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Melvin Grey Livesay

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Melvin Grey Livesay
1921-1944

"Freedom lies in being bold."

Robert Frost

Melvin Grey Livesay was born on June 26, 1921, in Maxwelton, West Virginia, in Greenbrier County. He was a child to parents William Grey Livesay and Elsie Muriel Ford Livesay. William Livesay served in World War I after completing his second year of high school education, and he worked in a governmental position, according to the 1940 Federal Census. Melvin had two siblings, Nadine Livesay and Billy Joe Livesay. Nadine was approximately two years younger than Melvin, and Billy Joe was around eight years younger than Nadine, according to the 1930 Federal Census. Melvin Livesay served in the United States Navy under the rank of ensign in World War II in the Pacific Theater. (Source: "Memorial Services To Be Held Sunday," Beckley Post Herald, 9 Dec. 1944: 1.)

Melvin Livesay graduated from Lewisburg High School and was a member of the Lewisburg Methodist Church. In July of 1942, Livesay enlisted in the Navy’s aviation wing, and he received his commission as ensign on October 1, 1943. On December 18, 1943, Melvin Livesay married Helen Louise Bland, born on January 26, 1924, in Mullins, West Virginia, in Wyoming County. Helen’s place of residence at the time of their marriage, however, was Alderson, West Virginia, in Greenbrier County, were the couple was married. Melvin was 22 and Helen was 19 years of age on the day of their marriage. Helen accompanied Melvin to the West Coast following the marriage. Melvin Livesay shortly afterwards went overseas for active duty, and Helen later returned to her home in Alderson. (Sources: "Memorial Services to be Held Sunday," Beckley Post-Herald, 9 Dec. 1944: 1; "Lewisburg Flier Killed in Southwest Pacific," White Sulphur Sentinel, 1 Dec. 1944: 1; "Ens. Melvin G. Livesay Dead," Greenbrier Independent, n.d.)

Melvin was designated as a naval aviator as he completed a prescribed flight training course at the Naval Air Center in Pensacola, Florida, for intermediate flight training. Shortly afterward, Melvin was sent to fight in the Pacific. Melvin Livesay eventually called his home from overseas (August 1944) and talked to each member of his family, including his wife, Helen. Additionally, Livesay and a fellow group of aviators were later pictured in an issue of Life magazine (September 3, 1944). Livesay was expecting to return home on Christmas in 1944. (Source: "Ens. Melvin G. Livesay Dead," Greenbrier Independent, n.d.)

On October 25, 1944, the Battle of Cape Engano broke out as Japan and the United States fought in the Philippines. The battle was crucial in decreasing the size of Japan’s empire in the Pacific. Ensign Melvin Livesay was remembered by the decorated United States Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal as being courageous in his efforts during the battle of Cape Engano as a dive bomber pilot in Air Group 15 attached to the USS Essex. Forrestal recalled that Ensign Livesay faced adverse weather conditions in order to carry out his task as he skillfully maneuvered around the deadly conditions to eventually score a direct hit on a hostile carrier. Ensign Livesay, according to Forrestal, showed resolute initiative to defeat the enemy by showing excellent airmanship in terrific odds. The battle ultimately resulted in a victory for Admiral William Halsey’s American forces over Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s Japanese forces. The battle weakened Japanese military power, and landholdings were taken away from the Japanese as well. Ensign Livesay garnered a tremendous deal of acknowledgment for his efforts on October 25, 1944. (Sources: Rickard, J., 3 May 2012, "Battle of Cape Engano, 25 October, 1944," accessed 30 Mar. 2014, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_cape_engano.html; "Ensign Livesay Awarded Cross Posthumously," White Sulphur Sentinel 26 Oct. 1944.)

On November 11, 1944, Ensign Livesay was killed in action along with his gunner due to a plane crash in the South Pacific. He was 23 years of age at the time of his death. Mr. and Mrs. William Livesay were notified of their son’s death on November 24, 1944, by the United States Navy Department. Ensign Livesay’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines. On December 8, 1944, a funeral commenced in honor of Ensign Melvin Gray Livesay as Reverend Moorman Parker of Hinton, West Virginia, participated in the service with the American Legion Post and Auxiliary in attendance. Ensign Livesay was survived by his siblings, his parents, and his wife. Due to Ensign Livesay’s brave efforts during his tenure of service, he was awarded a Navy Cross, an Air Medal, and a Purple Heart. In 2011, Delegates Canterbury, Crosier, Campbell, and Mahan of the West Virginia House of Delegates called for the new bridge on Route 3 in Alderson, West Virginia (Bridge Number 32-3-0.01) to be dedicated for Ensign Livesay. Melvin Livesay was known for his friendly disposition as he was one of the most touted and adored young men in Greenbrier County. Due to his gracious presence and his wartime feats, Melvin Grey Livesay was and should be remembered for his contributions to his community and country. (Sources: "Ensign Livesay Awarded Cross Posthumously," White Sulphur Sentinel, 26 Oct. 1944; "Memorial Services Held Sunday for Ensign Melvin Livesay," White Sulphur Sentinel, 15 Dec. 1944: 1; "Ens. Melvin G. Livesay Dead," Greenbrier Independent, n.d; "Lewisburg Flier Killed In Southwest Pacific," White Sulphur Sentinel, 1 Dec. 1944: 1; "Memorial Services To Be Held Sunday," Beckley Post Herald, 9 Dec. 1944.)
Tablets of the Missing

Tablets of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Article prepared by Gene Bailey and Collin Castillo.

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Melvin Grey Livesay

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