Died March 10,1995
Brigadier General John W. Harrell Jr., is commander of the 438th Airlift, Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.
General Harrell was born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1919. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., in 1942, with a bachelor of science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant, Infantry. He then entered flying training and received his pilot rating in November 1942 and was transferred to the Air Corps.
After duty as a fighter pilot with fighter groups in the states of California and Washington, he went to the European Theater of Operations with the 479th Fighter Group, in February 1944, and was stationed at Wattisham Air Station, England. He served as flight commander, squadron and assistant group operations officer, and participated in both bomber escort and ground attack of targets in occupied Europe and in Germany. He completed 82 combat missions and is credited with destroying one ME 109 aircraft and damaging another.
In 1946 he entered the University of Illinois and was awarded a master of science degree in electrical engineering in 1947. He then was assigned to the Armament Laboratory at Wright Field, Ohio, where he did development and test work on the early radar ranging gun sight in a P-51.
General Harrell was transferred to Sandia Base, Albuquerque, N.M., in 1948 and attended the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project school. During almost four years there, he commanded an atomic bomb assembly squadron and then became the Director of Training of a special weapons group which included Army, Navy and Air Force units.
During 1952-1955, he was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Office of the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Atomic Energy Division. During this period, he was active in projects leading to improved nuclear bombs and the initial nuclear warheads for guided missiles.
In 1955 he was appointed deputy commander, 3079th Aviation Depot Wing, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He later commanded that wing which supervised the activities of five Air Force stations and three squadrons of C-124 aircraft. During this period, he also was designated as the deputy assistant and then assistant for special weapons to the commander Air Materiel Command.
General Harrell was reassigned in 1959 to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, in the Directorate of Operations where he served in the Strategic Division, and later became chief, Resources Control Division, and then chief, Programs Control Group. In 1962 he was assigned to the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Strategic Operations Division, Directorate of J-3 (Operations).
In July 1965 he was assigned to Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, as chief of Operations Plans Division, and in August 1966 he became the assistant deputy chief of staff, operations. In October 1966 he became the commander of the 39th Air Division at Misawa Air Base, Japan. In July 1967 assumed command of the 314th Air Division (PACAF), Osan Air Base, Korea, with additional duties as chief, Air Force Advisory Group, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Korea, and Air Force adviser to senior member, United Nations Military Armistice Commission.
General Harrell was assigned as vice commander, 21st Air Force, with headquarters at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., in August 1968, and assumed command of the 438th Military Airlift Wing in August 1969.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.
(Current as of Sept. 1, 1969)