A special dedication was held for William Merrill Corry, Jr. at the East Cemetery last Saturday.
Corry was born in Quincy on October 5, 1889 and is one of only two men in Florida who received the Congressional Medal of Honor during peace time.
Corry, who grew up in Quincy, was admitted to the Naval Academy in June 1906. He graduated in 1910 and spent the next five years serving on the battleship USS Kansas.
In mid-1915, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Corry began instruction in aviation at Pensacola, and was designated Naval Aviator number 23 in March 1916.
He had flying positions with the armored cruiser USS Washington between November 1916 and May 1917, then was an officer on the armored cruiser USS North Carolina.
In August 1917, Lieutenant Corry began World War I service in France, where he commanded Naval Air Stations at Le Croisic and Brest during 1918 and early 1919.
He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in July 1918. Corry remained in France for the rest of 1919 and the first half of 1920, involved in removing U.S. Naval Aviation forces from Europe as part of the post-war demobilization.
In 1920, Lieutenant Commander Corry was assigned as aviation aide to the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, stationed on the Fleet's flagship, USS Pennsylvania.
In early October 1920, while on a flight from Long Island, New York, with another pilot, the plane crashed near Hartford, Connecticut.
Though thrown clear of the wreckage, the injured Corry ran back to pull the other officer free of the flaming aircraft.
Badly burned during this rescue, Corry, 31, died at Hartford on October 6, 1920.
He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during that accident.
His medal of Honor citation reads: “For heroic service in attempting to rescue a brother officer from a flame-enveloped airplane. On 2 October 1920, an airplane in which Lt. Comdr. Corry was a passenger crashed and burst into flames. He was thrown 30 feet clear of the plane and, though injured, rushed back to the burning machine and endeavored to release the pilot. In so doing he sustained serious burns, from which he died 4 days later.”
Named in Corry’s honor are: Airfields at Pensacola, now Naval Air Station Pensacola, Center for Information Dominance Corry Station and Naval Information Operations Command Pensacola tenant command.
In addition three ships were named after him:
• The USS Corry (DD-334), a Clemson-class destroyer, was commissioned in 1921 and decommissioned in 1930.
• The USS Corry (DD-463), a Gleaves-class destroyer, served from 1941 until she was sunk by a mine on D-day, 6 June 1944.
• The USS Corry (DD-817), a Gearing-class destroyer, was launched in 1945. In 1981, the ship was transferred to Greece and renamed Kriezis.
Neile Jean Corry (Munroe) was on hand at the dedication of DD-463 and did the honors of christening the ship named for her uncle’s bravery. Her siblings Doris, Patricia and Richard, with cousins Sara, Babe and other relatives were in attendance at the ceremony.
In addition to his other namesakes, Corry Field in Quincy was named after him in 1938. Richard Gardner, Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Gardner’s father, spoke at that dedication
Dr. Daniel Fairbanks Mitchell, a 1976 graduate of the Naval Academy, was the keynote speaker for the dedication ceremony and spoke of Corry’s heroism.
Mitchell said his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for his fellowman came from his upbringing and strong family values.
His heroism and reaction to the tragedy he witnessed was instantaneous and done without hesitation at the peril of his own life.
Mitchell quoted the Bible, verse John 15:13 that says: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The eldest Corry at the ceremony, nephew Rev. Richard Corry, received the American Flag from American Legion John W. Shaw Post 84.
Great nephew William “Bill” Corry spoke as well about hearing the stories as a child about his uncle from his Uncle Arthur Corry.
Arthur had been inspired to follow in his brother’s footsteps, he said, and later became a Navy aviator.
Arthur owned an aviation/crop dusting operation in Quincy following his Navy career.
A dedication stone acknowledging the Medal of Honor designation has been placed at the foot of Corry’s gravestone.
The event was sponsored by Post 84 and the Chamber of Commerce.
William Merrill Corry, Jr. Submitted photo.
Shown are many of the Corry family members and friends present at the ceremony. Photo by Byron Spires