This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
In 1941, the United States obtained rights to construct an air base in the St. Georges Bay area of Newfoundland. In April of that same year, construction began. For the first few months of the bases operation it was referred to as Stephenville Air Base. On June 23, 1941, it was officially named, by an Act of Congress, Harmon Field, in honor of Captain Ernest Emery Harmon. Few people know who this man was and why he is honored so by the United States Air Force. Many of those who did know about him are now deceased.
The following is an excerpt from a newspaper report written on August 16, 1949, about the dedication of the Harmon Air base:
Widow of the airman for whom the airport was called attended a simple, but effectively conducted ceremony, and saw the official dedication of Ernest Harmon Air Base by Colonel Bundy, base commander, on Saturday afternoon at three o'clock on the level plain between Stephenville and bay St. George. Welcomed by almost incessant flickering of cameras and a large group of civilians, the Colonel shortly after took his place in front of the microphone on a grandstand. He was flanked by Mrs. Bundy and Mrs. Harrietta Harmon, widow of the U.S. airman for whom the field was named. In the center of the runway in front stood the U.S. Air Force and, to be joined shortly by four companies of air marines of forty each who paraded smartly across the area and formed up opposite the reviewing stand, with color party in the center. Other representatives on the reviewing stand were Dr. and Mrs. Ernest E. Harmon, Major W. Harmon and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harmon, sons of the airman and their wives. Others were U.S. Counsel at St. John's, W.G. Richardson, Lt. Colonel & Mrs. Focberry, Commander J. and Mrs. Polmer, Wing Commander E. L. and Mrs. Wurtele; these three officers of the Canadian forces General and Mrs. Whiten, Capt. and Mrs. Grove, Flight Lt. Milner and representatives from two daily papers and two radio news broadcasters. In addition, Colonel Zartman had flown down from Washington to represent headquarters there. Premier and Mrs. Smallwood had been invited, but were unable to attend. The representatives form St. John's were flown over by military plane from Torbay in what had once been General Ike Isenhower's plane; a large four engine machine. Opening the ceremony, following the parade of troops, Colonel Bundy recorded the history of the base, whose construction began about September. Called first Stephenville Airbase it was renamed Harmon Field in June 1941. Colonel Bundy gave a tribute to the cooperation received from the government and people of Newfoundland and declared the base officially designated Ernest Harmon Airport base Command (Wayne Ray, "US Military Bases in NFLD,").
Ernest Emery Harmon was born in Dallas, Texas, on February 8, 1893. His education consisted of attending Bethany College in West Virginia and George Washington University for a year afterwards. It was in 1917 when Capt. Harmon enlisted in the aviation section of the signal corps reserve, from there he was sent to Austin, Texas. After receiving flight training he became a second Lieutenant on April 5, 1918. He was then appointed as a second Lieutenant in the regular army on July 1, 1920. Following being stationed in several locations, Ernest Harmon earned a living as a test pilot for the United States Patent Office. He was chosen to fly the Martin Bomber in the "Round the Rim" flight of 1919. He won the Detroit News Trophy at the International Air Races when he flew the Huff Daland light bomber at an average speed of 119.19 miles per hour.
The death of this great aviation pioneer rocked the United States aviation world. While making a test flight from Maryland to Mitchel Field on August 27, 1933, Capt. Harmon lost his life when the aircraft ran out of fuel near Stamford, Connecticut. He attempted to parachute to safety, but he was too low for the chute to open.
Even though he has never been here, or most likely even heard about the small town of Stephenville, we still honor this great aviation pioneer every two years with Harmon Field Day.