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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Donald P. Harvey, USN (Ret.)

Oct. 13, 2022 | By Retired Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, director Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Donald Phillips “Don” Harvey, U.S. Navy (Retired), on 25 September 2022 at age 98. Don Harvey enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in March 1943 and served as a naval intelligence officer until his retirement in September 1978 as the Director of Naval Intelligence/Commander Naval Intelligence Command. Key intelligence officer assignments included N2 for Commander, Naval Forces Japan; N2 for Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet; officer-in-charge, Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NOFIO), deputy commander, Naval Intelligence Command, and chief of staff of the Defense Intelligence Agency. 

Don Harvey attended Wayne (Nebraska) College and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in Lincoln, Nebraska, early in World War II. On 24 March 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve’s V-12 program, studying at Doane College, Nebraska. He reported for active duty on 1 July 1943. While there, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and was honorably discharged on 15 June 1944. He reported the next day as a midshipman at the Naval Academy with the class of 1948 (technically, 1948-A which would be the last wartime accelerated class).  He graduated with a bachelor of science in naval science and was commissioned an ensign on 6 July 1947. 

Ensign Harvey reported to Gearing-class destroyer Hawkins (DD-873) while it was deployed to the Far East, arriving in time to participate in the ship’s substantial contribution to the successful rescue of all 2,000 passengers of the steamship Hong Kheng, which had run aground and caught fire near Hong Kong in July 1947. Hawkins returned to its homeport of San Diego in October 1947. In the fall of 1948, the destroyer returned again to the Far East, operating from Tsingtao, China, as Communist Chinese forces closed in on the port near the end of the Chinese Civil War. Hawkins departed Tsingtao in December 1948, commencing a circumnavigation of the globe via Ceylon, Turkey, Gibraltar, New York City, and the Panama Canal. The ship returned to San Diego, California, before promptly shifting its homeport to Newport, Rhode Island. 

Promoted to lieutenant (j.g.) in June 1950, Harvey reported the same month to the Naval Intelligence School at Anacostia, Maryland, as a student. At the time, this counted as post-graduate education, and Harvey earned a sub-specialty in intelligence (exactly when he converted to a “1630” restricted line naval intelligence officer is not clear from his record). While there, he also received Persian language instruction. Upon graduation, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, DC, in an intelligence officer billet. He was promoted to lieutenant in July 1953.  

 In December 1955, Lieutenant Harvey reported to the staff of Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet. He was embarked afloat, operating from Formosa and Japan while serving in a billet “in connection with operational intelligence.” Promoted to lieutenant commander in February 1958, he reported the same month to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP-0922),  where he was one of three officers handpicked by Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Arleigh Burke to serve as a CNO intelligence briefer. The other two officers were future four-star Bobby Inman and future U.S. senator Richard Lugar. This was generally reported as the beginning of what became known as CNO Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP).   

In September 1959, Lieutenant Commander Harvey was assigned as a student to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit at Tufts University. While there, he earned a master of arts degree in political science (specializing in Middle East studies) and a second master of arts degree in law and diplomacy, graduating in 1961. In November 1961, Lieutenant Commander Harvey reported as an intelligence officer on the staff of Commander, Middle East Force, which at that time generally consisted of a seaplane tender and two destroyers rotating in the Persian Gulf and leasing pier space from the British at Juffair, Bahrain. He was promoted to commander in July 1962.

In May 1963, Commander Harvey reported as operational intelligence officer to Headquarters, U.S. European Command, then located in Paris, where he was awarded a Joint Service Commendation Medal (rare at the time).  In June 1965, Commander Harvey returned to the Office of the CNO, serving as the deputy head, Naval Warfare Branch and senior Navy representative to the National Indications Center.

In June 1967, Commander Harvey was assigned to the Naval Intelligence Command headquarters as head, Field Operations Coordination Division, and earned a Navy Commendation Medal for providing intelligence of “immediate importance to naval forces operating in Southeast Asia.”  Promoted to captain in September 1967, he headed up the Navy damage assessment of intelligence compromised by the North Korean capture of the intelligence collection ship Pueblo (AGTR-2) in January 1968.

