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Uncle Harvey’s Eulogy

Today was my uncle Harvey’s memorial service and I wanted to reprint part of my cousin’s verbal chronology of Harvey’s life here:

“MILITARY SERVICE Now of draft age, Harvey gets drafted into the army in 1944, but while en route to Europe on the Queen Mary in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the war ends. So, instead of reinforcing the 442nd in Italy, Harvey ends up with the Allied occupation forces in Berlin, Germany – escorting the remains of recovered American soldiers to Frankfurt for return to their families in the United States. He is discharged from the army, and returns to the family, still situated in Chicago, and takes advantage of his GI Bill benefits to attend college – earning a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

He tries but can’t find work in Chicago, and when the family moves to L.A., it’s the same story – no work available that would take advantage of his college education. While in L.A., he sees a poster at a Navy recruiting office – looking for pilots. He meets the requirements (a college degree and passing a physical), and starts training for his pilots’ wings in June, 1950 – the start of the Korean war. He earns his Naval Aviator wings in December, 1951. Harvey said that “…by tradition, most cadets had either their parents or their girlfriend pin their wings on them – but my folks were too far away, and there were no girl friends around either.” (…hear that, Kazy?)

So, Harvey had the honor of having Rear Admiral Hughes himself pin his aviator wings on his uniform. Harvey winds up flying over 72 combat missions in Korea, while based on the USS Princeton. He tells a harrowing story of how, after a bombing run, on his way back to the carrier, an electrical malfunction causes a small fire inside the pressurized cockpit of his jet – and fills it with smoke so thick he couldn’t   even see his instruments. He was flying at 25,000 feet at the time.

Thinking fast, he opens the cockpit just a crack to try and clear the smoke – which it does, but it’s then that he sees nothing but blue water in front of him: He was heading straight down, now at only 8,000 feet! Not wanting to eject while heading straight down, he pulled back on the control stick to bring the jet horizontal before ejecting. Once he did that, he decided he’d try and make it back to the carrier…that’s when he discovered that the cockpit fire had knocked out his communication system.

He caught up with his squadron leader, and used hand signals to communicate the problem. His leader radioed ahead to the carrier and they prepared the deck for an emergency landing. Harvey was able to bring the craft in safely – and when he told his officers what happened…they told him he was crazy…! They said if the same thing had happened to them – they would have ditched the plane the minute they noticed smoke in the cockpit!

There’s another tale of Harvey “dropping a bomb on himself” during a miscommunication during a mission. He laughs, “…The Navy doesn’t have a medal for that.” Harvey winds up making a total of 118 carrier landings – becoming the only Nisei to wear the Navy’s Tailhook Centurion patch – reserved only for those pilots making 100 or more aircraft carrier landings.”

My uncle was a very quiet man, but held an immense amount of strength and fortitude.  I will miss you dearly Uncle.

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