Kermit Reed Orders
Army Air Corps Second Lieutenant Kermit Reed Orders was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, on May 6, 1922, to Beulah Estell Stroup and William Reed (W. R.) Orders. W. R. was a well-known contractor involved in building many roads and bridges in West Virginia. W. R. and Beulah had another son, Robert O. Orders, four years younger than Kermit. The older brother graduated from South Charleston High School in 1940, where he played trumpet in the school band. Kermit was of the Presbyterian faith. Matriculating in the engineering program, he attended West Virginia University in Morgantown from 1940 to 1942 and joined Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. In a 2011 interview, Robert remembered his brother as a “very smart fellow” who was always interested in aviation. As a young man, Kermit was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, so joining the fledgling U.S. Air Force during World War II was a natural fit for him.
Entering the service in May 1943, Kermit was assigned to the Army Air Corps, 15th Air Force Division, and took his flight training at Spence Field, Georgia. He would eventually become the pilot of a P-38 bomber. Lt. Orders was commissioned on February 8, 1944. Shortly thereafter—on Valentine’s Day—he married Betty Kathryn Head. (A native of Thomas, Betty graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in business education and was named to Phi Beta Kappa. According to a 2011 obituary, she was the first woman to serve as student body president of West Virginia University. With a long record of community activism, Betty would later become the first woman to be elected to the West Virginia State Senate. After the war, Betty married Donald J. Baker, Sr., and they had three children. During the latter part of her life, she lived in Moorefield.)
On August 3, 1944, Lt. Kermit Orders was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in Foggia, Puglia, Italy. Nearly a year after the invasion of Italy, the war on that front was winding down. Temporarily buried at Bari Cemetery, Bari, Italy, Kermit’s remains were brought home, where on December 18, 1948, he was buried in Cunningham Memorial Park in St. Albans, West Virginia. After his brother’s death, Robert Orders joined the Army and served in the infantry in the Pacific toward the end of the war.
Family information provided by Kermit’s brother, Robert Orders. Article by Patricia Richards McClure
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