Creating a Sense of Community Throughout The Appalachian Highlands


Herb Ladley is an exceptional American who has done extraordinary things from serving in the Navy in three wars and earning three Distinguished Flying Crosses, to working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leading a Joint Command Element responsible for alternate strategic communications for the President and senior officers in case of attack on the capital, and giving of his time and experience to local groups here in the Tri-Cities. A member of the “Greatest Generation,” Herb has set a standard throughout his 100 years to which we all should aspire.

Herb grew up in Seattle, Washington, and briefly attended Whitman College where he met his future wife, Amy Jane Reichert. He transferred to and in 1940 graduated from the University of Washington, having earned a BA in Economics. He then entered Naval Flight Training School in Jacksonville, Florida, receiving his wings and officer’s commission in 1942. His original assignments were flying PBYs (flying boats), serving as a naval flight instructor, and flying the F4F Wildcat. In 1943, he was assigned to a fighter squadron flying the F6F Hellcat. The squadron trained for deployment to the Pacific, and it was during a training flight in a Navy SNJ training aircraft that an engine fire forced Herb and his training pilot to bail out.

In 1943, Herb deployed with the squadron to the Pacific aboard the USS Langley. During this combat deployment and a subsequent deployment aboard the USS Cabot, Herb flew approximately 100 combat missions attacking Japanese forces in, among other places, Iwo Jima and the Philippines. It was also during this deployment that Herb crash-landed his aircraft on the deck of the Langley. He ended up in the ocean, was picked up by a destroyer, transferred back to the Langley, and immediately sent back up.

The Langley returned to the U.S. in 1944, and while in the States, Herb and Amy were married in a church in Yuma, Arizona. Those present included the minister and two ladies in the church who served as witnesses.

The squadron reformed in 1945 and deployed again, this time aboard the USS Cabot. During this deployment Herb flew missions over Wake Island, North Korea and Manchuria. At the end of the war, the Cabot transferred to Okinawa, and Herb realized it would be a long time before he could get back to the States and Amy. As Herb tells it, “For a bottle of whiskey, some bluffing, the help of a friend and accommodations by the Navy,” he got home in a few weeks rather than many months.
Herb was released from active duty in 1945, returned to the University of Washington, studied finance and accounting, passed his CPA exam, and went to work in an accounting firm in Seattle. He was still in the Naval Reserves, though. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and commanded a reserve squadron of F6F Hellcats. He and Amy had their first child, Jane, in 1946, but Amy soon realized that something was missing–Herb missed the Navy and flying.

In 1947, Herb returned to active duty, flying F6Fs aboard the carrier USS Antietam and cruising the western Pacific. At the conclusion of this tour, Herb was sent to Washington and assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, gathering and analyzing information of Soviet air facilities. He then went to Newport, Rhode Island to attend the Navy Line School. This assignment, however, was cut short by the outbreak of the Korean War. Herb was reassigned to a Tactical Air Control Squadron in San Diego. Amy, pregnant with their second child, settled the family in Los Angeles.

During the Korean War, the mission of the Tactical Air Control Squadron was to control carrier-based aircraft providing close air support to for ground troops. The squadron deployed aboard the USS Eldorado and steamed in the Yellow Sea and the Pacific around the Korean Peninsula, and eventually to the port of Inchon to provide even closer support for the ground forces. Their second child, Amy, was born while Herb was still in the Korean War zone.

Following the war, Herb went to the Navy Line School in Monterey, California. Their third child, Herb, was born there. Another school followed when the Navy sent Herb to George Washington University to get his MBA in Comptrollership. Then, it was time to get back to flying, and Herb was sent to jet pilot training in Kingsville, Texas.

In 1954, Herb was given command of an F9F-5 (Panther) jet squadron. During training for a subsequent deployment the squadron earned the highest fixed gunnery score in the fleet. He later served as Air Officer aboard the carrier USS Kearsarge and as the Comptroller of the Naval Air Station in San Diego.

Herb found himself back in Korea in 1958, serving as Comptroller of the Headquarters of the United Nations/US Forces Command, Korea. He later established the Comptroller office for the Naval Air Station in Glynco, Georgia, and was then assigned to the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. It was during this assignment in the early 1960s that Herb was Officer in Charge of the 60-member Alternate Joint Command Element, responsible for alternate strategic communications for the President in the event of an attack on the capital.

After attending the Naval War College, Herb was assigned as Deputy Comptroller of the Defense Intelligence Agency, his final Navy assignment. After 27 years of service, Herb retired from the Navy as a Captain, having received the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, seven Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal with “V” and numerous other awards and decorations. It should also be noted that Herb is a member of the Order of the Quiet Birdmen and regularly attends meetings of the “Tri-Cities Hanger” of the organization. Founded after WWI, this organization of distinguished aviators has included such airmen as Charles Lindberg, Eddie Rickenbacker, Hap Arnold and Chuck Yeager.

After receiving his Doctorate of Business Administration from George Washington University in 1970, he went on to teach accounting at the University of the District of Columbia, became chairman of the department and was the financial advisor to the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.

Herb was active on the Veterans Memorial Board, overseeing and raising funds for the veterans memorial in Kingsport. His family were major contributors. He and his son sponsored the Sentinel statue recently erected at the Veterans Memorial. Herb also provides annual cash awards to Naval Junior ROTC cadets at several local high schools and is a member of the Mountain Empire Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America.

Herb and Amy were married for 71 years, have three children, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Amy passed away in 2016.

Herb Ladley recently celebrated his 100th birthday. His life exemplifies the “Greatest Generation.” He remains a vital member of our community and continues to set the example for all of us.

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