following is a living-history interview with Commander Morris concerning
his experiences in World War Two. It was conducted by Ted A. Morris
and Ted A. Morris, Jr., on October 30, 1994 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Commander Morris is the brother of Ted Morris' father. The interview
was edited to eliminate the interviewers' questions, place details
in their proper chronological order, and to make minor corrections
for the sake of clarity. Otherwise, the words are those of Commander
Morris was born to George Edward Morris of Minnesota, and Isabel Mavor
Scott of Ontario, April 5, 1906, in Regina, Saskatchewan during a
family stay in that area. The family returned to Minnesota, where
Commander Morris attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1925 and graduated
from the University of Minnesota in 1927 with a degree in Civil Engineering.
He joined the U.S. Coast Survey after graduation, because, he said,
"It paid twice as much ( $2,000 per year) than any other job I could
get." He was married December 26, 1932 to Katherine Schroeder of Washington
several assignments, including peninsular Alaska, where he surveyed
portions of the Inner Passage and Glacier Bay, he and his family were
assigned to the Philippines in March, 1939. Their son Scott was born
at Sternberg Hospital in Manila on November 19, 1941, the last American
to be born there before the Japanese invasion. "Kay" and the children,
Scott and three-year old Mary Ann, were captured by the Japanese in
Manila. When Scott turned one-year old, they were interned in Santo
Tomas Concentration Camp until liberated by American Forces in February,
Morris was captured by the Japanese on Corregidor when it fell on
May 9, 1941, and was held as a prisoner of war in the Philippines,
at Mojii, Japan, and Inchon, Korea. He was liberated by American forces
in September of 1945 at Inchon. He was reunited with his family at
Washington in November, 1945.
the war, Commander Morris continued service in the Coast and Geodetic
Survey, including a tour surveying the country of Liberia. He retired
from the Coast Survey in 1958, and taught college mathematics in St.
Petersburg, Florida until 1974. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida,
and is a member of patriotic organizations including the National
Order of the World Wars, and Sons of the American Revolution, and
volunteers his time at Bay Pines Veterans' Center in St. Petersburg.
Well, what would you like to hear first of all? I'm
George E. Morris, Jr., and was a Lieutenant, Senior Grade, with the
U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey out in the Philippines in December,
1941. When the war broke, I was Executive Officer of the ship "Research."
There were two Coast Survey ships in the Philippines at the time,
the "Fathomer" and the "Pathfinder." The "Research" originally was
called the "Pathfinder," and it was built in '98 for Alaska. The Coast
Survey built a newer ship they wanted to call "Pathfinder," so the
old ship became the "Research." The "Research" was a two-masted sailing
schooner. It had been built with the idea of operating in cold weather
and had a big tumblehome. The only thing above the upper deck was
the pilot house. Everything else was below decks. When I first went
out to the islands in '29 and '30 the ship had been in the Philippines
for some time, and the masts were still there and the booms were still
in place. When I went back in '39, the booms had been replaced with
strongbacks which were used for stretching awning over to keep the
sun off the deck to make it a little cooler down below.
It was a good-sized, steel-hulled ship; we had a
crew of 80 men and nine officers. Except for myself, the commanding
officer and the engineer, they were all Filipino. We had seven or
eight Filipino cadets on the crew who were training to take over our
operations when the Philippines gained its independence.
We had an annual repair season for the ships when
we completed minor repairs, and we were in Manila for winter repairs.
We were at what was called Engineer Island, which had one of the best
machine shops in the Philippines, run by the Philippine government.
We'd haul out the ship, clean the bottom and make any hull repairs
which were necessary. Principally, we'd complete any engine room repairs
that required machine shop repairs that we couldn't handle aboard
There were five officers with the Coast Survey there
in Manila at the time: Captain Cowie, Lieutenant Commanders Egner
and Shaw, Lieutenant Junior Grade Stirni, and myself
Captain Cowie was killed in a bombing raid early in
the war. The Coast Survey had the only copy of the nautical almanac
in the Philippine Islands for the coming year, and Captain Cowie had
made arrangements with the Philippine government printing office to
duplicate this for the use of the Navy. The day he was killed, he
wanted me to go with him to get these duplicates. We each had an official
car and a driver. We got these cars by going into the car dealers
and taking the cars and giving them a slip of paper for it. We used
the cars to go running all over town doing different errands. I didn't
see much use to the errands, though I suppose we were making a showing
to the public that we were doing something. Anyway, I asked Captain
Cowie, "What should I do with my car?" He said "Well, you'd better
keep your car." And so I didn't go with him. They bombed the building
that the printing room was in while he was in there, and he was killed.
Lieutenant Commander Egner, as the ranking officer,
then took charge of the Coast Survey there in the Philippines. When
Egner moved up to director, I moved up to Commanding Officer of the
"Research." Lieutenant Commander Charley Shaw was in Stotsenberg Hospital
there in Manila. He had been down in Jolo and got tangled up with
a native and cut up. Lieutenant Junior Grade Stirni was aboard the
After Christmas, the Japanese began bombing Manila,
and a small bomb hit the launch we had moored alongside the' gangway
of the "Research." The launch caught fire, but fortunately the standby
crew aboard the Research was able to put the fire out, and the only
damage was from where the fire had warped some of the side plates.
We inspected very carefully below the waterline and could find no
the night after this bombing, I was at home in our apartment in Manila,
and one of the crew members came and said that the Army had given
them orders to take the ship out, either to Corregidor or into deep
water and scuttle it. So I went down to the ship. We just had the
nightwatch crew aboard at the time, about one third of the crew. We
were under power from the pier, so we got up steam and I took the
ship out and cruised slowly down Manila Bay waiting for daylight to
cross over to Corregidor.