Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Short Biography #2
Marion ‘Duke’ Morrison
Born Marion Morrison in Winerset, Iowa, on May 26, 1907, Duke Morrison was to become the hardest fighting Marine Corps General to come out of World War II. The nickname Duke came from his childhood in California with a dog named Duke. When walking his dog, Morrison often passed a firehouse, were the firefighters called the dog Little Duke, and Morrison Big Duke. Given the lack of manliness attributed to Marion, Duke Morrison seldom used his given name. Morrison was an athletic youth, spending his years in High School playing football. He applied and was accepted to the United States Naval Academy in Baltimore in 1925. He spent his years at the Academy playing football as well, on the winning team in three out of four Army-Navy games. Morrison graduated and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
Morrison made Captain in 1933 during his tour of duty in Grand Colombia. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in a skirmish between a Marine patrol and Venezuelan Rebels, where he braved machine gun fire to drag a wounded comrade to safety. He served two more tours during 1934 and 1936. Morrison was a Lieutenant Colonel in 1940. He was based on Cuba and was the XO for the 4th Marine (Brigade) of the 2nd Marine Division. Rapid promotion during the 1930s came through his natural leadership skill and personal courage during combat. With war looming, a shortage of high ranking personnel prompted his promotion.
Through most of 1940, Morrison and the 4th Marines fought the Confederate invaders in a guerilla war across the interior of the State of Cuba. They managed to delay and frustrate Confederate Marine General Holland ‘Howling Mad’ Smith until reinforcements under Brigadier General Eisenhower reached the island. Months after Holland surrendered, on March 20, 1941, Morrison, and the whole 2nd Marine Division took part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of the Confederate Gulf Coast.
Upon the Confederate Surrender, Morrison was promoted to Colonel and given command of the 9th Marines. He and his unit were transferred to the Pacific and took part in the Hawaiian Island campaign. The 9th fought on Oahu, Maui and took part in the invasion of Hawaii, assisting the Mauians and Kauaians in taking Kona. Following the Hawaiian Islands, the 9th took part in liberating Wake. The Battle of Wake was a four day slugfest where virtually the entire 3,000 man garrison was wiped out at the cost of five thousand Marine casualties. Among them was Morrison, who received a Purple Heart for the shrapnel wound his received in the shoulder.
Morrison spent several weeks recovering. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1944, and given command of the 5th Marine Division in time for the invasion of Formosa. The 5th Marine Division took 40% casualties trying to pry the Japanese out of a network of caves and bunkers the Japanese built to hold the island. Morrison was nearly killed when a sniper’s bullet grazed his helmet. Following the Liberation of Formosa, Morrison began training his division for the upcoming invasion of Japan. Given the loses on Formosa, Morrison was no optimistic about the invasion, or living to see victory. That was rendered mute in August of 1945 when Japan surrendered.
Morrison continued to command the 5th Marine Division during its tour of occupation on Kyushu. In 1948, he was pointed commandant of the new USMC base on Hilton Head, South Carolina. Hilton Head was home to a CSMC base, taken over by the United States after the Confederacy surrendered. Morrison fought hard against the decision by Truman to integrate the militaries of the United States and the former Confederacy. His quest to keep Southerners out of “his Corps” nearly cost him his career.
When Eisenhower was elected in 1952, he named Morrison to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There, Morrison served as advisor to Ike for most of his presidency. Morrison retired from the Corps in 1959, after thirty years of service to his country. He retired to his childhood home in California, living out the remainder of his days, occasionally acting as a consultant to Hollywood studios on various war movies produced during the early 1960s. Morrison died on July 1, 1964, after a year long struggle against lung cancer. Morrison was an avid smoker, and even during treatment he refused to kick the habit.