A fitting tribute… Highly decorated World War II veteran McKinney remembered with bridge dedication

Published 2:06 am Saturday, October 19, 2019

When World War II broke out, times were much like they are now as Americans deeply loved their country and its young men and women found it a true honor to wear the colors of the United States Armed Forces in defending American and its citizens.
Such was the case for Elizabethton resident Roy J. McKinney who joined thousands of others to enter the World War II arena. Little did he know at that time, but McKinney became one of the most decorated Carter County and Tennessee veterans of the conflict.
As a result, in 2004 the Tennessee State Senate gave McKinney a proclamation recognizing his heroic deeds led by State Senator Rusty Crowe.
Move 15 years ahead and on Friday morning several of McKinney’s family and local dignitaries along with Senator Crowe and State Senator Jon Lundberg gathered on the new bridge between Elk Avenue and West G Street on Mary Patton Highway to officially name the bridge in McKinney’s honor as well.
The legislative bill that moved to have the bridge named the Roy J McKinney Memorial Bridge was possibly the first official bill that newly elected Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed according to Senator Crowe.
During his service to his country, McKinney flew 83 combat missions and amassed an amazing total of 1700 combat hours serving as a bombardier-navigator with the United States Army Air Corps, 9th Air Force, 391st Bomber Group and was a member of the “Black Death” Marauder Group.
While in training on May 10, 1944, McKinney was participating in a flight training mission and sank two German submarines in one day – a feat no other bombardier in training had ever accomplished.
A day that McKinney more than likely never forgot happened on November 6, 1944, when he was awarded a Silver Star by Major General Vanderberg for his actions on a harrowing bombing mission where McKinney was wounded in both arm and leg but managed to still deliver his payload on target.
When the plane returned to England, it was discovered that over 70 holes from enemy fire were discovered in his plane.
McKinney was also honored with the British Flying Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 12 Clusters, Silver and Bronze, the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the American Defense Service Victory Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, a Distinguished Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, the ETO Theatre Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the Purple Heart with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters for being wounded three times in battle.
For Kathy Smith, one of McKinney’s daughters, the naming of the bridge was a special day to remember her father.
“It’s priceless – we have no words,” Smith said. “His memory will go on and our grandchildren will see and our great-grandchildren will see and they will realize the impact that he had in World War II and his life.
“We can’t be more proud of our father.”
Deacon Bowers led in the Pledge of Allegiance before the ceremony and Elizabethton City Council Mayor Pro Tem Bill Carter and Danny Smith – McKinney’s son-in-law shared in the dedication ceremony with words of thanks as well as the dedication by Senator’s Crowe and Lundberg.

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