Grayson County TXGenWeb

Military Veterans

Major Harold Hastings

Denison, Texas - First Lieut. Harold T. Hastings, stationed with a bombardier squadron in the Hawaiian Islands, recently was promoted to the rank of Captain. He has been a member of the United States Army Air Corps since 1939 when he received his wings and commission as a second lieutenant. He is the son of Mrs. Daisy Hastings of Denison. He was stationed in California and New Mexico before being transferred to Hawaii last December.  He pilots a flying fortress and is on patrol duty in Hawaiian waters.

Major H. Hastings
Is En Route Home

After advancing from second lieutenant to major and repeatedly gaining recognition in 17 months of action against the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific, Major Harold Hastings has returned to the United States and will visit his mothers, Mrs. Daisy Hastings, 118 West Gandy, soon.

The bomber pilot telephoned his mother Thursday from California, which was her first news of his return from the battle zone.  He will be stationed at Salt Lake City, Utah after his leave.

Hero of the Midway, Bismarck Sea and other battles, Major Hastings was author of a feature article in last week's Saturday Evening Post telling of the Bismarck Sea action. The Post presented the Denisonian as "the old man, at 24, of Lt. Gen. George C. Kennedy's famous bomber command."

March 2, 1943
Major Hastings Tells of Bismarck Sea Fight

"Our boys worked together like bacon and eggs, " declared Maj. H. D. Hastings of Denison in a broadcast from Australia Monday giving an eye-witness account of the . . . . complete annihilation of . . . . convoy     in the Bismarck Sea last Wednesday. Maj. Hastings is the son of Mrs. Daisy Hastings, 118 West Gandy.

Maj. Hastings, who is 24, is the youngest operations officer in the Southwest Pacific, played an important part in last week's successful operations.

Fortresses Take Lead

"We had a well-planned campaign," Maj. Hastings said, "and our boys were straining at the bit. We had worked out our exact action with the Flying Fortresses taking the lead. The main show took place on Wednesday morning. All the elements met at the appointed rendezvous and we went for the transports."

"Our squadron sighted the convoy first and the first bomb split an 8,000 ton ship in half. The Zeros came after us, but didn't do any harm."

In comparing the battle of Bismarck Sea with the battle of Midway last June, in which he also played a decisive role, Hastings said, "The only difference in Bismarck Sea and Midway was that none of the Nip ships got away this time because our air elements worked together like bacon and eggs."

Caught Japs By Surprise

"Of course, many things contributed to our success that cannot be mentioned for military reasons, but I'm sure we took the Nips by surprise by flying much lower than usual," he concluded.   

Also interviewed in yesterday's broadcast from the Australian front was Capt. Kerin L. Jones of Columbus, S.C., 23, who has been fighting Zeros since last June, and Wing Commander Bryan Walker, 29, of the Australian Air Force. According to Capt. Jones the Japanese Zeros are the most maneuverable ships in the air, but the American P-38, which he flies, has it all over them when it comes to power.

June 1943

Maj. Hastings
by Jack Maguire

To Denison's other fighting pilots "who worked every minute to save my life in combat," goes praise from Major Harold Hastings here on leave after nearly two years of piloting a Flying Fortress in the Jap-infested Pacific.

It was praise from one hero to another, for already major Hastings wears the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and the Air Medal. And his Saturday Evening Post account of the Bismarck Sea battle has become an epic story of the war.

But his own exploits he discredits. The real heroes, he says, are men like Ensign G. R. Hill, Lt. Randall Cotton, and Lt. LaRue Haralson, "who gave their lives to show the rest of us what we were fighting for."

Major Hastings was at Midway when Ensign Hill's plane plummeted into the Pacific. For two weeks his Fortress crew searched for the Denison pilot.

Friends From Boyhood

They picked up many survivors of that battle but failed to find Ensign Hill, who was Major Hastings' friend from boyhood.

Lt. Haralson was a schoolmate of Major Hastings at Denison High School and they were in the same squadron under MacArthur.

"He flew mission after mission in combat before he died in a formation accident," Major Hastings says. "He was one of the finest pilots we had."

Lt. Cotton, who has been reported missing in action in the Pacific area, also was a friend of Major Hastings. They saw each other many times in combat areas.

"Lt. Ben Collier, Lt. Jack Berry, and other Denisonians are doing a bang-up job," he says.

The 24-year-old major, who is spending his first leave in two years with his mother, Mrs. Daisy Hastings, 118 West Gandy, brought with him a prediction that "America will win the war in spite of the strikers."

Frankly admitting that he and his buddies feel like the home-front soldiers aren't carrying their part in the fight. Major Hastings condemned strikes which are keeping vital materials from reaching the battlefronts.

"Something To Fight For"

"Over there, we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and don't ask for more pay or shorter hours," he said. "But, we have something to fight for. We wonder if the strikers do."

"We have fought so many for ..........
.....the Pacific is doubled, however, the record already set by Major Hastings's group will be difficult to beat. The only Flying Fortress group attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's command, Maj. Hastings and his fellow pilots have been credited officially with between 150 and 200 Jap planes and thousands of tons of Jap shipping.

"I'm Not  Hero"

Major Hastings own Fortress crew is credited officially with three Jap Zeros and a 14,000 ton transport.

"Some of the papers have called me a hero, but I'm not," the young officer says. "None of us is a hero. We just take our ships up, get into trouble with some Jap Zeros, the spend the rest of the time trying to get the hell out of it. That isn't being a hero."

A native of Denison, Major Hastings attended St. Xavier's Academy and graduated from Denison High School in 1935. That same year, he saw an army plane crash near Denison and decided to be a pilot. In those days, flying cadets were appointed by their congressmen, and after several years of waiting, Major Hastings received his appointment from Congressman Sam Rayburn in 1939.

He got his wings and a commission as a second lieutenant at Kelly Field in June, 1940, and that started an army career that has taken him over most of the nation and to Hawaii, the Far East, Australia, and New Guinea.

Operations Officer

Last February, he was promoted to major and commanded a squadron in combat. He did not, however, participate actively in th Bismarck Sea battle, as newspaper accounts led many to believe. During that battle, he served as operations officer on the staff of Col. Roger Ramey of Denton, group commander of the Fortresses attached to MacArthur.

"We planned the activities and others flew the missions," Major Hastings says. "The account of the battle in the Saturday Evening Post was written from stories told by the crews as they returned."

En route to Denison after flying the Pacific to California, Major Hastings spent several days in Hollywood as guest of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Cooper and was honored with several parties in the movie colony.

Doesn't Know Lana

Contrary to local legend, however, he does not know Lana Turner, but would like to meet her. He said the story probably originated after he was photographed at a night club with Carole Landis more than a year ago, since both Miss Landis and Miss Turner are blondes.

He came to know many of the stars while stationed at March Field, Cal., and several, including Tyrone Powers, Annabella. and the Coopers are among his close friends.

Major Hastings will remain here a week before reporting to Salt Lake City for an assignment in the States. He would like to return to a theater of action, however.

"It's tough to leave those boys over there," he says. "After all, they're the boys who worked every minute to save all of our necks while we were in combat. Friendships made under fire really are lasting."

"But it's coming back and seeing the old home-town that makes me realize that what I'm doing is right and worth any sacrifice. It's to preserve this, and all other home-towns, that we are fighting."


Military Veterans
Elaine Nall Bay