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One Black Sheep Squadron Member Left

Share the stories of the brave men who flew the Corsair.

One Black Sheep Squadron Member Left

Postby rwright142 » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:43 pm

There is only one of the original Black Sheep pilots still with us. Edwin A. Harper passed away Friday night Feb 14, 2014.
More info on the Bruce Gamble Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/bruce.gamble.52

Here is Bruce's post:
"Edwin A. Harper, one of the last of the original Black Sheep pilots, passed away on Friday, February 14. I have a heavy heart, and yet a sense of awe and wonder. Ed lived a long and rewarding life—something to be celebrated.

During his combat tours in the South Pacific, Ed was wounded three times. His squadron mates almost always called him “Harpo,” but he was hit so many times they began to tease him as “The Sleeve,” referring to the target banners used for aerial gunnery practice. The third incident for Ed was nearly fatal. He was strafing trucks near Rabaul in early 1944 when a Japanese .51 caliber slug came through the canopy of his Corsair, hit his torso, nicked his spine, punctured a lung, and then exited through the other side of the canopy. Partially paralyzed, drifting in and out of consciousness, Ed made it back to his island base by sheer willpower. Unable to move from the airplane after he rolled to a stop, Ed was hoisted from the cockpit and spent many months in various hospitals.

Ed eventually recovered and later returned to full flight status. He enjoyed a distinguished career in Marine Corps aviation, retiring as a full colonel. His most remarkable achievement was to serve as the project manager for the AV-8B Harrier program. At a special gathering of Black Sheep members in Yuma, AZ in 2011, many Harrier pilots credited Ed Harper’s vision and drive for bringing the AV-8B to the Marine Corps. It’s worth noting that the so-called “jump jet,” with numerous upgrades, has enjoyed an immensely successful operational career spanning more than thirty years in the USMC."

Image
R.I.P. Ed Harper

"Of the 49 pilots and 2 ground officers who constituted the original Black Sheep squadron, only Harry C. Johnson, one of the replacement pilots who participated in the second combat tour, is still living. It is no small coincidence that Harry was also the last pilot in VMF-214 to shoot down an enemy plane. He’s now 94, and it will be a privilege to visit with him on Saturday at the National Naval Aviation Museum."
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