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Morris E. Stacey
Courtesy Kathleeen Rosenbarger

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Morris E. Stacey
1916-1941

"They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation."

Henry Ward Beecher

U.S. Army Air Corps Sergeant Morris E. Stacey was born in North Highland Park in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on Christmas Day of 1916 to James H. Stacy and Mary Catherine Ridiner Stacey. U.S. Federal Census records of 1920 and 1930, as well as Find A Grave, show that Morris lived his early life as part of a large, every-growing family. His brothers included Samuel Morgan, James Edward, Kenneth, and William Howard. His sisters included Mattie Belle, Olive (Ollie), Ida, Adelaide (Addie), Rosalie (Rosa), and Clara (who died at a young age due to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19). Although his father would live until 1958, his mother died in 1932. Morris and his family worked on their farm in Kentucky prior to moving to Merchant Street in Fairmont in the 1930s.

It can be gathered that his upbringing was not glamorous—his father worked as a farmer, and he and his brothers worked as laborers. His mother died when he was young, only a few years before he enlisted in the Army in 1935. The family was likely impoverished or nearly impoverished as they lived in rural Kentucky. All of his family members, including him, were educated in school. It was during the early 1930s, likely soon after his mother’s death, that the family moved to Fairmont. There, his father worked as a boilermaker.

It was in Fairmont that Morris enlisted in the Army in 1935. Morris was a serviceman in the U.S. Army Air Corps under the 78th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group, as an aviation mechanic and radioman. The 78th was nicknamed as the “Bushmasters” and the “Pineapple Air Force.” In February 1939, Morris made his final visit home to his family. In mid-1939, Morris was assigned to Honolulu, Hawaii, and reached the rank of sergeant by 1941. Prior to the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Morris had expressed doubts of receiving leave to visit his family. In his final letter, Morris called the air base a “hot spot.”
78th Pursuit Squadron Badge

78th Pursuit Squadron Badge

Wheeler Field

Taken by a Japanese aircrew, now in the U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation, this photo shows planes and hangars burning at Wheeler Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 50473

By December 1941, the government and military similarly viewed an attack on Hawaii as very possible, even imminent. As such, the planes at Wheeler Field, where Morris was stationed, were replaced with newly-built Curtis Wright P-40Bs. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes first struck six airfields near Pearl Harbor itself, using incendiary and armor piercing rounds to damage or destroy American aircraft. The primary targets were Hickam and Wheeler Fields, along with Battleship Row at Ford Island. The Japanese planes consisted of high-level and dive bombers, all of which sought to take out parked planes and opportunistic targets. A majority of the attacking aircraft were the highly impressive Japanese Zeros. Morris and a pilot rolled an attack plane into the open in order to respond, but were hit and killed by a strafing Japanese plane’s machine-gun fire. Like Morris and the pilot, other members on Wheeler Field attempted to get the planes airborne, with good success. Many of these planes surprised the Japanese, who were not expecting the Americans to respond with attack planes. As a result, those pilots who got airborne managed to take down many Japanese planes. (“Attack on U.S. Airfields at Pearl Harbor,” World War 2 Headquarters, accessed 21 June 2017, http://worldwar2headquarters.com/HTML/PearlHarbor/PearlHarborAirFields/airfields.html; additional information from http://www.7thfighter.com/78th/history/history_jim.htm.)

Morris and Corporal Vincent Horan were the only 78th Pursuit Squadron casualties of the day, a small number of the nearly 2,400 total servicemen killed. The Japanese were effective in disabling or destroying all of the 78th’s fighter planes. However, through heroic actions similar to those of Morris, four of those planes were made flyable by the next day. Morris Stacey’s body was recovered and buried soon after. He was reinterred December 18, 1949, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu in Section M, Site 1149. Because of his actions that day, he posthumously received a Purple Heart medal.
gravestone

Gravestone for Morris Stacey, National Cemetery of the Pacific. Note that he is identified as being from Kentucky, although his family was living in West Virginia at the time of his enlistment. Courtesy Jeff Hall, Find A Grave

Article prepared by Grace Smith, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
2017

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Morris E. Stacey

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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