Harris B. (Ben) Cargill, retired USAF Colonel, passed away peacefully at the age of 93 on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, in Vacaville. He is survived by his loving wife, Josephine; and his two children, Stephen and wife Mary and Judith McGinty and her husband John.
Ben was born in Hibbing, Minn., on July 26, 1920, and raised in Mound, Minn. After graduating from high school in 1938 joined the Civilian Conservation Corps working on projects in the forests of northern Minnesota which were administered by the U.S. Army Reserve. This led him to enlist in the Army in August 1940 in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minn. His aptitude for radio electronics qualified him for training in the Army Air Corp Technical School where he learned avionics. He was then assigned to Patterson Field in Ohio as a Control Tower Operator. A year later he was recommended for Cadet Flight Officer training. He graduated from Flight Training school and was assigned to combat operations with the 416th USAF Night Fighter Squadron in England where he flew the Bristol Beaufighter, a long-range, heavy fighter designated for air defense and interception of enemy fighters.
During his assignment in WWII, he flew in England, North Africa, Sicily, Corsica and Italy, and was the first allied pilot to fly into Italy following its surrender in 1944. Ben’s friendship with his radio officer, (Lt. Col.) Freddie Kight, would last his entire life. After the war, Ben was stationed in Bakersfield, where he was set up on a blind date with a lovely young woman named Jo. Within six weeks they were married, the start of a wonderful life of almost 70 years together. Ben then entered the reserves and moved to Indio where he worked as airplane fabricator and car salesman until he was recalled to active duty in 1950 at the outbreak of the Korean War.
He was assigned to the “Fightin’ Fourth” All-Weather squadron in Okinawa where he flew the F-82 and the F-94 jet fighter. He remained with the Air Force for 28 years, retiring in 1971 as Colonel with 31 years of service. His career included duty as a flight instructor at Hammer Field; a special duty assignment to Yale University in New Haven, Conn.; detachment commander with the OSI stationed in Taiwan; on staff at Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley, Va.; staff assignment at the Pentagon; and finally serving as director of Asian Operations for the DIA at Fort Meade, Md. After retiring from the Air Force, Ben worked as the redevelopment officer for the city of Hampton, Va., where he helped restore inner city neighborhoods for the next 10 years.
In 2001, he moved to Fairfield to be near his children. Ben was a beloved husband, father, grandparent of seven (Kathryn, John, Kelly, Claire, Reagan, Perri, and Wes), great-grandparent to eight (Chloe, Damien, Logan, Winter, Rayna, Sophia, Star, and Lorelei) as well as doting owner of his beloved Buster. Ben was also a graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park, MD., and was fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He enjoyed golf, boating, cars, bridge, classical and jazz music, an incredible sense of humor, email correspondence with friends, and building and restoring just about anything.
Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, at the McCune Garden Chapel, 448-6546 with interment to follow at 11:30 a.m. Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, 5810 Midway Road, Dixon.