Col. Neil B. (Chick) Harding

 

100th Bomb Group C.O. (2 Jul 43 - 6 Mar 44)
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Col. Neil B. Harding
100th BG Photo Archives

 

 

COL NEIL B. "CHICK" HARDING 
Serial # 0-16930

Commanding Officer 
100th Bomb Group (H) 
Station 139.

THE 100TH REVERED COLONEL NEIL B. "CHICK" HARDING; COMMANDER OF THE 100TH DURING THE EARLY PHASE OF THE AIR WAR OVER EUROPE. HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM BY THE EARLY 100TH MEMBERS, CARRIED ON UNDER SEVERE PHYSICALLY DISTRESS, WAS THE COMMANDER DURING THE PERIOD THE 100TH BECAME LEGENDARY. PROBABLY NO 100TH C.O. WAS MORE RESPECTED THAN COL. CHICK HARDING. HE IS A LARGER THAN LIFE FIGURE IN 100TH HISTORY.

Date of Service" June 14, 1927 to August 1, 1957

Assignments:

West Point: July 2, 1923, to Jun 14, 1927
Kelly Field: Advanced Flying School-Graduated in 1928
 

USA 1928-1930 Selfridge Field, Michigan
USA Kelly Field-5 years as Instructor of Pursuit Training
Panama Canal Zone Spent 2 years there
USA Langley Field, Virginia, Pilot- 20th BS, General HQ Air Force (Maj Gen. Frank Andrews C. O. )
Puerto Rico In Charge of Training B-17 Pilots
Africa Dec 7, 1941 to Aug 1942 Air Transport Command (checking supply routes)
USA Sept. 1942 C. O. Morrison Field Air Base, West Palm Beach Florida
USA April 1, 1943-June, 1943 - First Commanding Officer of the 401st Bomb Group (H) at Fort George Wright Field in Spokane Washington. On May 27, 1943 the Group was ordered to Geiger Field, Spokane WA. In Early June 1943 Col Harding is relieved of command and sent to England to take over command of the 100th Bomb Group (H) at Thorpe Abbotts.
England June 26, 1943 to April 1944 (CO of 100th Bomb Group starting July 2, 1943)*
USA May 1945 Chief of Staff, 3rd Air Force, McDill Field)
USA Armed Forces Staff College for Six Months
Hawaii Sept 3, 1947 to Sept 30, 1949 (CO of Hickam AFB)
Peru May 27, 1953 to April 16, 1956

Rank Timeline:

2nd Lt. Permanent Rank June 14, 1927
1st Lt. Permanent Rank Sept 1, 1933
Capt. Temporary Rank Mar 15, 1935
Capt. Permanent Rank Jun 14, 1937
Maj. Temporary Rank Jan 31, 1941
Lt Col. Temporary Rank Jan 5, 1942
Col. Temporary Rank Mar 1, 1942
Maj. Permanent Rank Jun 14, 1944
Col Permanent Rank Apr 2, 1948

Col Neil "Chick" Harding was a Graduate of West Point and a famed football coach for the Army. He took over Command of the 100th Bomb Group from July 2, 1943 from Col Huglin and remained C.O. until March 7, 1944 when he was sent Stateside for gall stones. He had been suffering for weeks but simply refused to report to the medics. He was CO at the most difficult time in the Groups History and is beloved by all who served under him. There is no official biography on Chick but he did receive the Silver Star in August 1943 for gallantry leading missions. His list of missions he lead with the 100th Bomb Group are as follows:

July 4, 1943 LaPallice a/c 23307 "Skipper" (Flying with Lt Swartout Crew)
July 14, 1943 Le Bourget a/c 230305 "Flak Shack" (Flying with Lt Barnhill Crew)
July 24, 1943 Trondheim a/c 230061 "Just-A-Snappin" (flying with Eve Blakely Crew)
July 26, 1943 Warnemunde a/c 230047 "Sweater Girl" (flying with Mark Carnell Crew)
Aug 12, 1943 Wessling a/c 23393 "Just-A-Snappin" (flying with Eve Blakely Crew)
Sept. 9, 1943 Arth -- (Scrubbed)
Sept 27,1943 Emden a/c 23357 Detached service from 482nd BG
Oct. 9, 1943 Marienburg a/c 230830 "M'lle Zig Zig" (flying with John Brady Crew)
Nov 13, 1943 Bremen -- --
Feb 25, 1943 Regensburg -- --

His personnel record shows 16 Aerial Missions and 113 Combat Hours (Europe B-17)

List of awards and medals include:

  • Silver Star (for leading July 24, 1943 mission to Trondheim, Norway, )
  • Distinguished Flying Cross (for supply route survey flights to Africa June 5-July 20, 1942) with OLC (for Posen mission Feb 24, 1944)
  • Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters
  • American Defense Ribbon with One Star
  • American Theater Ribbon w/One Star
  • ETO Ribbon with two Battle Stars
  • Mackay Trophy Ribbon
  • Croix de Guerre w/ Palm
  • Distinguished Unit Ribbon (Regensburg Mission) with OLC (Berlin Missions Mar 4, 6, 8, 1944)

Here is some information provided by Chick Harding Daughter Helen Harding Wynne:

1. I only remember Dad saying he had been on 16 missions before he was sent home with the impacted stones that almost killed him (when it all was over at Walter Reed, he weighed 115 lbs). He was more "sick" not to be with his precious 100th than he was from his near-fatal condition. I do remember it well.... I was 12 at that time.

2. When WWII broke out, we were at Borinquen Field (will check sp) Puerto Rico...later Ramey AFB. Dad was immediately called to survey oil routes in Africa and was there for quite a few months after which he was named CO of Morrison AFB (FL) and we were there for about a year before he was sent to England and the 8th. As well as I can remember (but will check the best that I can ...with so many records gone south) he went immediately to the 100th upon arriving in England.

Trivia: Dad's plane's name was: "DORHELCLA" for Doris, my mom, Helen and my sister Clare.... The two brothers were not on the scene yet. According to Christine Urich (Chicks Granddaughter) Col Harding flew the 3rd B17 out of the Boeing factory and put to rest the last one.

COL NEIL "CHICK" HARDING STAYED IN THE AIR FORCE AFTER THE WAR, RETIRING IN 1957. OUR BELOVED CO PASSED AWAY APRIL 22 1978 AND IS BURIED IN ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY ALONG WITH HIS WIFE DORIS DALE HARDING….(BUCKY FRAME, CHICK HARDING’S NEPHEW)

*In April 1944 Col Harding was sent Stateside for a gal stone operation at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D. C. After spending six weeks recuperating, he was sent to McDill Field as Chief of Staff to Gen Joseph Atkinson, HQ of the Third Air Force.

Langley Field VA. Feb 14, 1938: AP

Six "Flying Fortress" bombers and 49 officers and men will take off from Langley Field tomorrow enroute to Miami Fla from where they will "officially depart" for Buenos Aires…The giant four-engined B-17 planes will be in charge of Lt Col Robert Olds, commanding officer of the second bombardment group, who will be at the controls of the lead bomber…Capt Neil B. Harding, Beverly W. Va. , will command one of the planes.

Miami Fla. Feb 17, 1938: Six huge Army bombers on a nonstop goodwill flight from Miami to Buenos Aries. Commanded by Lt Col Robert Olds (C. O. Second Bombardment Group) took off at 12:55 am today for Buenos Aires, Argentina. Forty-nine officers and men were on the flight, their most ambitious nonstop mass formation the army has ever undertaken.

Buenos Aires, Feb 18, 1938: Five "flying fortresses" of the United States Army landed shortly after 11 a. m. EST after a record breaking one-stop (Lima, Peru) flight from Miami, Fla…The sixth plane (flown by Maj J. V. Meloy) had to stay in Lima, Peru due to propeller problems but took off at 6:20 a. m. EST to join the other five bombers in Argentina.

Comments from Gen Ira Eaker to a reporter about "his team", the 8th Air Force and Chick Harding in particular. These were comments made after the 100th Bomb Group lost 4 aircraft , 40 men over Paris on September 3, 1943 and the spirits were low on the base….

"Well, the command officer of that Station is Col Chick Harding, who used to play football at West Point and later helped coach the team. He had to face his deflated boys when they came back. He had to get them ready for the next mission, which was tougher. He did it, as a grid coach would nurse a team back to health, reinspire men who had been gravely hurt by the horror of seeing their friends go down, not in defeat, but death. "