Today, the DPAA announced that Sergeant Jerome Bernard Morris, of Paragould, Arkansas has been accounted for. Read their press release here.
Jerome, the son of Ernest and Leatrice Morris, was born in Paragould on 6 March 1921. The family moved to Illinois around the year 1930, and Jerome spent the next ten years of his life growing up in East St. Louis. He attended school, but did not graduate, and built up a solid reputation in his community. Among his closest friends was Lorraine Reidt, a girl about his age who lived nearby.
With his parents’ permission, and armed with character references from his neighbors, Morris headed over to St. Louis proper and enlisted in the Marine Corps on 26 August 1940. Following boot camp, he was assigned to Company D of the 8th Marines. This was a heavy weapons company of the regiment’s First Battalion; Morris trained to operate a heavy machine gun, for which he was rated “excellent” and promoted to Private First Class.
In the spring of 1941, a call went out for volunteers to join the 6th Marines. Rumor had it that the regiment would be heading overseas. The 8th Marines, which had just completed the record-setting 180-mile Cuyamaca Hike, had several men who wanted to see more action and less California scenery. A transfer was granted to PFC Morris; he reported to his new company (coincidentally, also “Company D”) on 27 May and four days later was embarking on the transport USS Fuller. The destination, while certainly overseas, was not quite what the hard-charging volunteers expected: they were not off to fight the Germans, but to garrison Iceland. Instead of standing guard in San Diego, they stood guard in the freezing cold of Reykjavik. In the ultimate irony, they would be on the wrong side of the world when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Morris, who made corporal while in Iceland, returned to the United States in the summer of 1942. The 6th Marines were in transit to the Pacific, bound for combat at last; Morris was promoted to sergeant and placed in charge of a machine gun section. Not knowing when, or if, he would be back in the States again, Morris asked Lorraine to come out to California. They were married in San Diego on 5 August 1942, and their time together was all too brief. Two days after the wedding, the name “Guadalcanal” was in the newspapers, and before the year was out Sergeant Morris was fighting in its jungles.
Lorraine returned to Illinois and established a home in East Alton. In April of 1943, she gave birth to Jerome Bernard Dean Morris. Far off in New Zealand, Sergeant Morris probably wished hard to go home and meet little “Jay Dean” – but furloughs were out of the question. When August 1943 rolled around, and the fourth and final year of his first enlistment commenced, Morris might have begun thinking of ways to transfer closer to the United States.
He would not have the chance. On 22 November 1943, Sergeant Jerome Morris was leading his machine gunners in action when a shell exploded in his vicinity and he fell dead, riddled with shrapnel. He was buried in a mass grave on Betio, Tarawa atoll, and lay there undiscovered until early 2019.
A History Flight expedition uncovered “Row D” and brought the remains back to the United States for laboratory analysis. Of approximately thirty remains recovered, Jerome Morris is one of the first to be identified.
Welcome home, Sgt. Morris. Semper Fi.
We are actively seeking information for Sgt. Morris’ profile page.
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