Harry S. Freedman, 53, fighter pilot in Vietnam War

January 21, 1996|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Harry S. Freedman, 53, formerly of Pimlico, a decorated Vietnam War fighter pilot who later flew for Eastern Airlines, died Friday of a massive heart attack at his home in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Mr. Freedman was born in Baltimore and was a 1959 graduate of City College.

As a member of the 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Screaming Eagles, Mr. Freedman flew scores of missions in F-100 Supersabres over South Vietnam and across the border into Laos in 1966 and 1967 in support of American and South Vietnamese ground troops and bombing Viet Cong and North Vietnamese bases.

From tension or the intense concentration required of a fighter pilot, Mr. Freedman developed the unconscious habit of whistling softly to himself as he rolled over into 500 mph drives to bomb or strafe enemy positions.

On one mission in 1967, Mr. Freedman and another pilot saved a squad of South Vietnamese soldiers who had stumbled on a 100-man Viet Cong base and were about to be overwhelmed.

When the airstrike was called in from their base at Phan Rang, in central South Vietnam, Mr. Freedman said, "We found a hole in the weather and rolled right in along the deck, 100 to 200 feet."

The Viet Cong fled, shooting at the planes, which were bombing and strafing. "We dropped napalm and strafed until the weather closed in," he said.

Flight observers estimated at least 30 Viet Cong dead, and Mr. Freedman said, "It sure made you feel good to bail those ARVN troops out. They didn't have a snowball's chance."

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 26 Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Vietnam Service Medal.

Mr. Freedman was obsessed with flying since childhood, family members recalled. While other youngsters were playing sports, he was building airplane models and studying aviation, his sister, Karen Gerber, said.

After graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1963 with a degree in aeronautical engineering and a commission as second lieutenant in the Air Force, he went into flight training, completed pilot and gunnery schools, and was assigned to the 612th in Misawa, Japan, in February 1966.

The squadron went into combat in South Vietnam on July 4, 1966.

Mr. Freedman left the Air Force in 1969 and became a pilot for Eastern Airlines, based in Atlanta. Illness forced him to retire in 1981. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, then worked for Trecom, a computer company in Atlanta.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home, 6010 Reisterstown Road. Burial will be in Anshe Emunah Aitz Chaim Congregation Cemetery, in the 3900 block of Washington Blvd.

In addition to his sister, Mr. Freedman is survived by his wife, the former Sharon Carr of Baltimore, whom he married in 1969; a son, Lee Freedman of Stone Mountain; a daughter, Erin Nicole of Stone Mountain; his parents, Sidney and Athalie Freedman of Randallstown; two nephews; and a niece.

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