Cecil Harris was born on December 2, 1916, in Faulkton, South Dakota. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on March 26, 1941, for Elimination Training, and began Naval Aviation Cadet Training on June 16, 1941. Harris was commissioned an Ensign and designated a Naval Aviator at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, on March 12, 1942, and then completed Advanced Carrier Training at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, in April 1942. His first assignment was as an F4F Wildcat pilot with VGF-27 at NAS Fentress Field, Virginia, then aboard the escort aircraft carrier USS Suwannee (CVE-27), and finally while it was redesignated VF-27 operating from Guadalcanal from April 1942 to June 1943. During this time, he participated in Operation Torch in North Africa in November and December 1942, and later in combat at Guadalcanal from January to April 1943, during which time he was credited with the destruction of 2 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. After returning to the U.S., LT Harris served with VC-18 from July 1943 until it was redesignated VF-36 in October 1943, and then with VF-36 until it was redesignated VF-18 in July 1944. He deployed to the Pacific as an F6F Hellcat pilot with VF-18 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) in August 1944, and was credited with another 22 enemy aircraft destroyed in aerial combat, 1 probable, and 2 damaged, before returning to the U.S. in December 1944. He remained with VF-18 until leaving active duty and joining the U.S. Naval Reserve on October 13, 1945, serving at NAS Minneapolis, Minnesota. LCDR Harris was recalled to active duty on October 12, 1951, and then attended refresher pilot training at NAS Memphis, Tennessee, from October to November 1951, followed by service as an admin officer with the Air Warfare Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon from December 1951 to July 1954. His next assignment was as a maintenance officer at NAS Minneapolis from August 1954 to June 1957, and then as a flight training officer and operations officer at NAS Los Alamitos, California, from July 1957 to June 1962. CAPT Harris' final assignment was in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon as Head of the Aviation Periodicals and History Office from June 1962 until his retirement from the Navy on July 1, 1967. Cecil Harris died on December 2, 1981, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism as a Fighter Pilot in Fighting Squadron EIGHTEEN, attached to the U.S.S. INTREPID, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Luzon, Philippine Islands, October 29, 1944. Quick to intercept two successive flights of Japanese fighter planes preparing to attack our bomber and torpedo squadrons as they completed a strike on Clark Field, Lieutenant Harris boldly led his division in a swift assault on the enemy planes. Skillfully and daringly maneuvering among the hostile formations, he shot down one enemy plane from each flight and put the others to rout. Quick to intercept a superior force of enemy fighters descending in waves in furious attempts to wipe out our fighter protection, he dauntlessly engaged in the fierce dog fight with ensued. Successively knocking down to enemy planes chasing two of our Hellcats whose pilots were unaware of their imminent peril, he effectively averted the certain destruction of these friendly planes and assisted essentially in the utter defeat of the entire enemy formation without the loss of any of our planes from enemy action. By his courageous initiative, superb airmanship and fearless devotion to the fulfillment of a hazardous mission, Lieutenant Harris contributed materially to the success of our operations in this strategic area, and his great personal valor in the face of grave peril upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.