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In 1943, Kelly Morrison was hitchhiking, a common practice in the nation at that time. Kelly was returning home after serving over three years in the Air Force during WWII. He was a side gunner on a B-24, also known as the “Liberator,” and had flown 25 missions, had been seriously wounded, and received three medals, including the Purple Heart.
Kelly’s son, historical society member Tom Morrison, was the guest speaker at the historical society meeting, March 10. Tom spoke proudly of his father’s service to this country as he described the aircraft, the air strikes, and the pain upon losing friends in war. Tom explained the superiority of the B-24 over the B-17 — it was bigger, faster, could carry a bigger bomb load, had a longer range, and could fly higher than the B-17. The largest production of the B-24 was at Willow Run in Detroit, Michigan, originally a produce farm owned by Henry Ford. Each airplane was completed in 55 minutes, an amazing feat considering the size of the aircraft.
The side gunner sat inside an opening in the plane; and on a cold 30 degree day, when the plane reached an altitude of 30,000 feet, the air inside that opening dropped to 16 below zero. When Kelly was seriously wounded, he lapsed into a coma and remained in that condition for many weeks. A piece of shrapnel was embedded in his liver and he carried that painful reminder until his death many years later. His family became worried when they didn’t hear from Kelly, and when he recovered sufficiently to write, he could not tell them of his wounds. During WWII, those facts could not be relayed in letters for fear the enemy might intercept vital information. One important mission which included side gunner Kelly Morrison was staged over PloeSti in Romania. This was an 18-square mile area where Hitler stored 30 percent of his oil reserves. Although many planes were shot down and lives were lost, after the smoke cleared, the mission was deemed a success.
Kelly Morrison lived many years after his time in the service. He was grateful that he had been spared and that he could continue to share life, traditions, and stories with his family. All of us should be thankful for Kelly Morrison and all the men and women who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice their time, talent, and sometimes their lives to the cause of freedom.
Nine pages in the “Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book” display pictures of Owen County veterans, and throughout the book one will come across stories of Owen County men and women who served in the armed forces. In 1944 Maggie Hammond received a letter from her son, Marvin. It was short, but letters from servicemen and women to their families were greatly anticipated, for they provided links across many miles and relieved anxious hearts. Marvin’s letter assured his family that he was fine and he included his address so they could write and send him news from home. Marvin Hammond’s letter and history is on page 148 of the “Owen County, Kentucky Family History Book.” It was submitted by Teresa Swigert, granddaughter of Marvin’s brother, Albert. The dedication and commitment of family members will assure that Marvin’s story and many others will not fade over time, but rather continue to be cherished by future generations. If you have not purchased your family history book, they are still available at the Owen County Historical Society Museum for $60 plus tax.
We look forward to several exciting programs at future historical society meetings. Ron Devore is requested to return in April since we had to cancel his scheduled appearance in January due to bad weather. In May, the society is planning a special dinner for society members and friends. Each attendee will pay for his/her own dinner and a RSVP will be required to attend. June’s program about the Kentucky River will be presented by my husband, Tom, and me. It will feature the history of the Kentucky River and its effect on Owen County. It will include songs and stories of the river.
On June 25, the historical society will feature an “Owen County History Day” at the museum. The pubic is invited to tour the museum and receive a free lunch of a hot dog, chips, a cookie, and a drink.
Mark your calendars and don’t miss any of these special events.