USS Morris (DD-417)

USS Morris (DD-417) was a Sims class destroyer that served with the Neutrality Patrol in 1941 then moved to the Pacific early in 1942. She fought at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway and took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal and the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. In 1943 she took part in the liberation of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. In 1944 she supported the invasion of the Marshalls and the landings at Hollandia. She then stayed off New Guinea and supported the operations at Wakde-Sarmi, Naik, Noemfoor and Cape Sansapor, then the invasion of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies. She took part in the invasion of Leyte in late 1943 and of Luzon in early 1944. On 6 April, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa, she was hit by a kamikaze and although she survived and returned to the US it was decided not to repair her.  

The Morris was named after Robert Morris, a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.

USS Morris (DD-416) at Charleston Navy Yard, 1942 USS Morris (DD-417) at Charleston Navy Yard, 1942

The Morris was laid down at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 7 June 1938, launched on 1 June 1939 when she was sponsored by Mrs. Charles R. Nutter, great‑granddaughter of Commodore Charles Morris and commissioned on March 1940.

On 28 June 1940 she left Hampton Roads to escort the Wasp (CV-7) on her shakedown cruise. On 9 July she attempted to rescue the crew of a Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator that had crashed two miles from the carrier, but the aircraft and crew sank before they could be reached.

In the summer of 1941 she joined the North Atlantic Patrol, part of the wider Neutrality Patrol.

On 3 September 1941 she was photographed at the Boston Navy Yard, when she was painted in two tone colours, with a dark lower hull and light upper hull and bodywork.

Soon after this she departed for Iceland as part of Task Force 15, and on 8 September took part in the hunt for a possible submarine.

On 30 October she was at sea with the Yorktown and New Mexico (BB-41), helping to screen a convoy heading across the Atlantic, when a possible submarine was detected just as the Yorktown was preparing to refuel three destroyers. The Morris and Anderson (DD-411) dropped depth charges, and reported seeing an oil slick, but no wreckage. 

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the Morris entered the Charleston Navy Yard, where she was equipped with fire control radar, the first set to be installed on a US Navy destroyer.

1942

She was still at Charleston on 5 January 1942, when she was photographed in patterned camouflage, but soon departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving at the end of February.

The Morris left Pearl Harbor as part of Task Force 17, heading for Noumea. She then screened the carriers in the task force as their aircraft attacked Japanese shipping at Tulagi and in the Louisiade Archipelago.

The fleet them moved into the Coral Sea to prevent a Japanese fleet sailing around the eastern end of New Guinea to attack Port Moresby. This led to the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), the first battle in naval history in which surface ships from the two fleets never sighted each other. During the battle the Morris claimed one Japanese aircraft and damaged two more, and was used to screen the Yorktown and Lexington. After the Lexington was badly damaged the Morris rescued 500 of her crew.

She was close to the Lexington at 1727 when there was a massive explosion on the carrier, and this may be where she sustained the damage that forced her back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. These repairs were completed at high speed, and she was ready for action by the end of May.

On 30 May she left Pearl Harbor with Admiral Fletcher’s task force, buit around the Yorktown, Astoria (CA-34) and Portland (CA-33), heading for the battle of Midway. At Midway the Morris had to rescued 500 survivors from the Yorktown, after that carrier was badly damaged and later sunk.

On 17 August the Morris left Pearl Harbor as part of Task Force 17 (Hornet, Northampton, Pensacola, San Diego, the oiler Guadalupe (AO-32) and five destroyers. This force soon joined the fighting in the Solomons, where the the Morris would spend the next two months. 

At the end of August TF 17 joined Admiral Frank Fletcher’s TF-61, which was being assembled to carry out offensive operations in the Solomon Islands. However on 31 August the Saratoga was hit by a torpedo from I-26 and had to retire for repairs, weakening the task force.

On 23 October the Morris came alongside the South Dakota and took on 1,000 rounds of 5in ammo.

