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Lt. Col. Howard Brown Arnold, Jr. passed away peacefully in Plano, Texas, on 29 October, 2012.
Born in 1924 into a farming family in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, he was the oldest of three sons of Howard B., Sr. and Cornelia Haynie Arnold. He graduated from Arkadelphia High School in 1942 where he was a member of the National Honor Society, President of his senior class, and co-captain of the school football team. He received a football scholarship and entered Ouachita Baptist College in the fall of 1942. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was called to active duty in February of 1943. He trained at Sheppard Field, Texas and received flight training at Bonham and Greenville, Texas, during which time he became known as "Hap."
Hap received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and reported there in July 1944. He graduated from West Point in 1947 with a BS in Military Science and Engineering. He would later earn a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University. After graduating from West Point, Hap was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas where he was backup quarterback for the 1947 Randolph Field Ramblers. On December 19, 1947, Hap married Jane Butler of Midland, Texas. In 1948, Hap graduated with the first jet class flying the new P-80. He later transferred to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina where he trained on the P-51 and then to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina where he flew F-84s.
Hap was posted to combat duty with the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Korea in the Spring of 1951 where he flew P-51 Mustangs. During his five-month tour of duty, he successfully completed 101 missions -- sometimes flying as many as five missions a day. He experienced battle damage 19 times, one crash on take-off, and being shot down once by ground fire, bailing out and being rescued by a SA-16. For his service in Korea, Hap was awarded the Korean Service Medal w/2 Bronze Service Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and a Purple Heart. He received many additional awards and decorations throughout his long military career.
Returning to the U.S., Hap was assigned to the 2nd FIS at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and flew F-94s in defense of the continental U.S. from possible attack by nuclear-armed Soviet bombers.
Hap's next posting was again overseas, but this time in a more peaceful role. He was assigned as an Air Force Exchange Pilot to the Royal Air Force at RAF Odiham, in Hampshire, UK. In June 1953, the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was marked by a ceremonial fly-past over Buckingham Palace. It was led by the Gloster Meteor VIIIs based at Odiham. Hap was selected to join the flight, which then comprised 143 British pilots, 24 Canadians - and one American!
Again returning to the U.S., Hap served on the USAF Staff at West Point for four years, helping recruit and process the 25% of senior cadets annually joining the Air Force at that time. During these years, he flew C-47s and other aircraft from nearby Stewart Air Force Base on Army and Air Force administrative runs, including ferrying U.S. aircraft to Europe and other venues. After receiving a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M in 1960, Hap was posted to Lincoln, Nebraska as Chief of Facilities Engineering on the construction of the Atlas "F" ballistic missile sites. He subsequently served as Site Engineer at King Salmon, Alaska for one year and then for four years as Department Head, Civil Engineering Center, Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. During those years, in 1965 and 1966, Hap served as Officer in Charge of light-construction troops in the Republic of Vietnam. Lt. Col. Arnold retired in 1967 and went on to work for a construction firm in Atlanta, Georgia and later for Pacific Architects & Engineers in Vietnam and in Athens, Greece. He later returned to Arkansas where he ran the family tree farm business along with his brothers Bill and Gordon.
In 1971, Hap married Norma ("Pete") Sims White with whom he served as Co-Chairman of the Clark County 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. Active in the Clark County Historical Association, he served as Vice President upon its founding, later Executive Secretary and researcher, writer, and editor of its Journal. He and Pete were instrumental in the publication of the extensive written history of the county entitled "Clark County, Arkansas, Past and Present" and wrote a number of articles for the Journal. They also, along with Wendy Bradley Richter, were Editors of "We Were There -- Clark Countians in World War II."
Toward the end of his civilian career, Hap and Pete moved to the Towers in San Antonio adjacent to Fort Sam Houston and near Randolph and Lackland Air Force Bases where he could enjoy the company of fellow military retirees. Pete passed away in 2011. In his final months, Hap moved to Plano, Texas, where his family could be near him. Though frail, he retained to the end a remarkable recall of his heroic wartime and other colorful Air Force experiences - all recounted with his customary modesty and mischievous sense of humor. He never thought he would live be 87 and, in his last years, he often said he was looking forward to flying again although he might have a little trouble with those new wings.
Lt. Col. Arnold is survived by four children: Gordon Arnold (and his wife Gail) of Irving, Texas; Andrea Arnold of Dallas, Texas; Hank Arnold (and his wife Nancy) of Port Aransas, Texas and Katie Spriggs (and her husband Michael) of Contes, France. He leaves behind two grandchildren; Aaron Arnold of Seattle Washington and John Hatteberg of Houston, Texas. Hap is also survived by Pete's son and daughter-in-law, Robert W. and Cherri R. White of Bebe, Arkansas.
Lt. Col. Arnold's family would like to express its sincerest gratitude to all of his caregivers, especially Michael Ndukwe, who helped, with kindness and compassion, to make his last few months comfortable and peaceful.
A private family service will be held at Fort Sam Houston Columbarium, with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Fisher House at Fort Sam Houston c/o Fisher House Foundation, Inc., 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850-5168 or http://www.fisherhouse.org/.
To send family condolences and sign the online register book visit http://www.ariacremation.com/obituaries.asp.
Published in Express-News on Nov. 4, 2012