Tuskegee airman from Colorado, aged 100, looks back on his groundbreaking career

At the age of 100, Colonel James Harvey III of Lakewood, Colorado, is pausing to contemplate the events that shaped his path towards his ultimate calling – aviation.

Harvey reminisced about his birthplace, Montclair, New Jersey, as he shared, “I entered this world on July 13, 1923.” He fondly recalled his childhood spent in either southeastern or northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically in a town known as Nuangola Station.

According to Harvey, his family was the sole family of color in the town.

Harvey expressed his satisfaction with the treatment he received, stating, “It was a wonderful experience. I was treated with respect and dignity, without any derogatory remarks or insults.”

As he grew up, he found himself uncertain about his future career path. However, one day, a sign appeared in the sky, giving him a clear direction.

“I glanced upward after hearing a commotion, and my eyes were met with a formation of fighter P-40s soaring through the sky,” Harvey recollected. “In that moment, I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘I want to experience that one day.'” He made an attempt to join the Army Air Corps, but was met with rejection. “The Army Air Corps turned me away, stating that General Arnold did not believe people of color belonged in his predominantly white Air Force.”

Harvey chose to join the United States Army and pursued a career as a pilot.

“I was just 17 when I had to attend flying school, and the only option available to us was Tuskegee, Alabama,” Harvey reminisced.

During his visit to Alabama, Harvey encountered a new and unsettling experience: discrimination.

Harvey recounted how his experience of racial discrimination began even before the infamous Tuskegee incident. It all started when he disembarked from the train upon reaching Washington, DC. To kill time, Harvey decided to grab some breakfast before returning to board the car. However, his plans were abruptly disrupted by a conductor who insisted that he gather his belongings and join the car designated for African Americans. This unwelcoming encounter marked Harvey’s introduction to the racial divide prevalent in the Southern United States.

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When Harvey arrived in Tuskegee, he encountered even more discrimination.

Harvey and the future Tuskegee Airmen wasted no time getting to work, despite the obstacles they faced.

“We were all excited to take to the skies. Flying was our main topic of conversation,” Harvey expressed. “It was a completely new experience for me, being in an open cockpit aircraft. The noise was overwhelming, and unfortunately, it has had a lasting impact on my hearing.”

Harvey and his fellow pilots went on to make history as the pioneers of the first Black pilots in the United States Armed Forces. However, their journey didn’t end with boot camp. In fact, they spent decades tirelessly working to prove themselves and overcome the challenges that came their way.

“We were fully aware that we surpassed the perceptions that others had about us. We were just ordinary individuals, no different from anyone else. However, they failed to recognize our true potential and instead labeled us as mere fools,” Harvey expressed.

In 1949, the Tuskegee Airmen emerged as the champions of the Air Force’s first-ever Top Gun team competition. However, it would take more than seven decades for their triumph to be officially acknowledged and celebrated in the public eye, finally happening in 2022.

Harvey expressed disbelief as he recounted, “They were unwilling to accept the fact that we had emerged victorious.”

During World War II, Harvey did not engage in combat, but he did serve in the Korean War. While Harvey was carrying out missions in Korea, his wife and daughters resided in Japan.

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“I managed to complete a staggering 126 missions in just 89 days,” Harvey revealed.

According to Harvey, pilots would eventually only need to fly 100 missions, long after he had surpassed that milestone.

In the 1960s, Harvey decided to retire from his service and found himself making his way to Colorado. Eventually, he settled down in the peaceful town of Lakewood.

“I’ve always wanted to visit this place…the weather and the scenery are just unbeatable,” Harvey exclaimed.

When considering the Tuskegee Airmen, Harvey associates them with the concept of “excellence.”

“We were the best. We were the best,” Harvey exclaimed.

And as Harvey reflects on the hardships they faced in order to become the best, he offers this valuable advice to the generations to come.

According to Harvey, his motto has always been to treat others with the same respect that you would want to be treated with. He believes that if you follow this principle, life will be truly great for you. Additionally, he advises not to tolerate any mistreatment or nonsense from others.

100-year-old Colorado man reflects on barrier-breaking career as a Tuskegee airman

In a remarkable journey spanning a century, a 100-year-old man from Colorado looks back at his trailblazing career as a Tuskegee airman. This extraordinary individual, who has witnessed a multitude of historical events and transformations, now takes us through his experiences as a member of the renowned African American squadron during World War II.

As we delve into his captivating narrative, we are transported back in time to an era marked by racial segregation and discrimination. The Tuskegee airmen, a group of courageous African American pilots, navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and support staff, shattered barriers and defied societal norms to fight for their country.

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Through the eyes of this centenarian, we gain insight into the challenges and triumphs faced by these trailblazers. He vividly recounts the rigorous training, the camaraderie amongst the airmen, and the immense pressure to succeed in a predominantly white military establishment.

Despite the adversity and prejudice they encountered, these brave individuals persevered and excelled. Their dedication and exceptional skills ultimately earned them the respect and recognition they deserved. Their achievements not only contributed to the war effort but also paved the way for desegregation in the armed forces and inspired future generations of African American aviators.

As our conversation with this remarkable centenarian comes to a close, we are left in awe of his resilience, bravery, and unwavering determination. His legacy as a Tuskegee airman serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reminding us of the power of breaking down barriers and fighting for equality.

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