The USS Morris (DD-417) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately five years during the first half of the 20th century. She was named for Commodore Charles Morris, who served with the U.S. Navy during the early 19th century. Morris was built as a Sims-class ship.
Morris was laid down in Norfolk, Virginia at the Norfolk Navy Yard in June 1938. She was launched in June 1939 and commissioned in March 1940, with Commander H.H. Jarrett at the helm. Morris carried a crew of 192 and had a cruising speed of 35 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four half-inch machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Morris joined the North Atlantic Patrol in 1941. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of that year, Morris became the first destroyer to be equipped with a fire control radar. Thus outfitted, she sailed for Pearl Harbor in January.
Morris saw her first major engagement in May 1942 at the Battle of Coral Sea. During the four-day battle, Morris splashed one enemy plane, damaged two others, and rescued 500 survivors from the heavily damaged Lexington. After a brief period of repairs, Morris was present at the Battle of Midway shortly thereafter, where she rescued more than 500 sailors from the sinking carrier Yorktown.
During the second half of 1942, Morris was part of the Guadalcanal campaign. During the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Morris shot down six enemy planes and rescued another 500 sailors from a damaged carrier.
During 1943, Morris spent time supporting operations in Kiska, Alaska before returning to the South Pacific. In 1944, she participated in many landings in New Guinea and various related operations. In 1945, while preparing for Okinawa, Morris was attacked by a kamikaze plane. Morris fired on the plane, but could not stop its dive. The plane crashed into the ship, exploding and igniting several fast-moving fires. The fires were eventually extinguished, but Morris was heavily damaged.
She returned to San Francisco in June and was quickly declared un-seaworthy. Morris was decommissioned and struck from the naval register in November. She was later broken up and sold for scrap.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Morris (DD-417)
Most personnel stationed or working on Morris were exposed to asbestos fibers to some degree. Mechanics and engineers generally had the highest exposure. Workers repairing Morris at dry-dock were also heavily exposed. An individual's chance of developing mesothelioma increases with his exposure.
Veterans of Morris may be at greater risk from asbestos because of the damage she suffered while fighting in World War II. Damage to installed asbestos products can cause clouds of asbestos dust to fill the air. The kamikaze attack that lead to her eventual decommissioning was particularly likely to disturb the asbestos products on board. Airborne asbestos was particularly dangerous, as the sailors on Morris were unlikely to have adequate protection against inhaling the hazardous material.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-417.
NavSource Naval History, USS Morris (DD-417).