The Grand Marshal for the 2019 Graeagle Independence Day parade on Sunday, July 7, has been chosen: local Jackson “Jack” L. Harris.
Harris was born in Los Angeles on June 14, 1920, and grew up in the L.A. area. On May 15, 1940, Jack enlisted in the U.S. Navy and went to boot camp at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.
After basic training, Harris attended Aviation Ordnance Class A School in San Diego. He was then assigned to VP-14 (a PBY patrol squadron) out of NAS North Island San Diego. The squadron was transferred to NAS Kanehoe Bay, Hawaii, in April of 1941.
On Sept. 29, 1941, Jack married his high school sweetheart, Gladys Lorene McClanahan, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Both were in Hawaii on that “Infamous Day in History” — December 7, 1941 — when Japanese Naval forces staged a surprise attack on U.S. forces on Oahu.
Harris had the duty that fateful day, helping load ordnance and a bombsight on a VP-14 PBY. That patrol plane dropped the first ordnance in America’s involvement of the Second World War on a Japanese mini submarine trying to sneak into Pearl Harbor.
Harris would later be assigned to a four-month Norden Bombsight Class C School in San Diego before returning to Kaneohe as a part of the Fleet Air Service Squadron. He was then transferred to VBP-117, as a B-24 gunner, bombardier and later crew chief.
VBP-117 was then deployed to the Pacific, operating out of Tinian Island and then the islands of Leyte and Mindoro in the Philippines. VBP-117 operated in a combat zone for nine months and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the number of aircraft shot down and ships sunk.
After World War II, Harris stayed in the Navy, retiring in 1964 as a full lieutenant. Post WWII duty assignments included the USS Tarawa (CVA-40), home-ported in Boston; the USS Pine Island (AV-12), home-ported in San Diego; the staff of Commander of Naval Air Forces Pacific in San Diego; MCAF Iwakuni, Japan; and NAS Alameda.
Harris’s involvement in Graeagle began in 1973 when he and Lorene bought a lot on Navajo Trail. In 1984, they moved from Whittier and built their dream house on the same lot where Jack still resides. His beloved wife passed away Nov. 8, 1998, after a brief fight with cancer.
Harris has been a Graeagle community giver since he and Lorene moved to Graeagle. Since 1984, he has been active with the Graeagle Community Church, serving in various positions that include chairman of the board and Sunday School superintendent, to chief chair mover and coffee mess officer.
Until 2018, he had been an active member of the Graeagle Golf Club, playing his last round of golf in 2018. Harris acted as the Graeagle VFW chaplain until they disbanded a few years ago. Harris was also an active member of the Graeagle Fire Protection District for about five years in the 1990s helping with radio dispatch.
Jack Harris Sr. said he’s honored to be named the Grand Marshal for this year’s Fourth of July parade. He would be the first to acknowledge that he has been blessed by the Graeagle community and would not want to live anywhere else.