An Airman's Story: Brigadier General Harrison Reed Thyng


Brigadier General Harrison Reed Thyng was born on April 12, 1918, in Laconia New Hampshire. His early education was in a rural, one-room, schoolhouse.  In the eighth grade, he transferred to Pittsfield High School and played football, baseball, and ran track for the high school team. Brigadier General Thyng was also known for pranks and once faced academic censor after he hit a school superintendent with a snowball.  He graduated in 1935, as the school valedictorian.  

He went on to the University of New Hampshire, where he studied pre-law and was an ROTC cadet. His first flight was during college, in 1938 when Brigadier General Thyng took his wife (girlfriend at the time) on a date from Logan Airport to the game at Fenway Park.  Brigadier General Thyng graduated from the university in 1939 and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps as an air cadet immediately. He earned his pilot's wings in March 1940. 

Brigadier General Thyng's first deployment was to England in 1942, as the commander of the US pilots who flew the British Spitfires. He flew at least 123 combat flights and earned a Silver Star by rescuing another pilot.   He was then assigned to Algeria for Operation Torch and would, with 23 other pilots, hold off enemy soldiers and planes for 48 hours from a captured base, until Naval reinforcements could land. 

Despite being shot down twice, Brigadier General Thyng would receive a second Silver Star for gallantry during the Battle of Kasserine Pass and then was quickly deployed to the Pacific where he was assigned largely to ship and Naval targets. Brigadier General Thyng also escorted B-29 bombers, including the B-29 "Bock's Car" to Nagasaki. 


During the brief period between WWII and Korea, Brigadier General Thyng taught at the Air National Guard.  He deployed to Korea in 1951.

Brigadier General Thyng would earn a third Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses in Korea. He would, on several occasions, despite fuel status and personal safety, stay aloft to protect his squadron while they were under attack. 

After returning from Korea, he would hold command positions at the Air Defense Command, NORAD, and the Western Air Defense Area.  Brigadier General Thyng retired from the US Air Force in 1966, with more than 650 combat flights.

Brigadier General Thyng briefly considered a career in politics, running as the New Hampshire's Republican candidate for the US Senate, but narrowly lost.  He also founded the New England Aeronautical Institute, which became the Daniel Webster College. 

He would spend his retirement hunting and fishing. He died on September 24, 1983, and rests at the River View Cemetery in Barnstead New Hampshire.