Monday, March 05, 2007

Mgen Harold E. 'Tom' Collins 1924-




General Collins was born in 1924 in Port Arthur, Texas, where he graduated from Saint James High School, in 1941, and then attended Lamar Institute of Technology, Beaumont, Texas, studying engineering. He entered the U.S. Army in February 1943 and after basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., where he trained as a gunner in a 105 mm howitzer field artillery battery. In July 1943 he entered aviation cadet pilot training and received his pilot wings and commission as second lieutenant in September 1944 at La Junta Army Air Field, Colo. He next went to Will Rogers Field, Okla., for photo reconnaissance pilot training in P-38 aircraft. After combat training, he went to the European Theater of Operations in February 1945 and joined the 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. After World War II ended in Europe, he remained as part of the occupation forces in Germany and served with several tactical fighter groups.

He returned to the United States in June 1947 and was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio, where he served as an experimental test pilot until November 1954. He played a key role as a test pilot in the development of the F-80, F-84, F-86, and F-100 aircraft. During that assignment, in 1951, he headed a special project in Japan and Korea to equip RF-80 and F-84 aircraft for in-flight refueling from a converted B-29 tanker using the probe and drogue hose system. He supervised the modifications, trained the crews, and flew on the first known combat mission to use aerial refueling. He is credited with 11 aerial combat missions. In September 1953 General Collins established a new world speed record of 707.889 miles per hour for the 15-25 kilometer course in an F-86D Sabre and was awarded the General Electric Trophy. Also in late 1953 he became the first American to fly a Russian-built Mig-15 fighter during tests of the aircraft on Okinawa following its delivery to South Korea by a defector.

In July 1954 he moved to Youngstown, Ohio, as operations officer of the 86th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Air Defense Command, and in June 1955 he became commander of that squadron. In August 1956 he entered the Air Command and Staff College, and after graduation in July 1957, he returned to test pilot and command duties as assistant chief, then chief of the Fighter Test Division, Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where he participated in the development of the F-101, F-102, F-104, F-105 and F-106 and flight-evaluated numerous foreign aircraft. In July 1962 he moved to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to become the director of Flight Test Operations, Air Force Flight Test Center, with responsibility for all flight test operations including a key supervisory role in the operation of the rocket-powered X-15 research aircraft.

He entered the National War College, Washington, D.C., in July 1964 and after graduation in July 1965 was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Research and Development, as the deputy chief, Aeronautical Systems Division, Directorate of Development, and in July 1967 he was named chief, Aeronautical Systems Division. During 1966 he attended the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, Cambridge, Mass. In October 1967 the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the international society of professional test pilots, elevated him to the grade of fellow. This is the highest grade in the society, and it is reserved for those test pilots who have made significant contribution to aviation. From November 1969 to November 1970, General Collins was assigned to the U.S. Strike Command as the U.S. Defense Representative to Pakistan. His office was located in the American Embassy, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. From December 1970 to March 1972, General Collins was the inspector general, Air Force Systems Command, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. In April 1972 he was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as director of development and acquisition in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development. In August 1973 General Collins became the assistant deputy chief research and development. General Collins returned to Headquarters Air Force Systems Command, in August 1974, as chief of staff.

His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem. He is a command pilot with more then 5,500 flying hours and has flown more than 100 types of United States and foreign aircraft.