|The West Virginia State State CCC
Museum Association is proud to announce the induction of Mitchell Opas
into the WVCCCMA Hall of Fame at the Spring CCC Reunion,
Saturday, April 14, 2012. Our Class of 2012 honoree was born in a small
coal mining community north of Morgantown, West Virginia, October 3,
1917. The Opas family moved to Montana Mines, Marion
County, WV. Mitch attended Riveville High School for one year,
but when the mines closed, his family was in dire straits. He left high
school and entered the Civilian Conservation Corps. Opas was assigned
to Camp Watoga, near Marlinton, West Virginia, 1938-40.
While in the CCC, young Opas learned numerous trades and a respect for education that he never lost. According to his sister Marie, who visited Mitch at the CCC camp while she was in high school, “Mitch never lost his love for learning new things. I visited him at Watoga a number of times. He enjoyed swimming. My brother always had his camera ready to snap a picture. He was one of the head cooks there, and qualified to do any type of job being performed by the CCC boys at the camp.” She continued. “I remember how poor we were and his $25.00 CCC check was a real Godsend”. Mitch always missed having that high school diploma. After, he joined the military, he made sure he got his GED.” Our honoree put together three historic photo albums and other memorabilia of his stay at the Camp Watoga, which have been digitized to be preserved for posterity and are part of the West Virginia State CCC Museum.
Opas joined the U.S. Army medical corps in January 1941 and rose to the rack of Tech Sergeant. He distinguished himself as an operating room technician in the China, Burma, India, and Berneen Theater and worked side by side with the famous “Burma Surgeon”, Col. Gordon Seagrave under Gen. Stillwell and served in “Merrill's Marauders”. Later, he followed the surgical teams to Germany, Formosa, Phillipines, Okinawa, and Nationalist China. Opas received a Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Medal, Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal, Bronze Service Star and two Silver Stars. In all, he served over thirty years in the military.
Mr. Opas returned home to the East Grafton Road farm near Grafton, West Virginia where he served faithfully at the National Cemetery at Pruntytown, West Virginia, serving at VFW Post 3081 and American Legion Post 12 Color Guard. He attended more thatn fifteen hundred funerals. At the National Cemetery at Pruntytown, West Virginia there is a memorial stone designed, financed, and donated by Opas dedicated to the veterans of the China, Burma, India Theater. Mitchell Opas received full military honors at the National Cemetery at Pruntytown, October 8, 2010 at his passing at age 91. A memorial stone in his honor was placed at that time. His name is inscribed with other CCC Vets Hall of Fame inductees on the West Virginia Civilian Conservation Corps perpetual plaque at the museum.