"I hope you're here to golf!" is sprawled across the welcome mat at the home of Bill "Jake" Harsen. He greets you with a warm, crooked smile and you know he means it when he says, “glad to meet you." You consider taking up golf because you don't want to disappoint this tall, sturdy man whom you instinctively trust, immediately like, and want to know more about.
Harsen enlisted in the Marines December 18, 1942, and served until December 21, 1945, three years and three days. Harsen hoped to become a pilot but was sent instead to munitions school, five in all. He became a highly trained expert in bombs, fuses, rockets, and machine-guns needed for air bombers.
Comprised of 500 men and 15 medium bombers, Harsen's squadron was formed at MCAS Cherry Point in 1943. They retrofitted 15 B25s with new engines, new rocket launchers, added additional machine guns and new paint, transforming the bombers from discarded Army Air Corps machines to highly capable Marine Bombers. The squadron began their battles in the Philippines and flew air support for two of General McArthur’s army infantry divisions. To Harsen's surprise, he not only had the skills to arm planes, he had leadership skills. As a five Striper Technical Sergeant, he led 45 men through WWII and three major battles. Harsen was about to be promoted to Master Sargent but before he was promoted, the war ended which, he said, “I was glad of." By the end of the war, he'd lost one-third of his squadron, his commanding officer, and his best friend.
After the war, Harsen used the GI Bill to obtain his BA at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. Besides making his education possible, the Marine Corps taught him leadership and confidence. "Discipline, duty, responsibility, and faithfulness. No matter what I did later in life, I always tried to apply those principles as my guidelines,” Harsen proudly remarks. After a successful career in Public Health Administration, Harsen retired to New Bern with his wife, Joy, in 1988. He built three homes in Fairfield Harbour, volunteered in many ways including the position of President of the POA.