Soldier Honored: Harlow K. Halbower
Branch of Service: Air Force
Born on December 24, 1936, Air Force Captain Harlow K. Halbower, of Anthony, Kansas, was a Python Forward Air Controller assigned to the 19th Tactical Support Squadron at Bien Hoa. On January 2, 1966, during joint Australian/American forces fighting the Vietcong, Captain Halbower’s USAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dog was flying at a low level and shot down by ground fire near Moc Hoa in the Hua Nghia Province near Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Captain Halbower was killed in the crash. A distinguished graduate of the first Air Force Academy class in 1959, Harlow was also the first members of that class to die in Southeast Asia.
After graduating pilot training, Captain Halbower was an instructor pilot at Laredo Air Force Base. He then trained and became a Forward Air Controller (FAC) whose job was to patrol duty over South Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Laos, and into the fringes of North Vietnam. FAC’s were the “hunters” in the heat of battle. Being a FAC meant being in control over forward areas of battle. FAC’s flew nearly half of the USAF’s combat sorties in Southeast Asia. Captain Halbower and his fellow FAC’s flew numerous missions in Southeast Asia searching the jungles for enemy activity knowing that extreme danger was lurking. The lives of hundreds of “friendlies” on the ground depended on their judgement and split-second decisions. FAC’s also provided direct air support to American and allied ground forces as well as Special Ops troops on missions into Laos and Cambodia. FAC’s shouldered great responsibility for whether the battle would be won or lost.
Captain Halbower was a decorated Airman receiving numerous commendations including the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart.