He is No. 20 on the list of most highly-decorated U.S. military personnel of all time.
Retired Col. James Harding of Huntingdon, an Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam, came to this area in 2001 from Bayview, Texas, and established himself as a tree farmer and a substitute teacher in the Carroll County School System.
As interest in the 2010 election cycle heated up and Americans found themselves questioning how well political jargon matched the intent of those men who founded this nation and wondering how to get the country back on track, Harding was one of those who stepped forward to provide a unique patriot’s view of the situation.
He will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Catfish Galley on Marshall Avenue in Union City at the monthly Obion County Republican Party meeting. The public is invited to attend to hear his perspective on Sharia law and the Quaran.
It is a topic he is familiar with and one which he had time to study carefully when he was base manager during Desert Shield/Desert Storm at King Faisal Air Base in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, from 1990-92. He was also an analyst for the Royal Saudi Air Force headquarters at Riyadh and developed a professional education program for Saudi Air Force officers.
All this after his retirement from active duty in 1979. At that point, he entered general aviation at Nueces County Airport in Robstown, Texas, and in 1980 he undertook the organization and implementation of Air Force Junior ROTC programs in the continental United States, as well as at the Department of Defense schools overseas. The last of two “breaks” from that service afforded him time in Saudi Arabia.
In 1998, Harding, who entered the U.S. Air Force in 1956 as a distinguished graduate of the Penn State University Reserve Officer Training Corps, where he was the outstanding Air Force ROTC cadet, retired from his roll in preparing young students for service to their country through the Junior ROTC program and turned to tree farming. That interest eventually led him to Tennessee.
Rated a command pilot and master parachutist with 69 jumps to his credit, Harding also has more than 8,000 flight hours (5,000 of those as a military pilot) and experience in the T-33, F-86, F-84, O-1, U-10, A-1, and A-7 and various civilian air craft. He has earned multiple medals, including the Air Force Cross. That citation reads: “The President of the United States of America … awards the Air Force Cross to Major James C. Harding for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1 Tactical Fighter Pilot in Southeast Asia from 10 April 1972 to 13 April 1972. During this period, Major Harding was the on-scene commander of an extremely hazardous and complex search and rescue mission that was attempting to recover a downed American pilot who was located in one of the most heavily defended and hostile segments of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. Major Harding made repeated passes at low altitude and airspeed, directly over a hostile gun position, in order to draw anti-aircraft fire and pinpoint its position. In spite of battle damage to his aircraft, Major Harding repeatedly counterattacked the numerous heavy gun positions, thereby allowing the vulnerable rescue helicopters to effect a safe and successful recovery of the downed pilot. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Major Harding reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
A lifetime member of 16 national service organizations, he is an accomplished public speaker and has extensive writing experience. He is a distinguished graduate of Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, of the Air Command and Staff College there and of the Air War College at Maxwell. He also earned his master’s degree in business administration from Auburn University in Alabama and studied in the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
He flew 442 combat missions in the O-1 and U-10, with 101 of those over North Vietnam. Another 154 missions flown in the A-1 brought his total combat mission number to 596. Thirty-eight additional North Vietnam missions were carried out in propeller aircraft. He then went on to establish multiple new units in the Air Force Junior ROTC program.
This veteran of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War has enough additional awards, commendations and honors to fill multiple columns of copy and all underscore his patriotism and dedication to service. His service has afforded him a unique opportunity to study not only his own government but that of other nations and his intellect has made it possible for him to speak authoritatively on many subjects of current interest.
The public is invited to hear him address an issue that has taken on new importance as radical Muslim leaders press their terrorist agenda and non-Muslims wonder how the Muslim religion truly impacts a variety of vital issues.
Published in The Messenger 6.1.11