Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame 2020 Inductee:
DR. HAROLD H. BROWN 1924 -
January 1, 2020
Harold H. Brown was born in Minneapolis a graduate of Minneapolis North High School, he took his first airplane ride at Wold-Chamberlain Field in 1941 and soloed at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama after enlisting in the Army Air Corps.
He trained in the PT-17, BT-13 and AT-6. He earned his wings and was assigned to fly fighter aircraft. He went on to fly combat missions in the P-47N Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning and the P-51C/D Mustang. His first assignment was with the 332nd FG at Ramitelli Field, Italy. Flying his 30th mission in Italy, he was strafing a German train when the locomotive's boiler blew up and shrapnel damaged his engine, forcing him to bail out. He was captured and became a prisoner of war. He spent the last few weeks of the war in a German prison camp. After the war, he received orders to Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, OH as an instructor. At the start of the Korean War, Brown was transferred to Far East Material Command at Tachikawa, Japan. He flew missions from Taegu, Pusan and Seoul bases in Korea. During one flight he experienced an explosive decompression while flying an F-80. The canopy departed the aircraft taking the rudder with it. Also leaving a two inch gash along his flight helmet. The canopy almost took his head off! Brown was able to safely land the aircraft.
Following the Korean War, with his unit still segregated, he was again assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield as a flight instructor. He went on to earn qualifications as a Bombardier/Navigator while stationed at Lockbourne AFB a second time. He then advanced to become an Electronics Instructor and then supervising other instructors as the Chief of Basic Electronics. As a Senior Pilot, he was selected to serve in Strategic Air Command (SAC) where he qualified as a B-47 Pilot. In January of 1958, his unit's mission transitioned from Reconnaissance to Electronic Countermeasures. Their specific mission was to block enemy radar signals aimed at SAC bombers. Eventually Brown was selected for the highly competitive position of flight instructor in the B-47. In 1961, he was hand selected to be a SAC Command Post Controller, Brown's position was responsible for sending bombers on attack missions if needed during the Cold War.
In 1965, Brown transitioned from active duty as a Lt. Colonel and entered Ohio University, receiving a degree in Mathematics. He would go on to achieve a doctoral degree and enter the field of education, taking a position with the Columbus Area Technical School. He became Chair of the Electrical Engineering Program and eventually Vice President of Columbus State Community College.
Dr. Brown has been a member of the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron for over 20 years. The squadron is based at Fleming Field in South St. Paul. It is a non-profit organization that publicizes the inspiring legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. They support a nation-wide tour of shows and events to promote the WWII history of the Tuskegee Airmen. In 2004, when the organization's showpiece, a P-51C Mustang, crashed at a local airshow, Dr. Brown helped raise the funds necessary to rebuild the iconic airplane. This allowed the group to continue its nationwide tours as ambassadors of the Red Tail pilots. In 2017, Dr. Brown and his wife, Marsha Bodner, wrote his autobiography, titled Keep Your Airspeed Up. He continues to travel and give lectures on his life experiences. This member of the Greatest Generation is still going strong!