Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas










Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Army, WWII, Europe


Donald Morrison was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin in 1926 and in his early childhood years he attended the Brick Church Grade School in Walworth County.  In March 1935, his family moved to Sharon Township and they were living on a farm there in 1944 when Donald graduated from High School in Darien.  He wanted to go into the Navy right after high school, but didn’t pass the physical. Donald’s father told him that if he really wanted to get into military service he would have to leave the farm and take a job in town, because the draft board would not take farmers because of their importance to the war effort.  He took his father’s advice, got a job, and immediately got drafted.  When he reported in, every third man was being taken by the Navy, but Donald was not lucky and on August 21, 1944 he was sworn into the Army, entering active duty from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


He went by train to Fort Sheridan, Illinois and from there was ordered to Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Georgia, and that was a four-day train ride.  He immediately went into the standard 16-week Basic Training course. The Battle of the Bulge occurred at that time and casualties were heavy.  So, Donald’s training course was terminated at the end of the 14th week, cut short in order to speed additional Infantry replacements to Europe.  Donald was given four-days furlough and got to fly home.  That was the first time he had ever been on an airplane and it was a memorable trip.  He recalls that the thermometer was at 20 below zero when the plane landed in Chicago.


After the brief home leave, Donald Morrison reported in at Fort Meade, Maryland and was sent to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts from which he sailed from Boston Harbor on January 8, 1945 on the Ile de France, a former luxury liner that had been converted to use as a troop carrier.  The vessel arrived safely in port in Scotland on January 17, 1945 and the troops were sent across the length of the island on a day-and-a-half journey by train to the port of Southampton in the south of England. After only an over-night there he was shipped across the English Channel to Le Harve, France.  From there, the replacement troops he was with were moved by truck convoy across France and into Belgium.  Donald had finally reached his unit of assignment and it was bitterly cold with deep snow on the ground when he arrived and reported in to Company K, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.


He wasn’t there long.  Donald says, “I had only been in Company K for just a few days when I came down with the mumps and was sent to the hospital.  In the hospital it was found that I also had frostbitten feet.  It was some time before I was sent back to division, and I hadn’t been back more than 48 hours before I came down sick again.  I went on sick call with 104 degree fever and they sent me back to the hospital.   I had Scarlettina and it was another three-weeks before I had recovered well enough to go back to Company K.  But finally, this time I was back to stay.


Donald Morrison was a Light Machine Gunner in Company K and he remained with them until after the war in Europe was over.  He was wounded in Germany on March 23, 1945.  Company K was in the attack west of Koblenz, moving through the hills parallel to the Rhine River when they came under fire from a German 88mm gun.  A shell detonated close by and Donald was hit.  He fell unconscious, bleeding from a wound to the face and it appeared that he had also been hit in the chest.  Believing him dead, the remaining men in his gun team picked up the machine gun and continued forward with the company as it advanced.  Later, as he slowly regained consciousness, Donald first found himself all alone, and then he quickly found the strength to hurry after his comrades.  Upon catching up to them, some of the men in his squad “looked like they were seeing a ghost.”  A company medic treated his head wound and then examined him, searching for the wound under the large hole torn through the pocket of his jacket. But, there was no wound.  Instead, the medic retrieved from his pocket the New Testament that Donald had carried into combat. An 88mm shell fragment had penetrated half-way through and was embedded in the little pocket Bible.  The sharp edged, inch-long piece of steel had been stopped directly over the first book of Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 10, which reads, “ But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.


Donald says, “No question I would have been dead if I had not carried my Bible.  I was not a particularly religious man at the time, but after that, I knew there had to be a God.  I was just very thankful for another chance.


The division continued the advance, from Koblenz toward Leipzig, encountering sporadic resistance, and Donald Morrison had several more close calls as they moved across Germany.  East of Leipzig, resistance became heavy and as they reached Grimma, he lost his Assistant Gunner, wounded when hit by a German “potato masher” grenade, but, Don himself made it all the way through to V-E Day without ever being wounded again.


When the fighting ended, the division was moved into Czechoslovakia and Donald’s Company K was stationed in the village of Dobrany, near Pilsen, from May 6th until July 7, 1945.  Initially, his unit guarded several thousand German prisoners, and then in July the 2nd Infantry Division was re-deployed back to the United States.


Donald Morrison sailed for home on July 13, 1945 and he remembers passing by the Statue of Liberty as his troop ship came into harbor on July 20th.  From reception at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, he was sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, near home.  From there he was quickly granted a 30-day furlough home with another six-days travel allowed before reporting to his next duty station, Camp Swift, Texas.  From September 1945 until April 1946, Donald was at Camp Swift, and then returned to Camp McCoy where he was processed through the Separation Center.  He was discharged from the Army in the grade of Corporal on April 12, 1946 and returned home to the family farm near Darien, Wisconsin.


For over twenty years after the war, Donald worked in various jobs.  He says, “I farmed for awhile, then went into the construction business, worked in sales, and then took a job with Allstate Insurance.”  His wife was seriously injured in an automobile accident and was hospitalized for 14 weeks.  After that, the cold winters in Wisconsin bothered her a great deal.  They visited Austin, Texas in 1969 and found the weather much more agreeable for her condition, so they moved here in 1970.  Donald went to work for the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector in 1973.  By the time he retired in 1991 his office had become the Travis County Appraisal District. He has been a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, affiliated with Texas Capital Chapter 1919 for the past seven years.





JUNE 1945









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