Let the celebrations begin!
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey III is a retired United States Army Air Corps and Air Force officer (USAF) with a combined 22 years of service under his belt, Black Enterprise reports.
Born in Montclair, New Jersey on July 13, 1923, Harvey is one of the last surviving members of the esteemed 332nd Fighter Groups 99th Squadron, known as the Tuskegee Airmen. A former fighter pilot with the “Red Tails,” Harvey served as one of 1,007 all-Black pilots who served in aerial combat during World War II. He made history as the first Black USAF jet fighter combat pilot to serve in the Korean War, flew 140 missions between 1949 to 1950, and received a Congressional Gold Medal alongside his fellow Tuskegee Airmen in 2006.
Harvey also was the very first winner of the USAF’s “Top Gun” competition in 1949, leading a 10-day event alongside his team that combined aerial gunnery, dive bombing, skip bombing, rocketing firing and panel strafing. He was also featured in the Robin Roberts documentary, Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage, honoring the contributions of the pilots. After retirement, he served as a corporate salesman for Oscar Mayer, settling with his four daughters in Denver to this day.
Today, Harvey continues to reflect on his accomplishments as he prepares for his upcoming centennial celebration. In honor of what will be his 100th birthday, Harvey was recently celebrated with a cruise, boarding the Discovery Princess Cruises in Seattle, headed for Alaska.
“It’s our sincere honor to celebrate the 100th birthday of Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III, a trailblazer, hero, and real “Top Gun.” 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!,” said Princess Cruises president John Padgett.
The Tuskegee veteran was welcomed aboard the ship alongside his family by the McChord Field Honor Guard who displayed a traditional USAF presentation of colors. The cruise crew also presented Lt. Col. Harvey with a birthday cake while hundreds aboard the vessel joined in chorus for special happy birthday wishes. While traveling from Seattle to Alaska, Harvey will speak in front of the ship’s guests, telling stories and giving insights into his incredible life and service as a part of their scheduled events.
Happy Blessed Birthday Lt. Col. Harvey! Thank you for your service.
Cover photo: Tuskegee Airman celebrated with Alaskan cruise in honor of upcoming 100th birthday/Photo Courtesy of Princess PR Communications