Colonel Duane S. "Pappy" Larson

Colonel Larson in a cockpit
Occupation: 
Military
US USA

Colonel Duane S. "Pappy" Larson, Army Air Corp, NDANG (October 27, 1916 – September 20, 2005) was an American World War II fighter pilot veteran and the 178th Fighter Interceptor Squadron Commander of the North Dakota Air National Guard in the 1950s. He is considered the “original” Happy Hooligan which was the moniker of 178th. The Happy Hooligans was a crack Air National Guard unit that went on to win the United States Air Force’s William Tell competition in 1992 and won the Hughes Trophy in 1995.

Pappy Duane Larson was born in Regent, North Dakota and graduated from Regent High School. Duane joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941. Originally he was assigned a truck driver position. After passing the suitability test he entered the Army Air Corps pilot program and did his flight training in Selma, Alabama and P51 training at Rice, California.

As a P5l Mustang fighter pilot and Flight Commander Duane flew 68 combat missions in the European Theater during WW II with the 8th Air Force. Flying out of England, he escorted B-17 bombers to Berlin, providing cover against German fighters. His personal moniker was “Swede” during World War II and he earned six Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Between 1947 and 1950, Duane helped introduced aerial spraying to North Dakota, ran a local airport in Mott, North Dakota and barnstormed local events, county fairs and air shows.

In 1951, Duane joined the North Dakota Air National Guard and served as the 178th Fighter Interceptor Squadron Commander. He flew the B-25, C-45, C47, T-6, F-5 1, T-33, F-94 and F-89 for the North Dakota Air National Guard and was the squadron commander during the Cuban missile crisis when the 178th was activated to regular duty. Duane was the first Air National Guard pilot to score a direct air to air hit on a drone.

There was a cartoon during the 1950s called "Pappy Easter and his Happy Hooligans" and the 178th Fighter Squadron began calling themselves the “Happy Hooligans” and Larson, as their commander, became “Pappy”. It became Pappy Larson and his Happy Hooligans and this nickname has been adopted by the entire unit and still exists.