John Morrow’s Depression-era youth did little to prepare him for experiences he would endure during World War II, but his three years of service helped shape the man he would become.
An experienced plow hand on the family farm and a basketball standout at school, John was a couple months from graduating high school at Marshall in 1942 when he asked his father, Calvin, to sign him up for the Air Force. Calvin agreed, but when John was assigned a spot it was in the Army.
Interviewed the week after Veteran’s Day last month, the 99-year-old recalled with seriousness the challenges he faced at 19 years old, and laughed heartily when sharing memories of humorous experiences with fellow soldiers, relating most as easily as if they had happened recently.
John completed basic training then was assigned to the 7th Armored Division and shipped to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the first Army vehicle he was taught to drive was a tank. He moved with his unit around the U.S. for the next 18 months training in various terrains and weather conditions. He learned to drive everything the Army had, and was eventually assigned to the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion, serving in Company B. He drove a half-track, which was an armored personnel carrier with wheels on the front and dozer-like tracks on the back.
On June 6, 1944, as the D-Day landings occurred in Normandy, his unit boarded the Queen Mary in New York Harbor, bound for England. After further training and familiarization in Scotland and England, the 7th Armored, as part of Patton’s 3rd Army, landed on Omaha Beach Aug 10, 1944.
Five days later during the first major engagement, Company B was ambushed two miles outside of Paris. A German anti-tank gun took out four vehicles, killing or injuring at least 20 soldiers. John said he and four others were crawling along a road ditch trying to get away when an exploding shell caused flash burns that affected John’s face and eyes. He and other wounded were removed to a field hospital, where he was treated for six weeks. He received the Purple Heart for this incident.
See the complete story in the Dec. 15, 2021 issue.
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