On 24 October the Morris became part of Task Force 61, formed by the combination of TF 16 and TF 17. The task force was soon caught up in the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. On 26 October Japanese aircraft found the group and hit the Hornet, which was soon dead in the water. Attempts were made to tow the damaged carrier to safety. During this part of the rescue she was almost hit by a single Val from the Shokaku that was attempting to attack the carrier but almost hit the Morris instead. The Japanese kept attacking, and the Hornet suffered more damage which eventually meant she had to be abandoned and scuttled. The Morris picked up 550 of her crew.

Once again the Morris suffered damage to her superstructure during the rescue, and had to return to Espiritu Santo for repairs.

Once these were over she returned to the Guadalcanal, where she operated with the Enterprise, then as a supply unit escort with the Russell.

On 11 November she sortied from Noumea with TF 16 (Enterprise, South Dakota and Washington) to head back to Guadalcanal, where a major Japanese naval attack was under way (Naval Battle of Guadalcanal). The Enterprise’s aircraft took part in the battle, and the Morris formed part of her screen.

1943

In May 1943 the Morris departed for the Aleutians, to take part in the liberation of Attu and Kiska, islands that had been captured by the Japanese early in the war.

On 5 July she was operating with the Wichita near Kiska when the battleship reported detecting a surfaced submarine. The cruisers opened fire with their 6in guns and the target disappeared. The Morris and Mustin (DD-413) were then left to hunt for the submarine while the rest of the task force moved south. In fog the Morris believed she had detected a submarine close to her on the surface and dropped depth charges, but with no success.

After the capture of Kiska the Morris departed for San Francisco, where she underwent a seven week long overhaul.

On 21 October 1943 she was photographed in San Francisco Bay, this time painted in a single colour.

On 26 October the Morris, Hoel, Hughes (DD-410), Mustin (DD-413), Cotton (DD-669) and MacDonough (DD-351) left San Francisco heading to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 31 October.

During the attack on Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands the Morris, Hoel, Franks and Hughes screened the escort carriers of TG 52.3 (Liscombe Bay, Coral Sea, and Corregidor) as they positioned themselves to the south of Butaritari Island. On 24 November the Liscome Bay was hit by a torpedo fired by I-175, and her bomb store exploded. The Liscombe Bay sank within 23 minutes, taking 646 of her crew with her. Once again the Morris had to help rescue the crew of a sinking aircraft carrier, her fourth.

In the aftermath of this campaign, the Morris returned to the west coast of the United States for a refit.

1944

On 12 January the Morris left San Diego as part of a force of destroyers heading to San Pedro. On 13 January they joined Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s TG 53 (Louisville (CA-28)), and departed for Hawaii, arriving on 21 January. On 22 January a commanding officers’ conference on ‘screening operations’ was held onboard the Morris, before at noon the task group departed for the Marshall Islands.

On 30 January the Morris led a column of warships that bombarded Wotje. She then moved to Kwajalein Atoll to provide fire support off Namur. During this battle she helped defeat a Japanese counter-attack that was launched from a nearby island.

In mid-February the Morris joined TG 51.11 to take part in the invasion of Eniwetok. She arrived off that atoll on 17 February and supported carrier operations until 24 April, when she departed for Pearl Harbor.

At Pearl Harbor the Morris joined the 7th Fleet, which was supporting the campaign in western New Guinea. She spent the next few months supporting the series of landings that saw the Americans leapfrog west along the coast of New Guinea, starting with Hollandia.

On 28 April she detected a sonar contact and her task force made an emergency turn and started to zig-zag before the contact was evaluated as false. On 29 April a carrier aircraft reported a submarine to the west of the task force. The Morris was sent to investigate but found a floating tree. The Morris attempted to sink the tree with depth charges but without success, and it then became a practice target for carrier aircraft.

In May and June the Morris supported the fighting around Toem, Wakde and Sarmi and then the landings on Biak Island.

