World War II vet who trained at Saint Vincent College had to jump from plane over enemy territory
Bernard J. Harrington, a co-pilot on a World War II B-24 Liberator heavy bomber who flew 35 combat missions over Germany, Italy, the Balkans, picked a good spot to land when he and his crew had to bail out their airplane.
Mr. Harrington was on his 19th mission when his plane was shot down, forcing him and the rest of the crew out over German-occupied Yugoslavia.
Luckily for Mr. Harrington, he landed where supporters of Yugoslav Marshal Josip Broz Tito, who was aligned with the Allies, found him, said his daughter, Beth Woo of Ebensburg.
A British officer working with the supporters told him that had he run in another direction from where his parachute landed, he would have been met a German patrol. Mr. Harrington eventually made his way to a British-held island, where he rejoined the Americans and continued flying combat missions, Woo said.
Mr. Harrington, 96, formerly of Jeannette, died Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, at Amber Hills Care Center, Ebensburg.
He was born in New York City, son of the late Michael and Margaret Harrington, who were Irish immigrants from County Cork.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Harrington was pursing his love of aviation at Mitchell Field, New York, when the United States was plunged into war on Dec. 7, 1941. He immediately joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned to cadet training at Saint Vincent College near Latrobe. The residents of Latrobe welcomed the Army Air Corps cadets with a parade all the way to the college, Woo said.
It was while at Saint Vincent College, across Route 30 from Latrobe Airport where flight training was offered to cadets, that he met a young Greensburg woman, Jane E. Daerr, in the Tea Room, Woo said. The Tea Room, despite its name, was an upscale establishment serving adult beverages.
They remained a couple while he was stationed at various air fields, Woo said. While on leave, he came back to Greensburg and proposed. She got on a Pennsylvania Railroad train in Greensburg and went to Kansas City, where they were wed on Aug. 22, 1944. He took off for Europe, and she returned to Greensburg to her parents’ Washington Street home and her job at Troutman’s department store, Woo said. The couple remained together until her death in March 2018.
By being forced to parachute out of his plane, Mr. Harrington became an honorary member of the “caterpillar” club – using the silk parachute — and the “winged-boot” club, for successfully evading capture, Woo said.
Following the war, Mr. Harrington continued flying, a passion he had since he was a youngster building model planes, Woo said. He flew for All American Airways, a predecessor to Allegheny Airlines and US Airways. He also worked as a pilot for the former Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp.
When he retired in the 1980s, he and his wife joined the Family Motorcoach Club of Jeannette, traveling up and down the East Coast.
Mr. Harrington was a member of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.
In addition to his wife, he was also preceded in death by two brothers.
He also is survived by another daughter, Linda Bick of Port Charlotte, Fla.; four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a niece.
Family and friends were received in the Clement L. Pantalone Funeral Home Inc., Greensburg. A funeral Mass will celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, in the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. Everyone please go directly to the church.
Inurnment with military honors will follow in St. Clair Cemetery, Greensburg. Memorial contributions in memory of Mr. Harrington can be made to “America’s VetDogs”, 371 E. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, NY 11787, www.vetdogs.org., or a veteran’s charity of one’s choice.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .