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Thomas Edward Priddy

Close-up from bomber crew photo. U.S. Air Force Photos,
National Archives and Records Administration, accessed on Fold3

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Thomas Edward Priddy
c. 1915-1943

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage."

Anaïs Nin

During World War II, 218,665 servicemen from West Virginia risked their lives to go overseas and fight for their beloved country. Sadly, 5,830 of these men did not return home and instead perished in their fight for freedom. Among these valiant West Virginia heroes was U.S. Army Sergeant Thomas Edward Priddy. Thomas Priddy was born in either 1915 or 1916 to parents James and Lenora Priddy. Shortly before Priddy’s birth, his family moved from Green, Ohio, in Gallia County to Falls View in Fayette County in West Virginia. The 1920 Federal Census shows Priddy to be the second youngest of eight siblings, in a family that included Evelyn, Henry, Clarence, Harry, Leora, Chester, and Ethel. After the death of his mother, his father married Ida B. Huffman and they had Priddy’s half-sister Edith. During the 1920s, Fayette County was one of the most heavily populated regions in West Virginia with a total of about 60,377 residents. The Priddy family resided in the rural town of Gauley Bridge, where Priddy’s father did laundry for a living to support the family. Thomas Priddy attended grammar school until approximately the eighth grade, when he entered the workforce.

. On December 27, 1938, twenty-two-year-old Thomas Priddy married seventeen-year-old Alice Bernice Legg, the daughter of Anna “Gladys” Legg and James “Virgil” Legg, who was from Fola, West Virginia. Priddy and Legg were married in Vaughan, West Virginia, by J.H. Winnell of Nicholas County. After marriage, the couple moved to the small town of Falls View, where Priddy worked for a private company for three years. The relatively quiet life of the Priddys changed forever on June 26, 1941, when Thomas travelled to Huntington to enlist in the United States Army.

Thomas Priddy served for two years in the army and eventually rose to the rank of sergeant. He then became a gunner in the newly-formed Army Air Corps in the 8th Bomb Squadron One, 3rd Bomber Group, Light, with a unique crew composed entirely of West Virginia servicemen. The Mountaineer crew consisted of gunners Corporal Clifford Hall of Widen and Corporal Versil R. Chapman of Dink, pilot Captain James A. Downs of Morgantown, and Priddy himself. Later, after the death of Clifford Hall, the crew split up. Together the crew boasted an impressive record of sinking six Japanese cruisers and destroyers using the Douglas Dauntless A-24 bomber planes.
Priddy in New Guinea

Thomas Priddy’s All-West Virginia Bomber Crew (Priddy is on the left). WWII U.S. Air Force Photos, National Archives and Records Administration, accessed on Fold3

On Tuesday, November 2, 1943, Priddy and his new crew were dispatched to attack the important Japanese base of Rabaul as part of “Operation Cartwheel,” a daring Allied plan to cut off the major base from an influx of Japanese supplies. During the Battle of New Britain, the B-25 airplane occupied by Priddy’s squadron was hit by enemy fire and was quickly ablaze. According to a missing aircraft report filed on December 30, 1943, by Capt. Martin J. Radnik, the pilot attempted to level off the plane to allow it to crash land, but the right wing suddenly dipped too low to control, and the aircraft split into pieces immediately as it hit the water, killing everyone onboard, including Priddy.

Manila American Cemetery

Wall of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery.
Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Thomas E. Priddy died prematurely at the age of 28, nobly fighting for his country. Since his body was unable to be recovered, he is memorialized on the Wall of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines.

After Priddy’s death, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Lieutenant General George C. Kenney due to his extraordinary achievement in the Battle of New Britain. This award was bestowed upon his widow Alice Priddy, who also received his Purple Heart medal due to his honorable death in service to his country.
Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross

Purple Heart

The Purple Heart

Locally, Priddy’s name can be found listed on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial along with those who died in World War II. The Memorial can be found in Charleston at the Capitol Complex.

Although Thomas Priddy came from humble beginnings in rural West Virginia, the legacy he established during his brief 28 years is enough to last a lifetime. His contributions toward lasting peace and freedom will not soon be forgotten, and he joins the immense list of “little people” whose determination, selflessness, and courage have made the world today a better place. The entire country owes Priddy and others like him a lifetime of gratitude.

Article prepared by Mychala Schulz, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Thomas Edward Priddy

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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