One of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen was welcomed onboard Discovery Princess by Princess Cruises this week in Seattle as he arrived for his celebratory voyage to Alaska, marking an early celebration of his 100th birthday. Retired United States Army Air Corps and Air Force officer Lt. Col. James H. Harvey III broke down racial barriers in the military as a member of a group of African-American pilots who distinguished themselves with distinction in World War II.
The McChord Field Honor Guard honored Harvey by welcoming him and his family aboard Discovery Princess with the customary USAF presentation of presenting colors. Harvey received a birthday cake from the Discovery Princess crew to cap off the celebrations, and the entire crew of the ship joined in to wish him a happy birthday.
“It’s our sincere honor to celebrate the 100th birthday of Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III, a trailblazer, hero, and real ‘Top Gun,’” said John Padgett, Princess Cruises president. “His life and legacy should remind everyone of the power of courage, determination, resilience and the American spirit. From all of us at Princess Cruises, we salute Lt. Col. Harvey and wish him a very happy 100th birthday!”
Harvey, one of the 1,007 confirmed pilots trained for aerial combat during World War II, was born in Montclair, N.J., on July 13, 1923. Harvey served as a fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group’s 99th Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, or “Red Tails.” He flew 140 sorties between 1949 and 1950 and is well remembered for being the first African American USAF jet fighter combat pilot to serve in the Korean War. In 2006, Harvey and every other Tuskegee Airmen member got the Congressional Gold Medal.
Additionally, Harvey and his squad took first place in the USAF’s inaugural “Top Gun” competition in 1949 after a tough 10-day contest that included aerial gunnery at altitudes of 20,000 and 12,000 feet, dive bombing, skip bombing, rocket shooting, and panel strafing.
After serving in the United States Army Air Corps and the United States Air Force for a total of 22 years (1943–1965), Harvey retired, joined Oscar Mayer as a corporate salesperson, and relocated his family of four girls to Denver, where he now resides.
As part of a scheduled onboard discussion, Harvey will offer insights from his illustrious career and amazing life experiences with other passengers during the cruise. From now through September, the Discovery Princess will be making weekly, roundtrip voyages from Seattle to Alaska.
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