When would-be aviator Mort Parker went off to join the Army Air Corps in 1940, he was so excited to have passed the vision test that his blood pressure surged, and he failed his physical. Months later, he squeaked into the Navy Air Corps with nifty paperwork that showed he had enough college credits to qualify. After Pearl Harbor, the influx of cadets was so great that Mort was rushed into being a flight instructor before he’d mastered flight himself. “I really learned how to fly as an instructor.”
After teaching at Pensacola and Livermore, California, he ferried aircraft coast-to-coast, then flew DC-3 (the Navy’s version of the C-47) transports in the South Pacific. He finished the war with 3,000 hours of flight time. “I was treated exceptionally well and very lucky, better than the poor GI over in Europe in muddy trenches.
When asked to compare WWII with current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mort admits, “It was a different war than it is today. We knew the support we got from the people back home, our mothers, our fathers, our sister making sacrifices for the war.”
Todd DePastino interviewed Mort Parker at the Devonshire retirement community in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on November 1, 2012. Mort had attended many Veterans Breakfast Club events and had shared stories, but when it came to sitting for an interview, he demurred. “I didn’t have the combat experience other guys did,” he said. But, after some convincing, Mort expressed well-earned pride in his contribution. “I worked hard all the time, and I feel that I made an adequate contribution to the war effort.”
The Final Story
Morton Parker, a longtime resident of Whitehall, PA, died peacefully on August 20, 2015. Morton was born in Chicago, IL, on December 4, 1919, son of Jack and Anna (Ellman) Parker. Morton was the beloved husband of Margaret (Reilley) Parker, with whom he would have celebrated 61 years of marriage on August 21, 2015. He is survived by two sons, Paul (Marci) of Whitehall, PA and John (Marianne) of Westford, MA; also survived by eight grandchildren, Christopher, Brandon (Grace), Haley, Kelly, Catherine (Travis) Rowley, Julia, Daniel, and Suzanne. In addition to his parents, Morton was predeceased by his sister, Florence Braun.
He was a Naval Air Corps veteran, serving during World War II as an aviator and flight instructor. His duties included flying many types of aircraft in the South Pacific to transport troops and supplies, ferrying planes cross-country for repair and deployment, and instructing student pilots. After his service, Morton was an industrial lubricant sales representative for 45 years.
In retirement, he was active in community affairs, becoming an AARP tax consultant for the elderly, and sitting on the board of directors for the Baldwin Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts. He was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates fan. The family would like to thank the staff of Three Rivers Hospice for the compassionate care they provided to Morton, as well as the staff of Brookdale Senior Living for their attention to his needs.
Burial will be in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies