After graduating from Farmington High School Harvey entered the University of Illinois in 1935 where he enrolled in ROTC. Upon graduation the twenty-one year old was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. In May, 1940 he entered the Regular Army and was assigned to an artillery battalion in California. In July, 1940 he was sent to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for four weeks of schooling and later was assigned to the 349th Regiment, a heavy artillery unit. Interestingly, Harvey said that A. Philip Randolph, the organizer of the railroad Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, persuaded President Roosevelt to make the 349th an all-black artillery regiment with white officers. In the segregated Regular Army of the time there were already two black infantry regiments and two black cavalry regiments. Many of the blacks in the 349th were from North Texas. They were drilled by black non-coms and trained by white officers. The regiment was eventually broken up and never did see action as a unit.
In November, 1941 Harvey left the 349th and returned home to Maquon. Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in December. The U.S. declared war on Japan, and Germany declared war on the U.S. In March, 1942 Harvey was ordered back to Ft. Sill for recruit training. While there he was promoted to captain. In April, 1943 he was assigned to the 915th Field Artillery Battalion of the 90th Division. In December his unit was transported to New Jersey and shipped to Liverpool, England.
D-Day has been called the greatest amphibious operation ever undertaken in the history of warfare. Its objectives were to defeat Germany and liberate Europe. Code-named Operation Overlord, it involved over 5,000 ships, thousands of smaller craft, and 200,000 Allied military personnel. Harvey's battalion was attached to the 4th Infantry Division which was to land on the Utah Beach sector of the Normandy coast. He was to assist the infantry by observing destroyer fire against the enemy.
He said he had been ''biggetted'' seven to ten days before the invasion. In other words, he was provided classified information on the ''big picture'' of what was to happen on a ''need to know'' basis. A major objective of the Utah operation was to cut off the Cotentine Peninsula and capture the port city of Cherbourg which would be used to receive men and materiel for the campaign into France and Germany. Serious tactical problems faced the Americans. Within two miles of the beach the Germans had flooded large parts of the terrain as a defensive measure. Further complicating things was the presence of the bocage country with its latticework of small hedged fields which could be effectively defended by the Germans.
To facilitate the operation 13,000 paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped behind the coast in the hours prior to the landing. Their objectives were to secure four causeways from the beach through the flooded fields, capture and secure bridges, and disrupt enemy communications. This effort was plagued by trying to drop at night with little or no navigational aids and the presence of ''Rommelsspargel'' or ''Rommel's Asparagus,'' which were poles one foot in diameter and six feet long driven into the ground to disrupt paratrooper and glider landings.
Harvey said he was loaded at Dartmouth on the southwest English coast onto an LST that departed on June 4 for the planned June 5 invasion but was recalled due to bad weather and rough seas. For 24 hours his vessel circled off the English coast awaiting orders. Forty minutes before the planned 0630 landing time of the first wave onto Utah Beach on June 6, he heard the thunderous noises and saw the flashes reflected off the clouds from the naval and air bombardment of the Normandy coast in his front. During my interview with him, he said he couldn't recall if he felt fearful as his LST began its journey across the English Channel. He was heartened by the powerful bombardment, and was confident that the invasion had been well planned and that he and his comrades had been well-trained for it, but he became nervous when he witnessed four seriously injured men from another craft, which had been damaged, board his LST. This, he decided, was serious business.
He couldn't see the first wave of infantry land on Utah Beach, and he had no idea of the fierce fighting taking place on Omaha Beach to the southeast. His jeep and crew, along with other vehicles, were transloaded onto a Rhino Ferry, a pontoon-like affair powered by two large outboard engines, for the final leg of the Channel crossing. His jeep off-loaded into a foot of water, drove up the beach, and went about half a mile inland where it joined the infantry. Harvey still felt confidence in the operation. Things seemed to be going as planned, but he did wonder how things were going on Omaha Beach. Could the two landings be coordinated and the objectives achieved?
Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned with the Utah landing. The first wave of troops to hit the Beach landed 2,000 yards from its assigned landing site due to the poor visibility caused from the smoke of the bombardment and the strong ocean currents. Much of D-Day is the story of plans that went awry, but, as the historian Stephen Ambrose has pointed out, many small groups of American fighting men regrouped and took the initiative in finding ways to achieve their objectives. Some familiar names of men who commanded in the Utah Beach sector were 4th Division Assistant Commander Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 101st Airborne Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor and 82nd Airborne Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway.
Despite problems at Utah Beach the landing there went much smoother than that at Omaha Beach where casualties were horrendous. The 4th Division which landed on Utah suffered fewer than 20 dead and 200 wounded. Harvey thought things went smoother at Utah, because it was not as heavily defended by fortifications and enemy troops as Omaha was. Despite misdrops and heavy casualties the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions did effective work inland from Utah Beach, and German resistance was disorganized.
On July 3 Harvey found himself sixteen to eighteen miles inland from Utah Beach. On that day American forces began a major offensive. In Harvey's sector the Germans responded with a mortar barrage in which he was seriously wounded. He was treated from August, 1944 to April, 1945 at Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg. He was awarded the Purple Heart.