HONOR FLIGHT — Jack Morris greets supporters at the airport where he landed earlier this month as part of an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in order to receive recognition for his services during World War II. Rachele Hill | Courtesy Photo
HONOR FLIGHT — Jack Morris greets supporters at the airport where he landed earlier this month as part of an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in order to receive recognition for his services during World War II. Rachele Hill | Courtesy Photo

Jack Morris, World War II veteran of Caney, recently received honor and recognition for his service to the United States of America as he served the country as a tail gunner during World War II.

Jack Alfred Morris was born in Independence on Dec. 24, 1925 to Murrel M. and Dorothy (Kirby) Morris. 

After a short stint in Missouri and Oklahoma, Morris’ family settled in the Caney area where Jack graduated from Caney High School in 1944. 

Morris enlisted in the Army Air Corps in May of 1944 at the age of 18. He was granted a deferment until graduation. Immediately after graduating high school he boarded a train in Caney, bound for Fort Leavenworth. Three months later, Morris completed his Basic Training in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Gunnery School was in Harlingen, Texas where Morris learned how to properly use and assemble a .50 caliber machine gun. Harlingen is also where Morris learned how to fly. Prior to Harlingen, Morris had never flown or even been in a plane. His very first flight was in a B-24, where he soon learned the basics of flying an aircraft.

Tonopah, Nev., was Morris’ next leg of the journey.  Tonopah was preparing the men for advanced gunnery. Gunnery School is training on the ground, whereas Advanced Gunnery the men trained in the air by dropping dummy bombs on targets. The dummy bombs were sacks of flour.

From Tonopah, Morris went to California then to Hawaii. After getting ammunition from Hawaii, they headed to New Guinea. They went to Nadzab and Biak, a little island called Morati and Ia Shima. During this time they started bombing Kyusbu, the southern-most island of Japan.

August 6, 1945 is a date that lives in infamy for Americans. This is the date that a select few remember vividly nowadays. Morris was in a decoy plane the day he remembers seeing the infamous mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, Japan. The same time his plane, a B-24 was sent on a bombing mission, a B-29 was sent from the Island of Tinian bound for Hiroshima. The B-29 was dropping the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city.  The explosion killed thousands of people, wiping out 90 percent of the city. Seeing the mushroom cloud was quite a shock to then 18-year old Morris. A horrific sight Morris doesn’t often discuss, understandably so.

Morris witnessed his fair share of trials and tragedy during his time in the Air Corps. On certain missions, the planes didn’t always come back. Those who did make it back were in charge of gathering their fallen comrades’ clothing and shipping it back home — an unpleasant, but necessary duty.

Morris got his discharge in October of 1945. After being discharged from the Air Corps, he came back to Caney to work and attend Coffeyville Community College. After six months of courtship, Morris married Faye Marie Boles in 1946. Together they had two children, Brent and Jana. During their time in Caney, they purchased a service station which they ran for 30 years.

Seventy-one years after witnessing the infamous mushroom cloud at Hiroshima and being discharged from the Army Air Corps, Morris received  recognition from his country in a big way.

Morris was selected to participate with other veterans to fly to Washington D.C. via the Honor Flight Network from the Kansas City Airport to visit the memorials and reflect on his time spent fighting for our country. The Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created to honor America’s heroes, our Veterans, for their service and sacrifices.  

The Honor Flight provides veterans with honor and closure they have long deserved. Since its inception in 2005, the Honor Flight program has flown over 160,000 veterans. 

To learn more or donate to the Honor Flight Network, visit www.honorflight.org.

Morris, accompanied by his granddaughter Rachele (Morris) Hill, boarded the Honor Flight plane in Kansas City bound for Washington on Tuesday, May 3. 

After an early morning check-in, the Honor Flight left the Kansas City Airport bright and early at 6 a.m. The Honor Flight housed 77 veterans with 38 of those being World War II Vets.  During the flight, the on-board entertainment were the Kansas City Betty’s, an organization created to perform at veteran events. 

The Kansas City Bettys sang several 1940s era songs, including the popular hit, "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."

The group landed at the Ronald Reagan National Airport where they were greeting by hundreds and hundreds of people cheering on our nation’s heroes. The veterans received a police escort as they toured the city via bus. Their first stop was the World War II National Memorial, followed by the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. After touring Washington D.C. and the many federal buildings, the veterans were bused to Arlington National Cemetery where they were able to witness the changing of the guard as well as the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Hill said the thing that seemed to get her grandpa’s attention the most was when he saw the different islands on the World War II Memorial. He was able to see all of the islands and pin-point which island he was on and talk about his time on the Pacific front island. According to Hill, “The sheer enormity of it was overwhelming.” Hill has the utmost respect for her grandpa and was honored to be a part of such an important event in his life. 

The veterans were able to reminisce and take pictures together and in front of the memorials. After a busy afternoon, the veterans went back to the airport to head home, once again greeted by lines of people cheering them on. 

On the flight home, the vets were once again surprised with an announcement they hadn’t heard since the 1940’s. The in-flight crew announced, ‘Mail Call’ - and began passing out letters to each of the veterans. Each person was receiving letters from their very own family and friends that were written prior to the trip.  Morris received nearly 100 letters of appreciation, love and respect. Several letters were from third graders he has never even met, who wanted to thank him for his service.  It brought back a wave of memories, as ‘Mail Call’ was a significant source, if not the only source of communication back home. ‘Mail Call’ during World War II was a happy moment in such a devastating time for these young men and women.  

As Jack returned to his hometown in Caney, he was escorted by American Legion Riders, the Patriot Guard Riders, and American Flags lining Highway 75. The highway was lined with proud Caneyites and Caney Valley High School students waving flags, holding banners and cheering on Morris as he drove through town. Morris has cheered on the Caney Bullpups for over 50 years and this time they were cheering him on.  It was a beautiful sight indeed. A welcome home meet-and-greet was then held at Wark Park for those wishing to shake Jack’s hand and offer a word of gratitude for his time served.

Morris was overwhelmed with all of the attention and celebratory cheers, from the crowds of people at the airport, to the police escort through Washington D.C., to the welcome home parade and Patriot Guard escort back into his hometown of Caney. He is a very humble man who didn’t feel all of the attention was deserving. 

Even all these years later, Morris doesn’t feel like a hero. When he enlisted, he was just doing what he thought was right and he did the best he knew how for his country.