coast of Vietnam. He devised the tactics and participated in the first strike that destroyed an SA-2 SAM site north of Hanoi. He also led numerous successful strikes on key road and railroad bridges in North Vietnam. Harry also devised many new air wing tactics while he was CAG and shared these tactical innovations with other air wings who followed CAG 7 during the Vietnam conflict.
From July of 1966 until December 1967, Harry attended the National War College and George Washington University as a student. He then joined the OPNAV staff as a Section Head in OP-06 and then as the Executive Assistant. In January 1970 he assumed command of USS Great Sitkin (AE-17) prior to assuming command of USS Constellation (CVA-64) in January 1971. Harry had already established the first Safety Department on an aircraft carrier and additional changes were being made when his tour was cut short by a hospitalization and a short period of convalescence.
In February 1972, he reported as Director of the Foreign Military Assistance and Sales Division (CNO, OP-06) and was promoted to flag rank in May. Harry was directly involved in the sale of nearly 80 F-14s to the Shah of Iran in 1974.
In April 1975 Harry reported to Supreme Allied Command, Atlantic (SACLANT), as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (C-03) and served ADM Ralph Cousins and ADM Ike Kidd. He retired from active service in June 1976.
During his 33 years of service from Seaman Apprentice to Rear Admiral, Harry flew 110 combat missions and accumulated almost 5000 flight hours and 648 carrier arrested landings. His awards include the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, sixteen Air Medals/Strike Flight awards, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals with combat “V” and ribbons including WWII Victory; Navy Occupation, China Service; Korea Service; UN Service and Vietnam Service.
After his retirement, with a “Master, Any Gross Tons, Oceans” license, Harry joined Costa Cargo Lines in New York City and then worked in Saudi Arabia for three years with the Olayan General Transportation and Equipment Group. On his return to CONUS, he settled in Pittsburgh, PA, partly because he had diverted there due to weather many times while flying out of Oceana and liked the airport, but, really to be located in, at the time, one of the top three cities for American business corporate headquarters. He started two companies primarily related to trade and countertrade and retired in 2000 from any further business activities. Harry was a great supporter of numerous charitable organizations relating to veterans, but, particularly Sailors and Marines.
Harry is survived by the love of his life, wife Patti, daughter Susan, son John, daughter Barbara, 8 grandchildren and 6 1/3 great-grandchildren. Of Harry’s three children, two have served in the U.S. Navy and one is married to a U.S. Army General. Of his 8 grandchildren, five have served or are serving in the military.
A memorial service was held in Cranberry Twp., Pennsylvania, on 24 October where a Masonic Service and Military Honors were performed. Harry had expressed a desire to be buried at sea from an aircraft carrier and his family intends to satisfy his wishes. Memorial contributions can be made to the Semper Fi Fund, PO Box 555193, Camp Pendleton, CA 92055 or the Navy Memorial Foundation, 701 Pennsylvania AVE NW, Washington, DC 20004.
An accomplished Naval Aviator, an innovator, and a devoted husband and father, RADM Harry Gerhard will be missed.