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Brookville Native, Vietnam War Hero Jim Harding Served as Honorary Captain at Penn State Football Game Saturday
(Pictured: Jim Harding, a Brookville native and Vietnam War Hero, at Beaver Stadium on Saturday where he served as the Honorary Captain for Penn State’s game with Rutgers. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
Harding, who played football for the Nittany Lions, graduated from Penn State in 1956. He then served in the United States Air Force until retiring as a colonel in 1979.
During his time in the Air Force, Harding fought in the Vietnam War flying 596 combat missions according to VeteranDefenders.com, including 139 North Vietnam missions. He is one of the most decorated servicemen in U.S. Air Force history. Among Harding’s numerous honors are four purple hearts, three Silver Stars, the Bronze Star, the Air Force Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
A 2016 story on Harding in the York Daily Record described a time in 1972 when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam with three foxholes of enemy soldiers below. The story tells of how Harding killed the first North Vietnamese soldier with his .38 pistol and then the rest of the enemy combatants with the dead man’s AK-47 rifle.
The story also talks of Harding’s upbringing on a dairy farm in Brookville, one of five siblings, and how Penn State head coach and a young assistant coach by the name of Joe Paterno, visited him at his house to convince him to continue playing football at Brookville.
“My mother almost fainted,” Harding told the York Daily Record in the 2016 interview. “She wanted to make a good impression.”
See the full YDR story here.
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