John Clark McKinney III
|Family has always been very important to West Virginians and even more so in difficult times. One such time for families in the state, as well as the rest of the nation, was World War II. Families often found themselves separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. The McKinney family of Fairmont was one of those families that found themselves separated by the war. Like so many families, John C. and Lena R. McKinney had four of their sons fighting in the war. Besides the pain of worrying if their sons were all right, John and Lena also had to suffer the pain of losing a son. The eldest of the four boys, John Clark McKinney III, never came home to his parents after the war.||
John C. McKinney III grew up in Fairmont, Marion County, along with his three brothers, Charles Edward, Robert Owen, and James Wilbur, and a sister, Helena Caroline. Born April 12, 1916, John was the eldest of all the children. He attended Central Elementary School and East Fairmont High School, and after graduation, he decided to continue his education. Even though John went to college, he still did not lose his close contact with his family. He attended Fairmont State College, which was only a few miles from his home. While in school, he became active in music circles as a pianist with the Bob Downs Orchestra. He then decided to further develop his musical talent by studying music at West Virginia University. His sister Helena would follow his example by obtaining her Masters at the University. Even while attending West Virginia University, he remained close to his family because the university was not far from Fairmont. Before entering the service, John continued to use his love of music by serving as the supervisor of arts and music for Ohio schools.
In April 1942, John C. McKinney III entered the service as an aviation cadet, and then the military called him to active duty in August of the same year. The government stationed him in Texas for training as a navigator. The Air Corp commissioned him a 2nd Lieutenant as a navigator at graduation exercises at the Childress Army Air Field in Childress, Texas. Even in Texas, John was not completely away from family because his wife, the former Rosaline Teets of Aurora, stayed with him.
The Air Corp then sent John to England to fight in the European theater as a member of the 710th Bomber Squadron, 447th Bomber Group, Heavy. He stayed in contact with his parents by writing his mom and telling her of his bombing flights over Germany. He even sent her a Mothers Day telegram, which she received on May 13, 1944. That telegram was the last time she heard from her son.
While John was flying bombing missions, his brothers were also helping with the war effort. The next oldest brother, Charles, who was born October 29, 1920, was stationed at the US Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois, as a pharmacist mate. Born March 10, 1923, the next oldest son, Robert, entered the service on October 31, 1942 at the age of 19. The Army stationed him at Symrna Army Air Base in Tennessee with his unit, the 249th Bomber Squadron South East Command. He eventually served in the Pacific Theater before the military discharged him on February 16, 1946. John C. and Lena gave birth to their youngest son, James, on December 29, 1925. He served in Saipan and Marshall Islands in the Pacific before his discharge on July 1, 1946.
With all four sons fighting in World War II, only John C. III did not come back to his parents. On May 9, 1944, he was serving as a bombardier on a Flying Fortress near Reims, France. He was missing in action for weeks before the military discovered that he was dead. He received the Purple Heart for giving his life for his country. The government buried him in the American Cemetery in Epinal France at Plot B Row 15 Grove 56.
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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