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As It Was: Lt. Col. William B. Harris Joins Aviation Hall of Honor

Few airmen begin their careers as U.S. Navy aircraft rear gunners and end up high ranking Army Air Force heroes. That’s what happened to William B. Harris.

When Harris enlisted in the Navy in 1936, he became a gunner and radio operator in the rear seat of a Curtiss SOC Seagull aircraft because at 5 feet, 7 inches tall he fit the space.

He left the Navy in 1940 to run the Harris Brothers Lumber Co. in Springville, Calif. Two years later, he joined the Army Air Force, assigned to the 339th Fighter Squadron’s air battles over Guadalcanal.

Rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Harris became a high-achieving ace in the 13th Air Force and commander of the 18th Fighter Group in The Philippines, earning many distinguished service medals.

The war over, he joined the reserves and worked in the lumber business again.

In 1976, Harris moved to Klamath Falls to give heritage talks for the Oregon Air National Guard at Kingsley Field. The Klamath Falls chapter of the Air Force Association became the Bill Harris Chapter in his honor.

In 2015, the Evergreen Air and Space Museum posthumously inducted him into its Aviation Hall of Honor.

Sources: "Bill Harris (aviator)." Wikipedia, Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Bill Harris_(aviator); "Lieutenant Colonel William B. Harris 2015." Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, Evergreen Museum, 2018, www.evergreenmuseum.org.

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.