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Clarence William McComas
The Logan Banner, March 22, 1949

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Clarence William McComas
1923-1941

"Pearl Harbor caused our Nation to wholeheartedly commit to winning World War II, changing the course of our Nation’s history and the world’s future."

Joe Baca

Clarence William McComas was born on May 9, 1923, in Greenup, Kentucky. His parents were Morris (Maris in some public records) McComas and Arizona Scaggs McComas (who later married a Payton after the death of Morris). The 1930 U.S. Federal Census indicates the family was living by that time in Logan County, West Virginia, and also had a daughter Lucille. They seemed firmly rooted in the Lincoln-Logan County area.

The McComas families were among the first white settlers in what is now Lincoln County, West Virginia. In 1799, they settled along the Guyandotte River near what later became West Hamlin, the county seat. Lincoln County was formed in February 1867 after West Virginia became a state during the Civil War.

Logan County was formed in 1824 and named in honor of Mingo Indian Chief Logan. Coal mining became the principal industry. The success of coal mines in Lincoln and Logan Counties was greatly enhanced by the expansion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, thus making coal more readily available to the marketplace. By 1904, Logan became the largest coal-producing county in the state.

The Battle of Blair Mountain occurred in Logan County in 1921. Ten thousand armed coal miners engaged a group of about 3,000 lawmen and strikebreakers known as the “Logan Defenders.” The coal miners were attempting to unionize the southwestern West Virginia labor force. For years, the mine owners had exploited the miners and had sought to prevent them from unionizing. Blair Mountain became known as the largest civil insurrection in the U.S. since the Civil War. Federal troops sent by President Harding quickly brought the conflict under control. Although the mine operators were victorious at Blair Mountain, in 1935, under President Franklin Roosevelt, the National Labor Relations Act gave miners the right to organize, and the United Mine Workers organized West Virginia’s southern coal fields.

From public records, we can learn much about Morris, perhaps more than we know of his son. Following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. When the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort, the Selective Service instituted the draft with the first registration for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. Clarence’s father, Morris McComas, registered for the World War I draft at Lincoln County, West Virginia, on June 5, 1917. He was 25 years of age, single, and employed as a tobacco sorter for Henry Erskine Spillman & Co. in West Hamlin, West Virginia. His registration card shows that he was tall, stout, and had grey eyes and black hair. Morris claimed exemption from the draft because he provided support for his widowed mother. But on March 6, 1918, Morris McComas enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at General Hospital #9 at Lakeside, New Jersey. Private McComas received an honorable discharge on April 14, 1919.

When the Selective Service issued the draft for WWII, Morris McComas again registered on April 27, 1942, in Beckley, Raleigh County. He died on February 7, 1947, and was buried near his parents in the Sloan Cemetery in Lincoln County.

Arizona “Zona” Scaggs, Clarence McComas’ mother, was born in Logan County in 1905. She and Morris McComas made their home in the Peach Creek area in Logan County, where Morris was a brakeman for the C&O Railway Company. The C&O maintained a railroad yard at Peach Creek, an unincorporated community located along the east bank of the Guyandotte River.

We can only assume that Clarence McComas was educated in the schools of Logan County but did not graduate from high school. On March 1, 1939, Clarence William McComas—he would have been not quite 16 years old—enlisted in the U.S. Navy and, after training, was stationed aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor. During the attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor, Seaman 1st Class Clarence McComas lost his life along with 105 others aboard the ship.

The USS West Virginia had been commissioned in December 1923, the year of Clarence’s birth. In 1940, she was sent to Hawaii to protect the fleet against attack by the Japanese. However, she was sunk by six torpedoes and two bombs on December 7, 1941. The USS West Virginia was salvaged and retrofitted in Puget Sound Naval Yard, following which she participated in 1944 in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
USS West Virginia

USS West Virginia, courtesy Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was created in Honolulu in 1948 to be the final resting place for veterans who died during World War II. The remains of fallen soldiers and sailors from around the Pacific were transported to Hawaii for burial. The first burial occurred in January 1949. At that time relatives were given the option of having the body of their serviceman interred in the National Cemetery, or having the body returned to his home community for burial.

headstone applicationWest Virginia

Clarence’s mother’s application for a headstone is interesting in that she has remarried and is living in Michigan in 1949, although she chose for his remains to be sent to Logan County so he might be interred in her family’s cemetery. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration

Clarence William McComas was first buried in Hawaii, but at the request of his mother, his body was returned to Logan County and reinterred near his maternal grandparents on March 24, 1949, in the Scaggs Cemetery in Chapmanville.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
June 2017

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Clarence William McComas

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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