By Katie Vorderstrasse
Red, white, and blue are the colors retired Lieutenant Junior Grade Karl R. Marrs fought for during his active duty as a Navy Pilot. Prior to enlisting, Marrs worked on his family farm. “I thought it would be a good time to change locations,” said Marrs.
He enlisted at the age of 18 and served during World War II. In his graduating class, Marrs was one of 17 to enlist from Arkansas City High School. Marrs said, “I just got out of high school and took the job in the Navy.” Starting in Kansas City, the men had a five-hour academic test. It went well for all. The following day two were eliminated during the physical exam.
Marrs said, “There are only a few of us still alive today, but we stay in contact with one another.”
The 15 of them then joined the Navy V-5 Flight Program. They were placed on active duty at the University of Iowa Navy Pre-Flight School. After three months, five of the remaining cadets were sent to primary training at NAS Ottumwa, Iowa. Marrs said, “There were only three of us that graduated and I was one of them.”
He graduated from the Pensacola Naval Air Station and wore the Wings of Gold of a Naval Aviator. Marrs said, “I was really proud. All the prior pilots had two years of college. We just had our high school education. This made us have to work harder.”
Marrs was on active duty for two years, 10 months, and 28 days. On Oct. 17, 1945, Marrs was stationed in Africa. He was there for only three months. Then on Jan. 13, 1945, he was re-stationed to England with only a six-month serving period. This is where they joined Fleet Air Wing-7. After completing 27 combat missions, they returned to the states. Marrs said, “I never did go back where we were stationed. However, I visited a number of bases where we trained on. We had numerous Navy reunions every two years, but it was in the states.”
` After being discharged from the services, Marrs worked as a farmer. He had a dairy operation and a livestock operation. He then began writing a book. The book was titled “I Was There When the World Stood Still.” It was about his war years and just for his family. Marrs said, “I wanted them to know that I was not a hero. I did nothing but serve my country, just like other men and women did during that time period.”
During one of the reunions in Kentucky, Marrs took his book. The members were so impressed they asked for it to be published so they could have a copy. Fifty-five years after WWII ended and just before the book was published, the Navy awarded each flight crew member of Fleet Air Wing-7 the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals for every five missions they had completed. After the awards, he let his family judge for themselves who might be a hero.
Marrs and his wife were blessed with three sons and one daughter. He also has 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Marrs’s wife passed away 44 days short of their 60-year anniversary eight years ago.
On Sept. 6, Marrs moved into the Kansas Veterans home. He will be turning 88 Nov.18. Marrs said, “It’s a lot different living here, but it works.”
Katie Vorderstrasse is a freshman majoring in communications. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.