Brigadier General Harry C. “Heinie” Aderholt commanded the 56th Air Commando Wing, Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand. His composite wing of legacy propeller aircraft included the AT-28, A-1E, A-26, UC-123B, U-6A, and U-10, as well as combat controllers. Flying at extremely low altitudes at night, his small wing was responsible for 70 percent of all interdicted communist vehicles in their assigned sector. In addition, his wing developed mobile training teams and civic actions programs which were highly effective in both Thailand and Laos at securing support for U.S. and host nation counterinsurgency operations. Aderholt was born in Birmingham, AL, in 1920. He entered active duty through the aviation cadet program in 1942, graduating from pilot training with a U.S. Army Air Corps commission in 1943. During World War II, from 1943 to 1945, Aderholt served in North Africa and Italy as a B-17 and C-47 pilot.
In 1945, he was assigned as a staff pilot with Army Air Forces Flying Training Command, Maxwell AFB, AL. He commanded ‘Squadron F’, a 500-man segregated African-American unit, largely used for menial work at the Air University. Aderholt worked tirelessly to improve their conditions by integrating Maxwell’s sports teams and sending his men to the Maxwell AFB USO Club incessantly until they were accepted. Aderholt regards this command as the most rewarding of his career. During the Korean War, from 1950 to 1951, he commanded a Special Air Warfare Detachment of the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron, inserting Central Intelligence Agency and North Korean double-agents as far north as the Yalu River. Aderholt served two tours in the CIA, planning the air component of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, and commanding a C-118 and C-130 detachment inserting Tibetan anticommunist guerrillas.
Aderholt went on to serve on the 18th Air Force staff and later, U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Reassigned to Okinawa in 1960, he commanded the 1095th Operational Evaluation Training Group, pioneering the Laos airfield complex known as “Lima sites” which were used for special warfare operations and as Jolly Green helicopter forward staging bases. In 1962, he served as special advisor, USAF Special Air Warfare Center at Eglin AFB, FL. Reassigned to Hurlburt Field, FL, he commanded the famed 1st Air Commando Wing. Aderholt was then assigned as deputy commander, operations at Clark AB, the Philippines, joining U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, conceiving and activating the Joint Personnel Recovery Center-Saigon. In 1966, he activated the 56th Air Commando Wing at Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand.
This wing, which he commanded until 1967, was so successful in low-level night interdiction missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail that the enemy greatly increased anti-aircraft defenses and committed substantial assets to keep the trail open. In 1968, he returned to the redesignated USAF Special Operations Force at Eglin. In 1970, General Aderholt returned to Bangkok, Thailand as chief, Air Force Advisory Group. He retired in 1972, but was recalled a year later to command U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand, and as chief, Joint United States Military Advisory Group. He retired in 1976 with over 9,000 military flying hours and approximately 5,000 hours with the CIA. In 2001, the Air Force Special Operations Command enlisted force awarded him the Order of the Sword to recognize his leadership. He lives near Hurlburt Field, Florida, with his wife, Anne.