Herbert Harvey was given the name Jack when he went into the Navy at the age of 17. After Jack’s cousin was killed in WWII, he and four of his friends decided the Navy was to be their new home.
After basic training, where learning to swim was all he felt he learned, Jack spent much of his time in Okinawa and Guam. After the end of WWII, Jack went into the Korean War on board the USS Princeton serving as a laundryman until battles took place and he was transformed into a gunner on deck. Many times suicide bombers would hit his plane with surprisingly few casualties, although a shell exploded close to Jack leaving him shaken and slightly injured.
While at sea, Jack lost a crewman who was cast overboard in high waters; his body never found. To ease the tension of his fellow crewmen, Jack formed a band aboard ship and played in the hospital at Yokosuka Naval Base to injured servicemen. These were the “boys” who had lost limbs or sight and suffered fatigue due to the cruelty of war.
The USS Princeton was hit 39 times by suicide planes after the end of the war in Okinawa and Jack recalls seeing their young faces up close before they exploded. It is still hard for him to understand why they kept attacking after peace was proclaimed. Because of the things that he saw in 10 years of service, he is a true believer that his mother’s prayers were all that brought him back home. Asked what his greatest achievement was and a quick response is the time spent entertaining the “boys,” not the shooting.
Jack and his wife, Mary Ann, have been married 38 years and live in Independence. Jack enjoys retirement playing music with his band and Mary Ann works at Centerpoint Hospital. Jack’s military history can be viewed in the Veterans’ Hall in the Independence Parks and Recreation Truman Memorial Building at 416 W. Maple.
This is part of a weekly feature on local veterans submitted by Helen Matson, volunteer program director for the city of Independence . Reach her at 816-325-7860.