News Sports Opinion Photos Social Classified Obits Contact

Harwick had decorated military career

By Michael Butler

Alex Harwick passed away last week. He was 80 years old. Harwick served as Tallassee Chamber of Commerce director in the early 2000s. He also managed the city's Reeves Airport in recent years.

Harwick's background included being one of the top military fighter pilots of his time. The 1962 Air Force Academy graduate served for 23 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1985.

"I went through pilot training in Selma in '63," Harwick said in a WTLS radio interview. "My class was the first class to go in the F-4 Phantom, which at the time had 15 world speed and climb records. As a result, I became the first person in the world to 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 hours in the Phantom. The F-4 was a Mach II aircraft. It was the premier fighter for a number of years. The aircraft that followed was the F-15. I was lucky to be in the second class of the F-15, so I got to fly it as well. It was basically a super Phantom."

Harwick was in the cockpit for 257 combat missions in Vietnam totaling 754 combat hours.

"I only got hit once," Harwick continued, "by a 23 millimeter that went through the wing. It didn't blow up, so I flew the airplane home. They put a metal patch on it. It was flying the next day."

"He was proud of his 100 percent success rate, hitting every target in combat," Harwick's obituary read. "Known as the expert in air-to-ground gunnery, (he) authored the manual for bombing which was used by the U.S. military and eventually stolen by the Soviets who trained their pilots with his techniques as well."

Harwick recieved 23 Air Medals and five Distinguished Flying Crosses while flying out of the famed 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Udorn, Thailand. He also claimed the "Top Gun" award 11 times. 

He wrote six books including, "Fun, Foolishness, and Frivolity Flying Fighters" describing his flying experiences.

Harwick will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside his father who also served in the United States Air Force in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. 

Harwick in a 1978 photo from a McDonnel Aircraft Company magazine