James Morris was born on April 9, 1920, in Columbus, Ohio. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on February 21, 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Luke Field, Arizona, on September 29, 1942. His first assignment was as a P-39 Airacobra and then P-38 Lightning pilot with the 77th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group at Paine Field, Washington, from September 1942 to January 1943, and then at March Field, California, from January to August 1943. Lt Morris deployed to England with the 77th Fighter Squadron in August 1943, and was credited with the destruction of 7.333 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 2.8333 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields, before he was shot down and taken as a Prisoner of War on July 7, 1944. After spending 312 days in captivity, Capt Morris was released from Stalag Luft 1 in Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia, on May 14, 1945. He returned to the U.S. in July 1945, and after recovering from his captivity, he completed Purchasing and Contracting School in July 1946. Maj Morris served as a Purchasing & Contracting Officer at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, from July 1946 to June 1948, followed by service as Commanding Officer of the 56th Support Squadron and then as Material Officer for the 56th Air Base Group at Selfridge AFB from July 1948 to June 1949. His next assignment was as Assistant Material Officer for the 36th Air Base Group and then Manpower Officer for the 36th Fighter Wing at Furstenfeldbruck AB, Germany, from August 1949 to June 1950, and then as an F-84 Thunderjet pilot and Commander of the 22nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Furstenfeldbruck AB from June to November 1950. He served as Tactical Inspector for the 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing from November 1950 to January 1951, followed by service as Material Officer for the 36th Air Base Group from January to September 1951. LtCol Morris next served as Executive Officer for the 36th Air Base Group from October 1951 to May 1952, followed by Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from June to December 1952. He remained on as an Instructor at Air Command and Staff College from December 1952 to August 1956, and then served as Wing Inspector, Deputy Director of Operations, and then Plans Officer for the 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from August 1956 to June 1958. After attending French Language School at the Foreign Service Institute, LtCol Morris served as an Operations Staff Officer with the Air Force Military Assistance and Advisory Group in France from February to September 1959. His next assignment was as an Inspector General with Headquarters 10th Air Force at Selfridge AFB from September 1959 to January 1961, followed by service as an Operations Staff Officer with Headquarters 5th Air Force Reserve Region at Selfridge AFB from January 1961 to December 1962. He served as Chief of the Operations Plans Division with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from December 1962 to January 1963, and then as an F-105 Thunderchief pilot and Commander of the 563rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell from January to December 1963. LtCol Morris then served as Commander of the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell from December 1963 to September 1964, followed by service as Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem AB, West Germany, from September 1964 to August 1965. His next assignment was as Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB from August 1965 to February 1967, when he deployed to Southeast Asia. He served as an F-105 pilot with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from March to July 1967, and then as Executive Officer for the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill AFB, Florida, from July 1967 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 9, 1969. James Morris died on April 8, 2008, and was buried at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa, Florida.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism in action with the enemy, 8 February 1944. On that date Captain Morris was Pilot of a P-38 Fighter airplane on a bomber escort mission to Frankfort, Germany. While on this mission Captain Morris attacked and destroyed an ME-109 fighter. Very shortly thereafter he observed a moving train below him and immediately went down to attack it. As he proceeded homeward, he saw, in the vicinity of Sedan, two FW-190 Fighters taking off from an airdrome. Without thought of the danger of engaging the enemy at low altitude over his own airdrome, Captain Morris unhesitatingly attacked and destroyed one of the fighters and proceeded immediately to attack and destroy another FW-190 which had appeared over the field. With his fuel supply dangerously low, and in an area well defended by light anti-aircraft guns, Captain Morris set course for his base. Soon thereafter he sighted an enemy ME-109 flying above and ahead of him. With full knowledge that with his rapidly dwindling fuel supply any deviation from course would seriously jeopardize his chance for safe return to his base, and unmindful of his unfavorable position, Captain Morris courageously flew into attack and succeeded in seriously damaging the enemy aircraft. By his extraordinary flying skill and intrepidity Captain Morris rendered distinguished and valorous service to our nation.