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Julian Harvey and The B-24 (Part 2)
By Nancy E. Sheppard

For part 1, see page 1 of Yorktown Crier | Poquoson Post, 5/3/2018!

JH24 imageThe B-24 war veteran, "Ellie Mae,” roared to life and took to the sky on the morning of September 20, 1944. Her pilot, Major Julian Harvey, and his co-pilot, Col. Carl Greene, wore football style helmets as they took "Ellie Mae” on her final journey towards the James River.

People crowded into Huntington Park to catch a glimpse of the bright yellow plane. In boats surrounding the ditching site, were sailors and soldiers, with cameras and rescue equipment at the ready. In "Ellie Mae’s” cockpit, Harvey’s visibility was obscured as he decreased altitude towards the water. Around noon, he skirted the shoreline, throttling the engines back to 100 mph. Landing gear retracted, flaps down, and "Ellie Mae’s” nose pointed at an upward angle, she crashed tail-first into the James River. She traveled another 435 feet, ripping off various parts losing structural integrity in the forward section of her fuselage.

When what was left of "Ellie Mae” came to a halt, not a sound was heard from all who anxiously watched for her pilots. Then the escape hatch popped open and out they climbed. Harvey ripped off his helmet, and seemingly unscathed, retrieved a comb from his pocket and ran it through his hair. He flashed a grin to the crowd and a cheer erupted. Though the men put on a brave face for cameras, Col. Greene later described the ditching as a violent jolt.

No one could have predicted the violent tempest inside Julian Harvey after that day. He seemed to change overnight from a charismatic hero to a man with a dark, explosive temper. Those close to Harvey described him as always agitated and short-tempered. In 1949, he was traveling with his wife, Joan, and his mother-in-law along the Choctawatchee Bay in Florida when he claimed to have suddenly lost control of his vehicle and it fell straight into the water. He managed to escape but his wife and mother-in-law did not.

During the Korean War, Harvey flew 114 fighter missions. In 1955, his sailboat collided with a sunken vessel in the Chesapeake Bay, nearly claiming the lives of all five passengers. He was awarded an insurance settlement for the loss of the boat. Three years later, he received a medical discharge from the military. That same year, his fifth wife filed for divorce, citing her husband’s "secret anger.” Harvey’s life was falling apart… He had difficulties holding down a job and was swimming insurmountable debt. Off the coast of Florida, his new sailboat sank and he collected another insurance settlement. Tragedy seemed to follow Julian Harvey.

In July 1961, he married a young stewardess named Mary Dene. She was a beautiful young woman swept up in Harvey’s charm. The pair were hired by Florida businessman, Harold Pegg, to crew his yacht for tourists. That November, they were scheduled to take the Duperrault family of Wisconsin for a once in a lifetime journey out to sea. But what happened next was a story not for the faint of heart.

To find out what happened, read the final chapter in next week’s Yorktown Crier | Poquoson Post!


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