Henry A. (Hank) Potter was born in Pierre, South Dakota on September 22, 1918. After college in Yankton, S.D. and while at the University of Oregon, he happened to see a recruiting team come to campus with various aircraft and that is when Hank knew he wanted to be in the Army Air Force. He entered the Aviation Cadet program in July of 1940 and graduated as a Navigator on April 1941 to join the 17th Bomb Group at McChord Army Airfield, Washington and later Pendleton, Oregon flying the new B-25. Early in 1942, the Group was transferred to Columbia, S.C where some members, including Hank, volunteered for a Top Secret mission under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Doolittle to bomb Japan.
Following intensive training at Eglin Army Airfield in Florida, the volunteers flew their B-25s to California where 16 of their aircraft were loaded onto the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Hank and his fellow crewmembers had been assigned Jimmy Doolittle as their pilot when their regular pilot ended up in the hospital. Hank points out that he was not lead navigator since each aircraft proceeded to the target individually, but he was the navigator of the first airplane off the carrier. When asked how apprehensive the crews were, especially since they had to launch early when spotted by the Japanese, he says the crews had ultimate confidence that Jimmy Doolittle would bring them through. This was because he was an aviation superstar of the day and had demonstrated his great leadership capabilities during mission training. On April 18th, 1942 (four months after Pearl Harbor), the Doolittle Raiders made history with the first air raid on Japan. All sixteen aircraft were lost on the raid because they were short of fuel from the early launch and could not make it to the safe Chinese bases where they were to land. But most crews managed crash land or bailout and avoided capture to return home.
Hank returned to the states, rejoined the bomb group and went to N. Africa to complete a tour in the Martin B-26 Marauder. After his combat tour he returned stateside and trained B-17, B-24, and B-29 crews. The remainder of his career (until retirement) was spent in various commands in the U.S. and Europe. Hank was very active in the CENTEX Wing and spent much time at the San Marcos hangar. Hank was honored at the Gathering of Memories Airshow in San Marcos, TX on September 25 & 26, 1999.
After a brief illness, Hank Potter passed away in San Marcos, Texas on May 27th, 2002. Members of his family and his friends paid a final tribute to him with the traditional Missing Man formation at his services, and attended the dedication of the Henry A. Potter wing of the Central Texas Wing Museum in the San Marcos Commemorative Air Force Hangar.