George S. Morrison, who commanded the fleet during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led to an escalation of the Vietnam War and whose son Jim was the lead singer of the Doors, died Nov. 17 in Coronado, Calif. He was 89 and lived in Coronado.
He died after a fall in the hospital, his daughter, Anne Chewning, told The Associated Press.
Aboard the flagship carrier Bon Homme Richard, Mr. Morrison commanded American naval forces in the gulf when the destroyer Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on Aug. 2, 1964. A skirmish and confused reports of a second engagement two days later led President Lyndon B. Johnson to order airstrikes against North Vietnam and to request from Congress what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing him to carry out further military operations without declaring war.
Mr. Morrison’s relationship with his famous son was difficult. Rebellion met blank incomprehension. In “The Doors by the Doors” (Hyperion, 2006), he is quoted as saying: “I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career. He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.”
George Stephen Morrison, known as Steve, was born in Rome, Ga. His father was a railroad worker. After graduating from the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1941, he was assigned, as an ensign, to the mine layer Pruitt in Pearl Harbor, where he witnessed the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941.
While at Pearl Harbor, he married Clara Clarke, who died in 2005. Besides his daughter, Anne, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., he is survived by his son Andrew, of Pahoa, Hawaii. Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971.
After taking part in operations in the Aleutians and the central Pacific, Mr. Morrison took flight training in Pensacola, Fla., and flew combat missions over Wake Island and Honshu, Japan, in the last year of World War II. After the war, he was an instructor for secret nuclear-weapons projects in Albuquerque. During the Korean War, he was assigned to the joint operations center in Seoul, earning a Bronze Star for his part in combat operations against North Korean and Chinese forces.
Mr. Morrison took command of the Bon Homme Richard in 1963 and in 1967 was promoted to the rank of rear admiral. In 1972 he became commander in chief of naval forces in the Marianas, which included some of the same islands he had bombed as a pilot during World War II, and where he organized relief efforts for nearly 100,000 Vietnamese refugees sent to Guam in 1975. It was an assignment he called the most satisfying of his career.
Mr. Morrison, who was portrayed briefly in the 1991 movie “The Doors,” donated several items belonging to his son Jim to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for a Doors exhibit that opened last year. These included his school report cards and college diploma and a Cub Scout uniform.