At Tuesday’s Veteran’s Day ceremony at Rigger’s Loft, Chevron Historian John Harper delivered a fascinating speech about the role Chevron employees have played in past wars, including former Richmond Mayor Al Cannon.
His speech below in full:
Good morning to all of you as we gather to offer our deepest appreciation to the fighting men and women who have served our country on all fronts with such steadfast courage and conviction.
Chevron employees have proudly served in every American war since our company was formed 135 years ago, from World War I to Korea and Vietnam and, more recently, from Iraq to Afghanistan.
And perhaps no more so than in World War II, for when Chevron’s chairman proclaimed in 1943 that…
“Our company is very much in this war.
“We fly with the bombers and fighters;
“We roll with the tanks and trucks and jeeps;
“We steam into battle with the warships.”
He was speaking for thousands of employees – from geologists to marketing managers who were, indeed, actually flying the bombers, rolling with the tanks, and steaming into battle with the warships.
They served in every branch, fought in every theater of battle and received virtually every commendation, including the Silver Star, the Congressional Medal of Honor and many Purple Hearts.
There are numerous individual examples:
Such as R.E. Young, who was the first company employee to volunteer to fight and whose unit received a Presidential Unit Citation with two stars for bravery.
And Al Cannon, who, writing from the South Pacific, thanked the Richmond Refinery for sending him a wallet along with encouraging words praising his service in the Army Air Force. Al closed his letter with the comment: “I hope they have a place for me when I get back.”
But perhaps no employee epitomized the company’s fighting spirit more than John Morgan, who joined the company in 1938 driving a truck in Dallas.
By summer of 1943 he was flying a B-17 bomber over occupied Europe and had already received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On July 26 of that year, his plane was one of 600 bombers sent to destroy railroad yards in Hanover, Germany. Over the English Channel they were attacked by German fighter planes. A burst of fire shattered the cockpit windshield, wounding Morgan’s co-pilot. Bursts from other enemy fighters wounded several other crewmen and knocked out the B-17’s communications and oxygen systems and all but one machine gun. Five crewmen lay unconscious. John could have turned back to England but elected to continue the mission. For four hours, John, who could barely see through the shattered windshield, handled jobs meant for two pilots, flew through continuous fighter attacks and heavy flak barrages, the entire time warding off repeated attacks from his own confused co-pilot.
He completed the mission, eventually landing his crippled plane on a British airfield. For his bravery he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
These were just three of the thousands of Chevron employees who served honorably in World War II and in other wars throughout history.
Three of the thousands whose jobs awaited them when they returned from war. As Richmond Refinery Manager R.K. Rowell stated in October 1945, “Regardless of how long you have been away, your job is waiting here for you whenever you store away your uniform and return to civilian life. We sincerely hope that you will be as glad to return to the Richmond Refinery as we will be to have you back with us.”
Like so many others, Young, Cannon and Morgan did return to work for Chevron, staying on for decades. Cannon even found time to also serve on the Richmond City Council and then as Richmond’s mayor.
Today, Chevron has a Veterans Network that currently supports 1,300 U.S. military veterans in our company. Here at Richmond, and throughout Chevron’s operations, they serve as an inspiring reminder of our employees’ commitment to service for their country.
In November 2013, Chevron’s Veterans Network unveiled a plaque that captured the company’s decades-old spirit. It reads: “This memorial honors all American veterans who, although separated by generations, shared a common, undeniable goal – to valiantly protect our country’s freedom.
“The memories of these American veterans will continue to live on whenever and wherever democracy exists.
“Chevron salutes our American veterans – forever a symbol of heroism, sacrifice, loyalty and freedom.”
— Chevron Historian John Harper