Harry Pannill was born on January 30, 1936, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Virginia Tech on June 7, 1959, and went on active duty beginning July 17, 1959. Lt Pannill next completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Laredo AFB, Texas, in September 1960, followed by KC-97 Stratotanker transition training from September to December 1960. His first assignment was as a KC-97 pilot with the 407th Air Refueling Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, from January to July 1961, and then with the 321st Air Refueling Squadron at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, from July 1961 to March 1963. Capt Pannill next served as a KC-97 pilot with the 100th Air Refueling Squadron at Pease AFB, New Hampshire, from March 1963 to December 1965, followed by C-130 Hercules transition training from December 1965 to February 1966. He served as an MC-130E Combat Talon I pilot with the 778th and then the 779th Troop Carrier Squadrons at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from February to September 1966, and then as an MC-130E pilot with Detachment 1 of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing at Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam, from September 1966 to August 1967. Maj Pannill next served as an MC-130E pilot, instructor pilot, and flight examiner with the 318th Special Operations Squadron at Pope AFB from April 1968 to August 1973, and during this time he served as Pilot of the MC-130E "Cherry Two" during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. After attending training at the Defense Intelligence Agency School in Washington, D.C., LtCol Pannill served as an Intelligence Officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency from July 1974 to December 1977, followed by service as Air Force Intelligence Liaison Officer to the National Military Intelligence Center with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., from December 1977 to October 1980. His final assignment was as Chief of the Joint Special Operations Command Liaison Office in the Pentagon from October 1980 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1986. Harry Pannill died on March 9, 2005.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Major Harry L. Pannill distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States during the Prisoner of War search and rescue operation at Son Tay, North Vietnam, on 21 November 1970. On that date, Major Pannill voluntarily participated as a Pilot in a combat flight which safely led the rescue forces deep into enemy territory despite the hazards of darkness, low altitude, adverse weather conditions, and intense enemy antiaircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles. As a result of Major Pannill's heroic efforts, the force arrived at Son Tay without incident, which was essential to the success of the operation. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Major Pannill has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.