AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Donald Morrison didn’t know if he was going to make it as a soldier. He wanted to go into the Navy right after high school, but didn’t pass the physical.
“I was rejected because of my flat feet. I passed the written exam, but not the physical,” Morrison said.
In May of 1944, after his last rejection, he listened to his father’s advice if he really wanted to get into the military service.
“He said, ‘If you want to go that bad, get off the farm,'” Morrison said. He quickly got a job working for the county doing construction. Just six weeks later, he got drafted.
On Aug. 21, 1944, at 18 years of age, he was sworn into the Army, entering active duty from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Immediately, Morrison went into the standard 16-week training course. During that time, the Battle of the Bulge was going on and the death toll was climbing, so Morrison says the training course was cut short at the end of the 14th week to get soldiers into Europe faster.
From there, Morrison and his fiance traveled to Fort Meade, Maryland and then he was sent to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts.
“The big ship was there, it was a large one,” Morrison recalls.
The ship was a former luxury liner that had been converted to carry the troops overseas. Morrison says his crew were the first ones on board.
“It took two days to load the boat and in the meantime we were being assigned to our duties and everything,” he said. “Low and behold what do I get stuck with? Cutting cheese. Slicing cheese. And that was for 11 days.”
The boat sailed from Boston Harbor on Jan. 8, 1945 on the Ile de France and arrived on Jan. 17 in Scotland. From there, the troops were moved by truck across France and into Belgium. Morrison was assigned to the machine gun squad with Company K, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
Unfortunately, Morrison wasn’t there long before he fell ill.
“They took me in and the first thing I knew I was in the hospital and the next morning the doctor, he flipped the covers back and he says, ‘I’ll tell you what was the matter, you’ve got bad frostbite,'” Morrison said. “While I was there, that’s when they found out that I had the mumps.”
Morrison had to recover for two weeks before they sent him back to the front lines. But after only two days, he developed a fever, which the doctors determined to be Scarlet fever. He spent another three weeks in the hospital.
“In essence, I was lucky. There was five weeks I didn’t have to be on the front lines,” he said.
When his health was back up to par, Morrison returned to the battlefield. On March 23, 1945, while moving through the hills near the Rhine River in Germany, his team was attacked. Morrison says as he reached down to grab his machine gun, a shell detonated close by.
“That’s when that other one came in, the shrapnel went across my face and it hit here and knocked me out,” Morrison says.
Lying unconscious and bleeding from the wounds on his face, his fellow soldiers believed he was dead and continued marching on.
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