Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. was recently nominated to the post of commander of U.S. Forces in the Pacific. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Harris, who has served as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet since October of 2013, would succeed Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the current head of PACOM. PACOM has responsibility for most of Asia, an area Harris knows well.
Adm. Harris is the highest-ranking Asian American in U.S. naval history and was the first to attain the rank of four-star admiral. He born in Yokosuka, Japan, and grew up in Tennessee and Florida.
Adm. Harris graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He also specialized in East Asian affairs during his graduate studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Oxford University.
He is a seasoned aviator with 4,400 flight hours, including more than 400 combat hours, and he was twice awarded the Bronze Star.
As a vice admiral (prior to his elevation to four-star admiral and head of the Pacific Fleet), Harris often served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s military liaison on diplomatic missions.
In June, Adm. Harris was the keynote speaker for the 100th Infantry Battalion’s 72nd anniversary banquet. He spoke of his parents: His American father was assigned to the USS Lexington, which sailed out of Pearl Harbor just before Japan’s attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and then served in Japan, where he met the future admiral’s mother, a Japanese woman from Köbe, whose family lost everything in air raids over their home.
“Once settled in America, she adapted with grace and became an American citizen in 1974. She told me that her proudest accomplishments were jury duty and voting. I learned much from my mother. She taught me to be proud of my ethnic heritage,” said Adm. Harris. “She taught me the twin concepts of giri (obligation) and gimu (duty).
“So, when I turned 18, the decision to serve was easy. The Navy offered the same allure for me that it did for my father — service, adventure, education, good pay, and I jumped at it. Another one of those constants, the Navy still offers these things, and I’m still in.
“I joined at the height of the Cold War and saw its end. I served at the beginning of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and I’m around to see their ends. And now, I get to see our rebalance to the Pacific.
“The United States is a Pacific nation. America’s fate is inextricably linked with this region, and Hawai‘i is uniquely positioned to be what I call ‘the Gateway to America’s Rebalance to the Pacific,’” Harris said.