Retired June 30, 1954. Died Dec. 7, 1982.
Robert Wells Harper was born in Seattle, Wash., in 1900. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry June 12, 1924.
His first assignment was with the Seventh Infantry at Vancouver Barracks, Wash. In September 1925, he entered the Air Corps Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, and the following March transferred to the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field Texas, from which he graduated in September 1926.
He was then assigned to Fort Crockett, Texas, for duty with the Third Attack Group. He returned to Brooks Field in June 1927, as assistant operations officer of the Air Corps Primary Flying School and two years later was appointed secretary of the school. In May 1928, he transferred from the Infantry to the Air Corps.
General Harper went to Nichols Field, Philippine Islands, in December 1930, for duty with the Fourth Composite Group, and in July 1931 was transferred to the Third Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field there.
Returning to the United States in December 1932, he was assigned as personnel adjutant at Chanute Field, Ill., where he became post adjutant in July 1934. In August 1936 he entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., and upon graduation in June 1937, went to Edgewood Arsenals, Md., where he attended the Chemical Warfare School until August 1937. He then entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., from which he graduated in June 1938. His next assignment was at the U.S. Military Academy, where he served as tactical officer.
In July 1942, he was assigned to Air Force headquarters at Washington, for duty in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Operations. A month later he became assistant chief of air staff for operations, and in March 1943, was designated assistant chief of air staff for training at Air Force headquarters.
He went overseas in September 1944, to represent the Air Force in the organization established for the administration of Germany. He was appointed director of the Air Control Council Group on Nov. 1, 1944, and a month later became chief of the Air Division of the Group Control Council in Germany. In October 1946, he was appointed director of the Armed Forces Division in the Office of Military Government in Germany.
Returning to the United States in May 1947, he was assigned to the War Department in Washington and the following month transferred to Air Force headquarters. On July 1, 1947 he became commanding general of Air Transport Command with headquarters at Gravelly Point, Va. He was appointed commanding general of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., the following May.
On Oct. 15, 1948, he assumed command of Air Training Command, with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. He retained that position when Air Training Command headquarters was moved to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in November 1949.
General Harper has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster. He is rated a command pilot, combat observer, aircraft observer and technical observer.