A three-war veteran reminisces
It is rare for someone to have served in three wars, but at 91 years old, Bill Morris has done just that. He is a WWII Veteran, a Vietnam War Veteran and a Korean War Veteran.
Ever since he was a child, Morris said he has felt drawn to the service. The attack on Pearl Harbor was fresh on his mind when he tried to join the marines at just 17 years old.
“There was just something that I liked about the service,” Morris said. “I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Though he was denied due to his age and his vision, he joined the Army Eighth Air Force as soon as he was eligible at age 18, in Nov. 1942, where he was assigned to a B-17 bomb group for 26 months.
“After my physical and after I was sworn in, I went to Fort Lee, Va. for initial processing and basic,” Morris said. “I ended up in Battle Creek, Mich. at Kellog Field. In August of 1943, I went to England.”
Morris was born in Rural Retreat, Va., and grew up in Marion, Va., where he was one of six children.
He married his wife, Alice, in Nov. 1945, right after WWII, and the two had four children, including two daughters, Rebecca and Gretchen, and two sons, Bill and Bob. He worked as a post office carrier for five years upon his return, but when the Korean War began in 1950, he decided to reenter the service.
His family was living in Northern Virginia at the time. He asked to be recalled to active duty in Sept. 1950, and decided to make a career of it. He applied for second lieutenant after a year, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1967 before retiring in 1969.
“I was going to stay for two years, and then at the end of two years, I’d stay another two or three years, and finally I decided to stay and make it a career,” Morris said.
Morris said he enjoyed traveling, and even brought his family with him to the base he was stationed at in Kobe, Japan in 1954. In 1960, he left for assignment in Asmara, Eritrea, where he also brought his family.
Afterwards, he was assigned to First Air Calvary Division training in Georgia for the Vietnam War in 1965, and was injured during parashoot practice.
Looking back at his time in the service, Morris said he is surprised by how young everyone was, which is something he didn’t realize at the time. He said most everyone in his flying crew was in their late teens or early 20’s.
“Although we did get bombed a couple of times in our airfield during World War II, it wasn’t like Vietnam where we were right in the combat area,” Morris said. “In World War II, most of my work was in the supply, but I made sure everyone had what they needed. During my time in Korea, there was no shooting going on.”
After retiring, he moved to Prince George, Va., where he lived for 23 years. After the war, he reunited with a friend from service, and worked with him in wholesale grocery distribution for a while and took over as manager. However, he still couldn’t seem to stay away from the army. He worked for the government as a civilian and travelled the world, where he was responsible for feeding the troops and running commissary stores.
“I travelled with that job. I went to Germany, Japan, Korea and Hawaii,” Morris said. “I travelled over the United States. I kind of liked that.”
Though he made it out of three wars relatively unscathed, aside from his parashoot accident, he lost an eye after retirement. After that, he said he became frustrated, and spent a good deal of his time writing and editing. When he returned home, he joined a church in Hopewell, where he was called to be a minister of visitation. Morris said his time with the church was perhaps his most satisfying job.
In 2001, when his wife became ill, he moved to Roanoke to be closer to their eldest son. His wife passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s, and his youngest daughter, Gretchen, passed away in 1995 at just 44 years old.
In 2004, he moved to Salem Terrace. Morris has 15 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren spread across the nation, and is proud of each.
Overall, Morris served his country for nearly 22 years, and has no regrets.
“It was something that was always there in my mind,” he said. “I felt like I should be a part of it as long as I could.”