My father, Troy Clay, was born and raised in the hollows and hills of rural West Virginia. As a young man he hunted and fished, and worked on the family’s small farm and nearby gas station as a mechanic. In 1935, at the age of 18, he joined the regular army.
By 1941 he was stationed at Chanute Field Army Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. Here he was trained as an Aircraft Welder. It was also here that he met and fell in love with my mother, Kathleen McGinnis. He proposed to her on December 6, 1941; she accepted but the following declaration of war after the attack on Pearl Harbor delayed their marriage. They married in 1942 in Providence, Rhode Island before he shipped out to war.
Dad was assigned to the engineering section of the 79th Fighter Group as an aircraft welder and served with the 79th throughout the war in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He survived bombings and malaria but was never wounded.
After the war ended he returned to civilian life but during the war he had developed a love of airplanes and flying and he re-enlisted in 1946. He wanted to fly and applied for and was accepted to flight engineering school. He was eventually assigned as a flight engineer on the large C-124 Globemaster cargo plane where in the following years he indeed traveled the globe.
On November 20, 1955 on a routine flight from Iwo Jima to Okinawa, Japan the plane crashed on take-off and killed all crew members but one who succumbed to his burns the following month. His death was of course devastating for Mom and my older siblings, as well as Dad’s mom and his six siblings. Mom was only 38 but never remarried, choosing instead to dedicate her life to raising her five children, Dallas-12, Joy-9, Joe-6, Bill-3, and me-3 months.
I don’t think his death was that tragic for my Dad though. He died doing what he loved-flying, as well as providing for the family that he loved and serving the country that he loved.
Rest in peace Dad
September 16, 2022