Chet Harker was born on February 6, 1919, in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. He graduated from Trenton State Teachers College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education in June 1940, and then worked as a teacher until enlisting in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on January 17, 1942. He was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Napier Field, Alabama, on November 10, 1942, and then completed P-47 Thunderbolt training in March 1943. His next assignment was with the 21st Fighter Squadron at Republic Field from March to May 1943, and then the 21st FS was redesignated the 486th Fighter Squadron and transferred to Westover Field, Massachusetts, as part of the 352nd Fighter Group. Lt Harker deployed with the unit to England in July 1943 and then flew 109 combat missions in the P-47 and later the P-51 Mustang during 2 tours from July 1943 to April 1945. During this time he destroyed 1.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 2 probables in the air, 3 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields, and 3 damaged on the ground. Capt Harker next served as air inspector for the 70th Fighter Wing in Germany from August 1945 to July 1946, followed by service as assistant air inspector with Air Defense Command at Mitchel Field, New York, from July 1946 to July 1949. He attended Atomic Energy Training at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, and Kirkland AFB, New Mexico, from July to December 1949, and then served as chief of special weapons for the 22nd Bomb Wing at March AFB, California, from December 1949 to December 1950. He served on the staff of Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from December 1950 to June 1951, and then on the staff of the 47th Bomb Wing and the 4430th Air Base Wing at Langley from June 1951 to January 1953. Maj Harker attended Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from January to July 1953, and then deployed to Korea, where he served with Headquarters Far East Air Forces, Headquarters Japan Air Defense Force, and Headquarters 5th Air Force from September 1953 to March 1956. Col Harker served as a B-47 Stratojet pilot with the 447th Bomb Squadron at Pinecastle AFB, Florida, from March 1956 to June 1958, followed by service as executive officer and then commander of the 446th Bomb Squadron at McCoy AFB, Florida, from June 1958 to July 1959. His final assignment was on the staff of Headquarters 8th Air Force at Westover AFB, Massachusetts, where he served from July 1959 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1963.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement in aerial flight over enemy occupied Continental Europe. The skillful and zealous manner in which these Officers have sought out the enemy and engaged him, their devotion to duty and courage under all conditions serve as an inspiration to their fellow flyers. Their actions on all these occasions reflect the highest credit upon themselves and the Armed Forces of the United States.