Harry Combs "lived and breathed the Golden and Jet Ages of aviation" according to the governmental U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, in a 2003 press release. The release stated that Combs saw his first airplane at the age of four-and-a-half and also in his youth was influenced by the book "Diary of an Unknown Aviator"—a World War I chronicle by Elliot White Springs. Combs' father, Albert, was shot down twice in World War I, and was said to have warned his son never to set foot in an airplane. Nonetheless, the young Combs paid $2.50 for a ride in a mail plane at the age of 13; then, two years later, inspired by an advertisement for $99 flying lessons, made his way to St. Louis, MO for three hours of flight instruction, soloing immediately thereafter. He graduated from Yale University's Sheffield Scientific School in 1935 with a degree in applied economics.