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pilots of VF-15 on USS Essex Pilots of VF-15, Morris' very successful squadron, on USS Essex

Bert DeWayne "Wayne" Morris

Navy Ace and Hollywood Actor

By , Sept. 2008. Updated March 22, 2012.

Wayne Morris was a Hollywood actor. While filming Flight Angels (1940), Morris got interested in flying and became a pilot. Morris was one of the first Hollywood actors to enter the service. With war in the wind, he was commisioned in the Naval Reserve and became a Navy flier in 1942, leaving his film career behind for the duration of the war. Following flight training and a year as an instructor, Morris was ready for a combat assignment. Initially, Morris was considered by the Navy as physically 'too big' to fly fighters. After being turned down several times as a fighter pilot, he went to his brother in law, Cdr. David McCampbell, imploring him for the chance to fly fighters. Cdr. McCampbell said "Give me a letter". That's how he became a fighter pilot. Morris was thrust immediately in the Pacific air war, assigned to VF-15 aboard the carrier USS Essex flying the Grumman F-6F Hellcat .

He would go on to fly 57 missions, shooting down seven Japanese aircraft, and contributing to the sinking of five ships, making him one of the noted American aces of the war. Lt. Morris claimed his first victory on June 11, 1944, when he downed a Mavis four-engine flying boat, and on June 20, he was credited with probably destroying a Zero. Three days later, he got a confirmed Zero during the great Marianas Turkey Shoot. In September, he shot down a Topsy and a Zero over the Philippines.

He was awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses four times and the Air Medal three time. Of the 57 missions he flew, three of his Hellcats were so full of holes when he returned to his carrier, they were rendered "unfit for duty" and dumped overboard.

Wayne Morris' tragic death on September 14, 1959 at the age of 45 was a bizarre and ironic one. While visiting his old wartime commander and watching aerial maneuvers on the bridge of the carrier USS Bon Homme Richard , he suffered a heart attack and collapsed. He was pronounced dead after being transported to Oakland Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His younger brother, Richard, a B-17 pilot shot down during WWII, also reposes at Arlington.

Tally Record: 7 confirmed

Decorations: Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 gold stars, Air Medal with 2 gold stars

Sources:

email correspondence with Ken G. S.

American Fighter Aces Album, copyright 1996 by the American Fighter Aces Association, Mesa, Arizona