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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Hal W. Vincent
Maj. Gen. Hal W. Vincent was born in Pontiac, Michigan on September 24, 1927. He graduated from Otsego High School in 1945 and attended Western Michigan College (now Western Michigan University) and Colgate University. In 1946 he entered the U.S. Naval Academy. Upon graduating with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1950, he was commissioned a Marine 2nd lieutenant and attended The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. Vincent then served as a rifle and machine gun platoon commander with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In 1952, he was assigned to flight training and was promoted to 1st lieutenant.
In April 1953, Vincent completed flight training, was designated a naval aviator and was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 214 in El Toro, California. He was then transferred overseas for duty with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Korea. He flew with Marine Fighter Squadron 115 and served as assistant operations officer of Marine Aircraft Group 13. In 1954, he was promoted to captain.
After Vincent returned to the U.S. in 1955, he underwent test pilot training and then served as a test pilot in the flight test division in Patuxent River, Maryland through 1958. He served for two years with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in El Toro as assistant operations officer of Marine Fighter Squadrons 334 and 451. During this time, he also attended the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
From 1960 to 1962, Vincent was assigned to China Lake, California as conventional weapons project officer and test pilot with Air Development Squadron 5. He was promoted to major in 1961 and reassigned to El Toro in 1962 as executive officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, the Marines' first F4 squadron. He deployed with the squadron to Atsugi, Japan in 1963.
In 1965, he was the aviation member of the Amphibious Warfare Presentation Team, which operated from Quantico. He assumed duties as assistant chief of the Aviation Branch at the Education Center in 1966. During the tour he was awarded a Certificate of Equivalency for completion of the Command and Staff College, and promoted to lieutenant colonel. From 1967 to 1968, Vincent was commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, Marine Aircraft Group-32, in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Vincent attended and completed the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C. in 1969. Afterwards, he served in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as executive officer of Marine Aircraft Group 13, based in Chu Lai. During the tour, he flew 242 combat missions in eight types of fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft.
He was promoted to colonel in August 1970, and the following month, was transferred to Hawaii, where he served as officer-in-charge of the Aviation Maintenance/Management Branch, G-4 (Logistics) Section, Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
From 1972 to 1973, Vincent served as commanding officer of Marine Combat Crew Readiness Training Group 10, in Yuma, Arizona. He returned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in July 1973, and assumed duty as chief of staff. He was advanced to brigadier general on February 27, 1976 and assigned duties as deputy chief of staff, Plans and Policy, Joint Exercises, commander in chief, Atlantic, in Norfolk, Virginia on June 29, 1976. In May 1978, he was advanced to major general and assigned duty as commanding general, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS, Cherry Point, in June 1978. He assumed duty as deputy commander, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia, in August 1980. Vincent served in this assignment until his retirement on May 1, 1981.
Vincent was the first Marine to fly Mach 2 and flew 242 combat missions in eight different aircraft over Vietnam. He earned a total of 18 combat awards-including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and Air Medals. He is the only pilot to have flight tested or flown every active duty jet fighter in each service (165 aircraft types flown through his retirement) and graduated from all three military services' fighter weapons schools. He received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2005 and has been listed in Who's Who in the World every year since 1980.
Hal W. Vincent was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on April 17, 2010.