Tribute to Morgan L. Fitch, Jr.

Morgan L. Fitch, Jr.

November 21, 1922 - November 18, 2013

From early on, Morgan Fitch’s life was destined to be intertwined with the U.S. Navy. As a young man, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1943. Following the completion of his degree, U.S. involvement in World War II escalated and on March 20th 1943, Morgan was commissioned in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviation Observer (also known as a radar officer). 

Morgan witnessed the devastation of World War II while serving in the Pacific theater. He was a survivor of two Japanese kamikaze attacks while serving in Squadron VC-87. While aboard the USS Marcus Island he participated on the assault on Okinawa. Following the assault, the USS Marcus Island returned to Guam, and then eventually to San Diego. Morgan then took command of the Fleet Airborne Radar School at the Seattle Naval Air Base. In March of 1946 he was released from active duty and attended law school. 

After re-entering civilian life, his contribution to the Navy continued through his leadership within the Navy League and also through his lasting commitment to the Navy’s youth programs, such as the Buddy Program and its successor – the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

The vision for the Naval Sea Cadet Corps grew out of conversations between Morgan and Admiral Arleigh Burke about the need for a consolidated Navy youth program after viewing the successes of the British and Canadian Sea Cadet programs. Established as both a tool to help prepare young men for naval service and a youth program with an educational mission, the first company of Sea Cadets was formed in 1959 and was comprised of 78 young men from around the country. 

Morgan’s support of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps did not end at its inception, but grew even more comprehensive with time. Because of his extensive background and knowledge of the ways of the nation’s capital, the Navy and the business world, Morgan was an incredible advocate for the Sea Cadet program. Under his leadership, the Sea Cadet program was federally chartered in September of 1962 as a non-profit civilian organization. In addition to using his legal expertise to ensure that the Sea Cadet program had financial and legal legitimacy, Morgan worked with others to establish the program’s original training plan and Cadet Regulations. He served as the first Naval Sea Cadet Corps Chairman from 1962 until 1965 and then as the Navy League National President from 1965 until 1967. In 1976, the Sea Cadet program’s charter language was amended to include wording that would allow young women to join the Sea Cadet Corps. 

In 2004, Morgan and his wife, Helen, helped to form the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Foundation in order to ensure that the program continued to thrive. Thanks to the Fitch’s endowment, the foundation is able to provide scholarships and funds to Cadets for post-secondary education, as well as training funds for the Sea Cadet program. In 2007, Morgan was presented with the Lone Sailor award, which is an honor awarded to Sea Service veterans who embody the Navy’s core values in their work in the civilian sector.

Morgan will be remembered by all who knew him as a man of action who was always working to create opportunities for the youth of America. His life of service has impacted many. Morgan’s generosity and devotion have shaped the Sea Cadet program from its beginnings of 78 young men to around 9,000 young men and women today. 

The Naval Sea Cadet Corps will continue to honor his memory by providing dedicated support and opportunities to the Cadets that Morgan cared about so deeply. His vision and commitment have bettered the youth of our Naval Sea Cadet Corps, our Navy, and our nation. 

Fair winds and following seas, Morgan. What a difference one life makes!