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Princess Cruises honors Tuskegee Airman with special 100th birthday celebration

The American flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

On May 21, Princess Cruises welcomed one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen onboard Discovery Princess in Seattle to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Retired United States Army Air Corps and Air Force officer (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey III was greeted with a patriotic salute and USAF traditional display of presenting colors by the McChord Field Honor Guard as he boarded the ship. There was even cake and a rousing rendition of happy birthday.

John Padgett, Princess Cruises president, opened up about how much of a “sincere honor” it was for his crew to celebrate the man he considered 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,” Padgett remarked. “From all of us at Princess Cruises, we salute Lt. Col. Harvey and wish him a very happy 100th birthday!”

Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III’s legacy includes shattering racial barriers in the military as part of a group of African American pilots who served their country with legendary distinction during World War II.

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, on July 13, 1923, Harvey is a former fighter pilot with the renowned 332nd Fighter Group 99th Squadron, best known as the Tuskegee Airmen, “Red Tails.” The esteemed pilot was one of 1,007 documented pilots trained for aerial combat during World War II. Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III holds the honor of being the first African American USAF jet fighter combat pilot to fight in the Korean War and flew 140 missions from 1949 to 1950.

The skilled airman went on to win the USAF’s inaugural “Top Gun” competition in 1949, when he and his team led a grueling 10-day event consisting of aerial gunnery at 20,000 and 12,000 feet, dive bombing, skip bombing, rocketing firing and panel strafing. Harvey and every member of the illustrious Tuskegee Airmen were honored for heroic feats during the war with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.

After dedicating a combined 22 years of service to the United States Army Air Corps and the United States Air Force, Harvey retired in 1965. He joined Oscar Mayer as a corporate salesman and settled his family of four girls in Denver, where he still resides.

During the special voyage, Harvey captivated the crew and other guests with insight from his storied service and remarkable life experiences.

Discovery Princess is part of Princess Cruises, one of the world’s most iconic cruise brands. Princess Cruises delivers dream vacations to millions of guests every year in the most sought-after destinations on the largest vessels that offer elite service personalization and simplicity customary of small, yacht-class ships. The luxurious liners create unforgettable memories in destinations worldwide, including the Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera, Europe, South America, Australia/New Zealand, the South Pacific, Hawaii, Asia, Canada/New England, and Antarctica.

The Discovery Princess is currently sailing on weeklong, roundtrip cruises from Seattle to Alaska, departing every Sunday through September.


© 2023 The Sacramento Bee

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