WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 66 SEAPOWER / FEBRUARY 2014
Sea Cadet Champion Morgan L. Fitch Dies
Former Navy League National President Morgan L. Fitch Jr.,
who was instrumental in forming the
U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps and
was a key supporter of the program
for more than 50 years, died Nov.
18 in Kalamazoo, Mich., three days
prior to his 91st birthday.
From early on, his life was destined
to be intertwined with the U.S. Navy.
Following the completion of his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical
engineering, he was commissioned
into the Navy as a naval aviation observer (also known as a radar officer) on March 20, 1943.
Fitch 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, Marcus Island returned to Guam, and then
eventually to San Diego. He then took command of
the Fleet Airborne Radar School at the Seattle Naval
Air Base. In March 1946, he was released from active
duty and attended law school.
After re-entering civilian life, Fitch’s contribution to the
Navy continued through his leadership within the Navy
League and lasting commitment to the Navy’s youth
programs, such as the Buddy Program and its successor — the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
The vision for the Sea Cadet Corps grew out of conversations between Fitch and then-Chief of Naval
Operations ADM 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 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 comprising 78
young men from around the country.
Fitch’s support of the Sea Cadet program grew 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, he
was an effective advocate for the program. Under his
leadership, it was federally chartered in September
1962 as a nonprofit civilian organization.
Fitch 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, Fitch and his wife,
Helen, helped form the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Foundation in
order to ensure that the program continued to thrive.
Thanks to the Fitches’ 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, Fitch 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
On Sept. 29, 2012, Fitch received a Naval Sea Cadet
Trophy and several tributes as “the founding father of
the Sea Cadets” during a ceremony at the Navy
Memorial in Washington marking the 50th anniversary
of the Sea Cadet Corps’ chartering by Congress.
Fitch will be remembered as a man of action who
was always working to create opportunities for the
youth of America. His generosity and devotion have
shaped the Sea Cadet program from its beginnings
with 78 young men to more than 11,000 young men
and women in 395 Sea Cadet and Navy League
Cadet Corps units today.
The Naval Sea Cadet Corps will continue to honor his
memory by providing dedicated support and opportunities to the cadets that Fitch cared about so deeply.
Fitch’s wife Helen died on Dec. 5. They had been married for 68 years at the time of his death. The Fitches
are survived by daughters Ruth White and Mary White,
sons Frederick and Morgan Fitch IV, eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Compiled by Kate McIlvaine, Director of Strategic
Outreach, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Morgan L. Fitch Jr., center, “the founding father of the Sea Cadets,” received
the Naval Sea Cadet Trophy from
VADM Richard W. Hunt, director, Navy
Staff, left, and NSCC National Chairman Randy W. Hollstein in September
2012 during a ceremony at the Navy
Memorial in Washington marking the
50th anniversary of the Sea Cadet
Corps’ chartering by Congress.