In July she supported the landings at Noemfoor and at Cape Sansapor.

In August she took part in operations at Halmahera and Morotai. She then began to prepare for the return to the Philippines.

On 16 October she departed for Leyte Gulf as part of TG 8.6, escorting the transports carrying the first reinforcements for the fighting on Leyte. On 21 October she took up an anti-aircraft station, and spent the next few days fighting off Kamikaze attacks. For the next month she was used to escort transports bringing supplies and troops to Leyte.

1945

In January 1945 the Morris took part in the invasion of Luzon. She took part in the pre-invasion bombardment at Lingayen Gulf, then provided fire support during the invasion on 9 January. She spent eighteen days supporting the invasion, carrying out patrols, shore bombardments and defending against the heavy kamihaze attacks.

At the start of February the Morris helped escort a convoy heading from Lingayen Gulf to Guadalcanal (arriving on 12 February). On 9 February the Morris reported a sonar contact near the convoy, which took evasive action, but nothing was found.

The Morris was then transferred back to the 7th Fleet, ready to take part in the invasion of Okinawa. She took part in amphibious training exercises in early March.

On 15 March the Morris departed from the Solomons at the head of five destroyers in the screen of one of the convoys heading towards Okinawa. From 21-27 March the convoy stopped at Ulithi. The Morris then led the destroyer escort of TU 53.1, which included four columns of ships, followed by two escort carriers and Transport Group B. 

On 1 Aprul she reached Kerama Retto as part of TG 51.11. She spent the next five days escorting transports and oilers, and operating on anti-aircraft and anti-submarine patrols.

Kamikaze Damage to USS Morris (DD-417) Kamikaze Damage to USS Morris (DD-417)

On 6 April the destroyer escort Witter (DE-636) was hit by a kamikaze, but was still able to proceed under her own power. The Morris, Gregory, Richard P. Lary (DD-664) and tug Arikara (ATF-98) escorted her towards Kerama Retto. Once she was safely on her way the Morris was detached from the group, and was on her own when a single ‘Kate’ attacked her, armed with either a torpedo or heavy bomb. The Morris’s gunners hit the Kate several times but it kept coming, and crashed into the Morris on the port side between No.1 and No.2 guns just after 18.15.

A sizable part of the hull by the side of the guns was destroyed and the deck badly buckled in front of No.1 Gun. Luckily the kamikaze hit the upper part of the hull, so the waterline area wasn’t damaged. The explosion caused fires which took two hours to bring under control (with the help of the Daniel T. Griffin (DE-54)) and another thirty minutes to put out. The Morris was escorted back to Kerama Retto by the Daniel T. Griffin.

Temporary repairs were carried out at Kerama Retto. This saw work on her damaged bow, steering and starboard side. On 22 May she departed for San Francisco, arriving safely on 18 June. However she was then declared to be neither seaworthy or habitable and was never repaired. She was decommissioned on 9 November, struck off on 28 November and sold for scrap on 2 August 1947.

Morris received 16 battle stars for her action in World War II, for the Coral Sea, Midway, defenseof Guadalcanal, Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid, Santa Cruz, Naval Guadalcanal, consolidation of the Solomons, Aleutians, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Pacific raids of 1944, Western New Guinea, Rennell Island, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa.

Displacement (standard)

1,570t design
1,759.3t as built 

Displacement (loaded)

2,293.1t

Top Speed

35kt design
38.75kt at 51,387shp at 1,948tons on trial (Anderson)
36.91kts at 51,138shp at 2,230tons on trial (Anderson)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
3 boilers
50,000shp design

Range

6,500nm at 12kts design
5,640nm at 12kts at 2,350t wartime
3,660nm at 20kts at 2,350t

Length

348ft 3.25in

Width

36ft 1.5in

Armaments

Five 5in/38 DP guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in three quad tubes in design
Eight 21in TT in two quads as built
Four 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

192

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 January 2023), USS Morris (DD-417) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Morris_DD417.html

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