In April 1968, Captain Harvey was assigned as assistant chief of staff for intelligence (N2) for Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan, during a period that included the continued Pueblo crisis, and North Korea’s shoot down of the U.S. Navy EC-121M intelligence collection aircraft “Deep Sea 129” over the Sea of Japan on 15 April 1969, with the loss of all 31 aboard. In July 1970, Captain Harvey was assigned as officer-in-charge of the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office in Fort Meade, Maryland. While there, he worked closely with the National Security Agency. He was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal for providing intelligence for “improving operational readiness of forces afloat” and “impacting directly development of new weapons systems and tactical doctrine.” In July 1971, he reported for duty as the officer-in-charge of the Naval Intelligence Command Headquarters section, Washington, D.C. 

In November 1971, he reported as fleet intelligence officer for Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During his time there, he provided intelligence support for Operation Pocket Money (the aerial mining of Haiphong Harbor) and operations Linebacker I and Linebacker II (the resumption of the bombing campaign against North Vietnam). 

In September 1973, he was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank, and was assigned as deputy commander, Naval Intelligence Command. In January 1974, he was assigned as special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence (then William Colby) for the Intelligence Community Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff Affairs. He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 July 1974. In October 1974, Rear Admiral Harvey reported to the Defense Intelligence Agency as chief of staff and deputy for management and plans. In July 1976, Rear Admiral Harvey became the 50th Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) with additional duty as Commander Naval Intelligence Command (forerunner of the current incarnation of the Office of Naval Intelligence). Rear Admiral Harvey relieved Rear Admiral Bobby Inman as DNI and was in turn relieved by Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and retired on 1 September 1978.

Rear Admiral Harvey’s awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal; Joint Service Commendation Medal (two awards);  Navy Commendation Medal (two awards); China Service Medal; American Campaign Service Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal (Asia); and National Defense Service Medal (two awards). 

Following his retirement from active duty, Rear Admiral Harvey worked as a senior representative for TRW. He devoted time to his family and was a stalwart member of the Suncoast Florida Chapter of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. 

Burial services will be held on 24 October 2022 at Sarasota National Cemetery, Florida. On 25 October, a celebration of life ceremony will be held at St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key, Florida. 

Although Rear Admiral Harvey retired before I became an intelligence officer, his influence on my career, and that of every intelligence officer who followed, was profound. In 1986, I recall attending a CNO-IP dining-in with Senator Richard Lugar as our guest speaker. Senator Lugar spoke eloquently of his time serving with Don Harvey and Bobby Inman as intelligence briefers for CNO Arleigh Burke. His praise of both was effusive, and it was clear he missed the camaraderie of his time in naval intelligence. Rear Admiral Harvey was an early conversion from an unrestricted line intelligence sub-specialist to a restricted line intelligence officer specialist—a lesson from World War II, when it was lucky the Navy had officers like Eddie Layton and Joe Rochefort in key positions. Something more than luck would be required to have the intelligence the Navy needed to counter the growing long-term and existential threat posed by the Soviet Union. Without need to rotate to regular shipboard assignments to remain competitive for promotion, Don Harvey was able to remain continuously in intelligence billets, developing deep expertise in adversary capability and intent. This would serve him, and the U.S. Navy, exceptionally well as he rose to critical intelligence officer billets, providing timely, operationally focused intelligence to fleet commanders. He held key billets contributing to the development of the Navy’s Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS) and Fleet Intelligence Centers (FIC), which were the mainstay of intelligence support to operational commanders in the Cold War, as well as in the Vietnam War and numerous other crises. During his career, he and his family moved some 28 times. He served in jobs that went 24/7/365 at sea and even ashore—all of which required extraordinary dedication and sacrifice of his family time—in order to ensure that the Soviets could never do what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. The sacrifice mattered, and Don Harvey contributed to bringing about the end of the Cold War in ways that cannot be described at this classification level. He was respected by superiors and subordinates alike for his drive and ability to get things done, yet was also described by many as the nicest person you would ever want to meet. He was a true gentleman and one of the finest naval intelligence officers this country has produced. His impact was profound and lasting, for which the Navy and the naval intelligence community are truly grateful. 

Rest in Peace, Admiral Harvey.