ARTICLE FROM THE QUEEN CITY MAIL
SPEARFISH S. DAKOTA NEWSPAPER
AUGUST 24, 1944
"GOVERNMENT DECLARES JOE MORRIS DEAD AFTER 12-MONTH ABSENCE"
This week Mrs. Joe Morris received word from the war department that her husband,
Lieut. Col. Joe Morris, one of Spearfish's favorite fighting sons, who has been missing in
the European theater of war since Aug. 16 of last year, has been declared dead.
Hopes have been held by relatives and friends that the courageous air corps officer
would show up "somewhere in France" as the battle for the liberation of the enemy occupied
country progressed. This week as Paris regains it freedom, the message from the war
department reveals the important part Col. Morris, and other young fighters like him,
played in the early stages of the battle for Paris's liberation.
"Since your husband, Lieut. Col. Joe Morris was reported missing in action 16 August,
1943, the war department has entertained the hope that he survived and that information
would be revealed dispelling the uncertainty surrounding his absence ," the message from
the war department read.
"However as in many cases, the conditions of warfare deny us such information. The
record concerning your husband shows that on 16 August, 1943, he was leading a flight of
planes on a bomber escort mission. Enemy aircraft was encountered near Elbeuf, northwest
of Paris, and he was last seen as he dived his plane in pursuit of an enemy plane."
"Full consideration has recently been given to all available information bearing on
the absence of your husband, including all records, reports and circumstances. These have
been carefully reviewed and considered. In view of the fact that 12 months have now
expired without the receipt of evidence to support a continued presumption of survival, the
war department must terminate such absence by a presumptive death."
"We regret the necessity for this message, but trust that the ending of a long period
of uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation. We hope you may find
sustaining comfort in the thought that the uncertainty with which the war surrounded the
absence of your husband has enhanced the honor of his service to his country and of his
sacrifice," the message concluded.
Little is known of Col. Morris' activities overseas other than the fact that he
commanded a fighter squadron he had trained in the United States himself before being sent
to Europe in June of 1943. It is known, however, that he was awarded the air medal and oak
leaf cluster for meritorious service in aerial flight in Europe and that he had completed
10 operational flights over enemy occupied continental Europe before his last flight.
An interesting article concerning Col. Morris and his fighting fliers appeared in an
eastern paper a short time after he was reported missing. It was a delayed Associated
Press story by Walter Logan describing the squadron's first flight. It read as follows :
"For weeks the young American fliers had sat around the huge Nissen hut that was their
clubroom waiting for their first mission. They were the most impatient men in England.
"For weeks they had done nothing while other groups went on many sweeps a day or
accompanied Flying Fortresses into Germany. They had been considered a crack squadron when
they left the United States and their impatience became almost unbearable. Card games
lagged and the discussions always turned to those magic words 'first mission.'
"Then it came. Lieut. Col. Joseph Morris of Spearfish, S. Dak., their group
commander, told them their orders in a calm midwestern voice. It was to be the real thing.
The Forts were going to attack airfields in France and action was likely -- Jerries will
come up to attack the bombers.
"The first of fat little Thunderbolts roared down the long runway. Then came another
and another and another until the sky was full of the powerful fighters circling for the
altitude at which they perform best, and then they were off , across the channel for their
"Later their battle reports began coming in on the radio and you knew they were mixing
it up. The reports were fragmentary and mostly unprintable. Someone would say 'get
that-------off my tail' and someone would reply 'why certainly.' There were references to
the Luftwaffe which would have made Goerring writhe in indignation.
"Some of them came back singing, 'The Last Time I Saw Paris.' All of them were nearly
out of gas when they landed. But they were happy."
Col. Morris was born near Alva, Wyo. Dec. 8, 1911. He was graduated from Spearfish
high school in 1932 and soon after graduation entered the air corps and was sent to
Randolph Field, Texas, for training.
After he received his commission as lieutenant in the air corps he was sent to
Hawaiian Islands, was stationed there during the attack on the island Dec. 7, 1941.
Shortly after the attack he was promoted to the rank of major.
He was brought back to the United States to train his own fighting squadron late in
1942. After eight months he and his squadron were sent to Europe. He received his
promotion to lieutenant colonel in June of last year.