Last Known Activity
William F. B. Morris was born in Armel, Colorado around 1914. He was the son of Freeman W. and Velma V. (Matney) Morris. He graduated from high school and attended Pueblo Junior College, but did not graduate. He was employed by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation, working in the coke plant.
He enlisted in January, 1941, and was chosen for training as a navigator. After graduation, he was commissioned and assigned to the 11th Bomb Group. He was serving as navigator on B-17E # 40-2049, "Skipper," and arrived at his new duty station in Hawaii at the same time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This was one of a flight of B-17s coming from the mainland. Radar operators picked up the approaching Japanese air strike but confused it with the inbound B-17s.
His aircraft was attacked and damaged by Japanese fighters. The pilot made a forced landing at Bellows Field, and four of the crew survived. The aircraft was determined to be too damaged for repair and was salvaged and used for spare parts.
Morris was assigned to another crew and aircraft and was assigned to the 42nd Bomb Squadron, near New Guinea. His crew was scheduled for participation in bombing raids on Japanese shipping around the Solomon Islands.
Taking off from Gaiacs Air Field on a mission to seek out convoys and bomb them on September 8, 1942, the aircraft found the targets and bombed the ships, hitting at least one. On the return trip home, the aircraft was engaged by a number of Japanese fighters and shot down, crashing on Rendova Island, off New Guinea. All crew members were killed. Natives retrieved the bodies and buried them on the island.
In 1943, an inspection team discovered the bodies, and by identification cards, papers, artifacts from the aircraft, and articles the natives had taken before the burial, the crew was identified, although not individually. The remains were placed in the Manila Mauseleum in the Philippines until 1946 when they were returned to the U.S. and buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. They lie in graves 294-295 in Plot 1009-F.
The aircraft Lt. Morris was on at the time of his death was B-17E #41-9071, nicknamed "Stingaree," from the 42nd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 16202 applies and identifies the crew as:
Cpt Robert H. Richards p
1 Lt Robert H. McGhee c-p
1 Lt William F.B. Morris nav
Cpl Yon W. Bailey assistant eng
SSgt Charles E. Bayer bomb
Cpl Otis O. Black, Jr eng
Cpl Peter Charuk armorer/gun
Sgt Hugh M. Kimg r/o
Pvt William O. Manoff gunner
One source gives Morris' rank as Aviation Cadet, but gravestone says 1 Lt.