2LT Donald Schoenwether Morrison
15th AF, 454th Bombardment Group, 736th Bombardment Squadron
Killed in Action 19 March, 1944
on a mission near Cerkvenjak, Yugoslavia (now Slovenia)
-- Donita Morrison Troglio --
My Father died March 19, 1944, two days after his 25th birthday. As his only child and 8 months old,
I have no memories to cherish. Mom remarried a month before my 4th birthday. I knew I was named
after him because when people asked about my unusual name, she would tell them "her Daddy died in
the war." (Dad was Don and my mother was Bernita, so I was named Donita.)
He was seldom mentioned though, and with the best of intentions I'm sure, I was enrolled in school
with my stepfather's surname. I re-claimed my Morrison surname my senior year in high school, but
married soon after graduation, relinquishing it again. Mom lovingly created a baby book, with
photos and mementos of my early years when Dad was an integral part of our lives, now in tatters
after 50+ years.
Born in Brookings, South Dakota, my Father was the 5th child and 3rd son in a family of 3 daughters
and 4 sons. All 4 sons took part in the war. The oldest, Maj. Joseph Wallace Morrison, was in the
Army at the Academic Regiment Tank Destroyer School, Camp Hood, Texas. Lyle Edward Morrison was a
Navy radioman stationed at Alameda Naval Base in California. Dad was Army Air Corps, stationed in
Italy when he died. Younger brother, Sgt. Howard Warren Morrison was in the 4th AF, with the position
of Lower Ball Gunner on the B-17 and then Right Scanner on the B-29.
Dad enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard in January 1937, the same year he graduated from
high school. Discharged in January 1940, he re-enlisted in June, but received an Honorable Discharge
in October when, after 3 years of college, he moved to California to work in the aircraft industry.
His first college yearbook, the 1938 South Dakota State College "Jackrabbit," shows him in a photo
of their ROTC's "D" Company.
My Father dreamed of being a pilot and, while in college, applied and was accepted for Aviation Cadet
Training. However, this opportunity disappeared with his "I do" when he married my mother, Bernita
June Chambers, on November 15, 1941, as Cadets could not be married. Just 3 weeks after their
wedding, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the US entered the war. Dad, employed by Lockheed Aircraft
in Burbank, California went from ROTC Aviation Cadet to PFC Army, Infantry, with Basic Training from
March-November 1942 at Camp Roberts, California. Mom joined him in California for three months after
their marriage, but returned to South Dakota when he was inducted. She returned during his last
six weeks of Basic Training, which is when I began my journey in life.
Still aspiring to be a pilot (perhaps due to his earlier Cadet training as well), Dad applied to and
was accepted by the Army Air Corps. Schooling was in Texas, so Mom returned to South Dakota to live
with her mother and give birth to me. Four weeks after my birth we joined him in Texas, to be there
when he received his Wings in August, 1943. After a month of bomber training in New Mexico, Dad was
transferred to South Carolina and we returned to South Dakota to wait for this war's end and his
Because of the intensity of the war raging in Europe, Dad was not allowed a final furlough before
going overseas. So in November, 1943, leaving me in South Dakota with my grandmother, Mom joined him
in Charleston for their final 2 weeks together. To this day she says, "I don't recall the details of
this trip. Perhaps it is best."
On July 2, 1995, for my 52nd birthday, Mom presented me with a hand-written, 61-page journal sharing
the period of her life, beginning in February, 1937 when my Dad first tossed a Valentine's gift of a
box of handkerchiefs on her front porch (she was almost 14 and he a month shy of 18) to that final 2
weeks in November 1943, of which she says, "And now as I try in vain to recall the details of those
days, a quote from Louisa Mae Alcott comes to mind: "It is part of my religion to look well after
the cheerfulness of life and let the dismal shift for themselves."
Just before Christmas, 1943, Dad was sent to a base in Southern Italy from which he flew bombing
missions as co-pilot of a B-24 (Liberator) bomber. On March 19, 1944, on a mission to Steyr, Austria,
his plane was shot down by enemy aircraft. According to a letter from the Casualty Branch, AAF
Personal Affairs Division, the 10 crew members were 2nd Lt. James R. Peters, S/Sgt. Lynn M. Ripley,
S/Sgt. Melbourne M. Spencer, S/Sgt. Gus Bryan, S/Sgt. Luther F. Shipley, 2nd Lt. George E. Wade,
S/Sgt. Harry G. Squires, S/Sgt. Thomas A. Inman, 2nd Lt. Homer F. Roland, and my father, 2nd Lt.
Donald S. Morrison. Seeking to protect his young wife and his mother, Dad designated his brother,
Major Joseph W. Morrison, as emergency addressee, so Uncle Wally received the telegram informing him
that his brother was missing in action, and then, more than six months later, the one dated October
23, 1944 informing him, "... your brother, 2nd Lt. Donald S. Morrison, was killed in action 19 March."
Several years ago, Mom gave me a small file folder containing a few letters and documents pertaining
to my Father's death. Included was a letter sent by one of the crew members to my Dad's mother
dated July 7, 1945, and two from mothers of crew members who survived. I recently discovered that
four survived the crash: S/Sgt. Ripley, S/Sgt. Roland, S/Sgt. Squires and 2nd Lt. Inman. The rest
of the crew went down with the plane.
I would like to share the letter sent by the surviving crew member as a tribute to my father and all
of the others involved. I hope it is all right to share the name of the crew member who sent it.
Dear Mrs Morrison:
Please take a moment to remember him -- and all those who have died in service to their country.
As I believe you know, I was radio operator and nose gunner on your son Donald's plane. Pardon me
for not writing sooner, but I haven't gotten over the loss of these boys -- all such fine men and
true buddies of mine. Not saying this because I'm writing to you, but your son Donald was one of
the finest soldiers and most respected men I've known. He always looked out for his men first and
himself last. The whole crew thought the world of him. The day we were shot down, it was by German
Messerschmidt fighters, we were flying tail-end and there were just too many of the enemy for us.
They shot our tail off and tore up the whole ship. Regardless of the condition we were in, Lt.
Morrison stayed at his position with Lt. Peters trying to hold the ship up so his men would have a
chance. I was in the nose, but I know he was in position until the end because I heard his orders
over the interphone telling the rest to leave the ship, and he also cut the switches to avoid fire.
After that, we went into a spin and in the pilots compartment they didn't have a chance to get out.
I wasn't able to get out until about 400 feet, so I know that Lt. Morrison and the rest went down
with the ship.
Yes, Mrs. Morrison, your son was a real hero. I'm proud to have had the honor of flying with him
and his kind.
If there are any questions, or if I can enlighten you in any way, please write - I'm at your service,
Very truly yours,