Retired June 1, 1975. Died Oct. 10, 1986.
Lieutenant General Ernest C. Hardin Jr., is deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Readiness Command with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The USREDCOM, one of seven unified commands in the United States armed forces, exercises control of assigned continental United States-based general purpose Army and Air Force forces and maintains them in readiness to reinforce other unified commands. To assure that its assigned forces are combat-ready, USREDCOM has the collateral responsibility to conduct joint training through joint training exercises.
General Hardin was born in 1916, in Wheatcroft, Ky. He graduated from Henry Clay High School, Lexington, Ky., and attended the University of Kentucky for two years where he took a prelaw course. He graduated from Jefferson School of Law, University of Louisville, with a bachelor of laws degree in 1942 and received a juris doctorate from the University of Louisville in 1969. He is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in December 1941 as an aviation cadet and entered flying training school in March 1942. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant with an aeronautical rating as pilot in March 1943. During World War II, he served with the 92d Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations from 1943 to the end of the war. He flew B-17 bombers on 46 combat missions with a total of 250 flying hours and served as an aircraft commander, lead crew; assistant operations officer; and squadron commander. As director of operations, he moved the group to Marseilles, France, retrofitted the B-17 aircraft to troop carrier configuration, and began the project of returning high-point servicemen home from the European Theater of Operations. He returned to the United States in October 1945 and was relieved from active duty.
General Hardin accepted a regular commission in June 1946, returned to active duty and was assigned to the Civil Liaison Office, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He attended the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., 1949-1950. In June 1950 he was assigned as deputy chief, legislative liaison, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
In June 1953 he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command as director of operations for the 6th Air Division at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In May 1954 he was sent to Okinawa to serve as deputy commander of the 307th Bombardment Wing and in December 1954 went with the wing to Lincoln, Neb. In August 1956 he was assigned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., as chief of the Plans Division and in June 1958 became deputy chief of plans.
In November 1958 General Hardin was assigned as deputy commander, Sixteenth Air Force, SAC, at Torrejon Air Base, Spain. He was transferred in October 1960 to Washington, D.C., where he assumed the responsibilities of chief of Atomic Operations Division, J-3 (Operations), Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in May 1961 became chief of the Operations Plans Division. During this period he participated in the development of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Single Integrated Operations Plan, a new concept of joint operations for nuclear war.
In June 1963 he became military assistant to the Secretary of Defense. He was assigned to Tactical Air Command in August 1964 as commander, 838th Air Division at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. He became deputy commander, Ninth Air Force, at Fort Bragg, N.C., in November 1964, and during that tour of duty he was parachute jump qualified by the 82d Airborne Division. He assumed command of the 839th Air Division at Sewart Air Force Base, Tenn., in April 1965. He was assigned to Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va., in August 1966, as deputy chief of staff for plans and in June 1967 became deputy chief of staff for operations.
General Hardin was assigned as deputy chief of staff, operations, Pacific Air Forces, Hawaii, in August 1968. He went to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in April 1970, as deputy chief of staff, operations, for Seventh Air Force, and became vice commander in June 1970. In Vietnam most of his combat flying was in the RF-4C reconnaissance version of the Phantom II fighter. He returned to PACAF in September 1971 as chief of staff. In March 1972 he became commander of the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center, Norton Air Force Base, Calif.
In December 1973 General Hardin was assigned as deputy commander in chief, U.S. Readiness Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem with oak leaf cluster, French Croix de Guerre, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, National Order of Vietnam (Fifth Class), and Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order.
General Hardin's hometown is Smyrna, Tenn.