Princess Cruises Honors “Top Gun” Airman with Birthday Bash

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Princess Cruises honored a surviving Tuskegee Airman aboard the Discovery Princess in Seattle as the war hero set sail to Alaska for his 100th birthday celebration.

Paying Homage to a “Top Gun” Tuskegee Airman

Princess Cruises paid tribute to Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey III, a surviving Tuskegee Airman, on May 21, 2023, aboard the 145,000-ton Discovery Princess in Seattle. 

Discovery Princess was manufactured by the Italian shipbuilding firm Fincantieri and was launched in March 2021. 

As Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III got ready to embark on his 100th birthday voyage to Alaska, the cruise line chose to honor this esteemed war hero with an early commemoration of his extraordinary centenary of honor and achievement.

The McChord Field Honor Guard warmly received Lt. Col. Harvey and his family aboard the Discovery Princess. The welcoming ceremony featured a traditional USAF (United States Air Force) color presentation.

Princess Cruises Airman
Princess Cruises Airman (Photo Courtesy: Princess Cruises)

The ship’s crew then presented their special birthday guest with a very patriotic-looking cake. The ship’s staff also joined in, helping commemorate Lt. Col. Harvey’s impressive centennial landmark.

“It’s our sincere honor to celebrate the 100th birthday of Lieutenant Colonel Harvey III, a trailblazer, hero, and real ‘Top Gun,’” Princess Cruises president John Padgett remarked.

“His life and legacy should remind everyone about 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!” Padgett added, offering his congratulations.

Harvey, a pioneering Tuskegee Airman, made significant contributions to overcoming racial barriers in the military. His exemplary service as part of this distinguished group of African American pilots during World War II remains unparalleled.

The Tuskegee Airman

The Tuskegee Airmen were famed African American pilots, support staff, and instructors who served in the US Army Air Corps during WWII. 

These flyers and ground crew helped knock down long-standing racial barriers, becoming the first black military aviators in the US military. Despite facing tons of racism, they displayed exceptional skill and bravery in intense aerial dogfights. 

The Tuskegee Airmen excelled in a variety of combat missions, like escorting bombers, as well. They garnered a stellar reputation. Their many achievements assisted the Civil Rights Movement and pushed the US Armed Forces toward desegregation.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy also inspired future generations, showing people how courage and dedication can be used to tackle adversity.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey III

Retired Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey III was born on July 13, 1923, in Montclair, New Jersey. He served as a fighter pilot with the renowned Tuskegee Airmen’s 99th Squadron, known as the “Red Tails.” 

Harvey, one of the 1,007 trained pilots in World War II, also became the first African American USAF jet fighter combat pilot during the Korean War, completing 140 missions from 1949 to 1950.

Discovery Princess
Discovery Princess

Adding to his list of impressive firsts and honors, Lieutenant Harvey emerged victorious in the inaugural USAF “Top Gun” competition in 1949. He was, literally, the original “Maverick.” Sorry, Tom Cruise.

While leading his team in the competition, Harvey proved his flying prowess in an intense ten-day event that involved aerial gunnery, dive bombing, skip bombing, rocket firing, and panel strafing at altitudes of 20,000 and 12,000 feet.

In 2006, Harvey and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen were honored with the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

During his birthday journey aboard the Discovery Princess, Harvey will engage with fellow guests via scheduled onboard discussions, sharing insights from his illustrious military service, peppered with stories stemming from his remarkable life experiences. 

The Discovery Princess is presently slated for weeklong roundtrip cruises departing from Seattle to Alaska every Sunday, continuing through September.

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