Harlan James Bakke

16 December 1928 – March 7, 1984

Photo of Commander Harlan J. Bakke copied from page 486 of the 1951 edition of the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook 'Lucky Bag'.
UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

Harlan James Bakke was born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, on December 16, 1928, son of Edgar N. and Alice (Anderson) Bakke. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota (1946-1947), prior to entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on appointment from his native state in 1947. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 1, 1951, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Commander, to date from August 1, 1965. In the fall of 1970, he was selected for the rank of Captain.

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1951, he reported onboard USS Cushing (DD-797) and in June 1952 was detached for flight training. Designated Naval Aviator on July 3, 1953, he then joined Patrol Squadron THREE, operating from the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida to Iceland and Argentia. Transferred in October 1955 to Heavy Attack Squadron ONE, also based at Jacksonville and later onboard USS Forrestal.

He was an Instructor at the Jet Transitional Training Unit, Naval Air Station, Olathe, Kansas, from November 1957 to October 1959, then became an Instructor with Heavy Attack Squadron THREE, attached to the Naval Air Station, Sanford, Florida. He joined Heavy Attack Squadron ELEVEN (Sanford, Florida and USS Franklin D. Roosevelt) in October 1960 and in October 1961 transferred to Heavy Attack Squadron SEVEN (Sanford, Florida and USS Enterprise). He continued service with that squadron until October 1963, when he was assigned to Reconnaissance Attack Squadron, Florida.

Ordered to London, England, he had instruction (Exchange Pilot) at the Royal Air Force Staff College, from October 1965 to January 1967 and in March of that year reported as Executive Office of Reconnaissance Attack Squadron FIVE. He assumed command of that squadron in January 1968. In May 1969 he reported as Operations Officer of USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) and is entitled to the Ribbon for and facsimile of the Meritorious Unit Commendation awarded on that attack aircraft carrier for meritorious service while engaged in combat operations in Southeast and Northeast Asia during the period February 18 to September 7, 1969. He received 6 air medals and a Bronze Star.

In February 1970 he reported as Electronic Warfare Project Manager at the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, Washington, DC.

In 1952, he married Carol Marion Pinske of Gaylord, Minnesota and had three sons: Paul,  Phillip, and Peter.

In addition to the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, Captain Bakke has the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe Clasp; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea) and the Vietnam Service Medal. He also has the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

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Joe Biden is a Mensch. We need a Mensch for President.

This is a story from the “I Know Joe Biden” email series.

Please, take the time to read below and get to know Joe Biden. And once you’re done reading, can you chip in to send him back to the White House to represent us? Chip in to elect Joe Biden here »


The story I’m about to share with you about Joe Biden is special — in fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.

It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan — a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together — a minyan — to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home — somewhere intimate.

In this case, the deceased individual — her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory — had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.

We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.

At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Senator Biden — what are you doing here?”

And he said to me: “Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.

Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch.

And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.

I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.

Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision they’ll make this year — this is the kind of story that matters.

Joe Biden is a mensch. We need a mensch.

Thanks for reading.

— Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware