NO. 17649 • 17 September 1927 – 3 March 1952
Killed in action 3 March 1952 in Korea, aged 24 years
0n 3 March 1952, less than two years after graduation, 2d Lieutenant Harry Eugene Rushing, United States Air Force, took off from his base in South Korea on another mission. As he crossed the Han River, going north, his plane lost its coolant and burst into flames. Athough he was able to return to friendly soil before jumping, the wind blew him back into the Han estuary. Harry's wingman, Tom Casserly, courageously crashlanded nearby to help if possible, but the icy waters had already taken their toll.
Harry was 24 years old when he died, an age when most men are still planning for a life of fulfillment. He had prepared well for a life of love and service and boldly lived it. No man led a more meaningful life or gave more. He wanted to become a cadet, and he did. He wanted to become a husband and father, and he did. He wanted to fly, and he did. He wanted to serve, and he did - to the fullest extent.
Harry was born on 17 September 1927 in Montgomery, Alabama. Born into an Army Air Corps family, he naturally moved from pillar to post, attending schools in Hawaii, Texas, Florida, Alabama, and elsewhere.
"Harry learned quite young to work hard for the valuable things in life," his father said.
Long before he was graduated with honors from Lanier High School in Alabama, in 1945, he had set his mind on a flying career. By this time he had also chosen Jean to share his future. Although he had already won an appointment to West Point, he enrolled in Marion Military Academy for further preparation. There he maintained the standard of excellence he had set for himself, excelling in academics, athletics, and leadership. Throughout these early years, the ordinary challenges of school were not enough to satisfy Harry's energy and curiosity. He found many other outlets in clubs, hobbies, and social life. By the time he reported to West Point in July 1946, Harry already knew what he stood for; what the valuable things in life were.
In 1946 we, his classmates at the Academy. soon fell under the spell of Cadet Rushing's infectious personality and his utter honesty. His parents say that he was a "quiet, serious-minded person." We who wrestled, worked, worried, bantered, and stormed with him through four years in H-1 Company knew him to be an unusually warm and sincere friend who more than held his own in the give-and-take of cadet life. In athletics, win or lose, he made his enthusiasm and determination felt. He tried everything: football, wrestling, crew, lacrosse, handball, water polo, weight-lifting, track, and even skiing. His drive pushed each one of us to extend ourselves a little more. The issues resolved on these athletic fields were insignificant compared with those he would have to resolve later, but Harry knew only one way - always give your best.
With all of the camaraderie and games, Harry never lost sight of his main purpose - to prepare himself for a career in the Air Force. There was no compromising with this goal. He approached school assignments in the same manner as he later approached operational assignments. They were a part of his duty to which he would give nothing less than his maximum effort. The last time many of us saw Harry was at graduation in 1950. That flashing grin seemed to challenge life itself as he hurried down the ramp after receiving his diploma, confident that he had done his best.
Shortly after graduation Jean and Harry were married. The North Korean attack in June 1950 suddenly changed their carefree tempo of living to one of serious preparation. After Basic Flight School at Randolph AFB, Fighter School at Craig AFB, and Gunnery School at Luke AFB, he went to Korea, leaving Jean and Harry Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama. Three months later he took off on what was to be his last mission.
The citation accompanying Harry's posthumous award of the Air Medal reads:
Despite the hazards of marginal weather conditions, aerial interception, and intense antiaircraft artillery fire, his exceptional airmanship in combat operations contributed immeasurably to the successful execution of the United Nations mission. The technical skill, personal courage, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed reflect the highest credit upon himself, his organization, and the United States Air Force.
That was 13 years ago. But the image of his penetrating dark eyes and flashing smile is just as vivid in our minds today as it was in 1950 when we parted at graduation. Today, we, his classmates, feel a particular pride and gratitude in identifying him as one of us. He gave us the warmth of friendship, the inspiration of example, and the benefit of his sacrifice. When he was finally called away, he left the world a better place.