NO. 17448 • 20 Jul 1926 - 16 Apr 2000
Died in Paulden, AZ
Interred: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY
Harold Wade Strickland was born in Memphis, TN, to Carlisle and Eunice Strickland. He was a serious student and always loved flying. "Hal" received his pilot's license when he was just 12 years old.
During high school, he joined the ROTC at Central High in Memphis and concurrently wrote to his congressman requesting an appointment to the Academy. Since there had been no prior contact, the congressman merely set up the procedure whereby Hal could take the civil service examination in competition for an appointment. Many months passed with no results, so he applied to the Army Air Corps for service in 'WWII. Seven days before his induction, his congressman informed him that he was to be an alternate appointee to West Point. Hal was inducted into the Army Air Corps but was sent to Amherst College in Massachusetts for entrance exam preparations rather than flight school. Hal passed all the entrance examinations but nevertheless had to wait an additional year to obtain the principal appointment.
Before receiving that second appointment, he spent seven enjoyable months as a control tower operator at Westover Field, MA. He returned to Amherst College for further preparatory study and for officer's candidate courses at the Infantry School at Ft. Berming. His discharge was granted in June 1946 and, one month later, Hal finally arrived at the Academy.
He cherished his days as a cadet. Out of 671 in the class, he graduated number 102 academically and held the rank of cadet captain, the highest rank obtainable. His last year was particularly enjoyable as he was company commander, a position that afforded more leadership opportunities.
After graduation, Hal began pilot training in T-6s at Connally AFB in Waco, TX. Over Christmas leave, he drove back to Larchmont, NY, and married Sally Pearse, whom he had met briefly on Easter weekend at the Academy. They spent their honeymoon traveling back to Waco via New Orleans. Hal soon was sent to Craig AFB in Selma, AL, where he received his wings and flew the F-51 Mustang, his other love. Together, Hal and Sally journeyed to Luke AFB, where Hal received gunnery training near Phoenix, AZ. Sally later returned to the East Coast to await the arrival of their first child as Hal prepared to serve with the Fifth Air Force at Kimpo Field in Korea. There, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals. After completing the required 100 missions, he rotated back to the States to serve with the Air Defense Command at Niagara Falls, NY At first, they only had F-47s, which was a slight disappointment, but then they received the F-86 Saber jet and all was well. Hal was appointed Flight Commander and spent hours concentrating on making his flight the best all-weather interceptor flight in the Air Force.
Another son and a daughter were born while the Strickland family lived in Niagara Falls. It seemed prudent at the time to resign from the Air Force, and he did so in 1957. The family moved to California and Hal was hired to work on the Navaho Missile System for North American Aviation. One month later, the Navajo project was scrapped and so was the job. A week later, Honeywell hired Hal to work in their engineering department and another son was born. He worked there for 12 years and was promoted to Western Regional Manager. He also found time to earn his master's degree in engineering at the University of California - Los Angeles and flew for the Air National Guard out of Ontario, CA. His next step up the corporate ladder required a move to Minnesota but Hal declined.
It was time to start his own business. In 1998 , Hal decided to retire and move with Sally to a 60-acre ranch in Arizona, near Prescott. Oh, how he loved working on the ranch and being outdoors! One morning, two years later, he complained of being tired. That evening, he passed away quietly, without pain or discomfort. His 50th reunion at West Point was a month away and he eagerly had been looking forward to seeing his buddies and sharing good times again. His children came from all parts of the world to be with Sally and remember their dear dad. Hal was interred at his beloved West Point with full military honors.
- Lovingly submitted by Sally P Strickland