457th Fighter Squadron honors Capt. Harkness

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Charles Huber
  • 457th Fighter Squadron Commander

On Dec. 30, 2019, U.S. Air Force Captain D.W. “Skip” Harkness passed away surrounded by his loving family. “Skip”, as he was affectionately called, was an American hero yet you’d never know it. As with many of our nation’s fallen heroes, Skip returned to life after his service in Vietnam… raising a family, running his farm and owning his small car dealership in Kansas.

     Skip began his military service as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland playing football alongside Roger Staubach, who later became a legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback and an NFL Hall of Fame inductee. An injury Harkness sustained at the Naval Academy disqualified him from continuing as a midshipman, and he returned home to Kansas, where he enrolled in the USAF Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at The University of Kansas. Upon graduation, Skip attended pilot training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma and served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the elite 20th Special Operations Squadron, known throughout the region as “The Pony Express.”  The pilots of the Pony Express flew clandestine missions throughout Laos and North Vietnam, Asia. At that time, they were the most experienced CH-3B/C helicopter pilots and hand-selected to serve in this highly classified unit. Enduring constant enemy fire and many times operating under the cover of dark, these brave Pony Express pilots delivered critical supplies to the most remote bases in Vietnam, rescued downed Airman, and scouted highly defensed targets in heavily defended areas of North Vietnam. To this day, many details of their missions remain classified.

     On Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, the 457th Fighter Squadron honored Capt. Harkness with a flyover during his internment ceremony at the DFW Memorial Cemetery, where he was laid to rest with full military honors. It is with great honor and respect that the men and women of the 301st Fighter Wing extend their most heartfelt condolences to Capt. Harkness and his family. Skip was a true American hero; humble, kind, and forever dedicated to his country and the family he so dearly loved. Here’s a toast…

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