Vice Admiral Charles H. McMorris third from left,
Mrs. McMorris second from right.
Photo courtesy of USS Washington BB56
Vice Admiral McMorris was born in Wetumpka, Alabama, on August 31, 1890. He attended public schools in Wetumpka before entering the U.S. Naval Academy on June 26, 1908. He graduated and was commissioned Ensign on June 8, 1912. He served consecutive tours aboard the battleships DELAWARE, MONTANA and NEW HAMPSHIRE, participating in the occupation of Vera Cruz during the Mexican Campaign in 1914. After reporting aboard the battleship MARYLAND, he assisted in salvaging the USS F-4, which sank off Honolulu in 1915.
Leaving the battleship navy during World War I, Lieutenant(jg) McMorris served aboard the newly built destroyers USS SHAW and USS MEREDITH, becoming Executive Officer of the latter. In June 1918, he was promoted to Lieutenant and one year later assumed his first command, the destroyer USS WALKE. In the following years, he had tours of duty aboard the cruiser ELLIOTT, the destroyers BURNS, SHIRK and ELLIOTT, and the battleship CALIFORNIA. Interspersed with the sea duty were assignments with recruiting in Pittsburgh, with the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, as a student at Naval War College, Newport, and two tours of duty at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis. During this period, he advanced in rank to Lieutenant Commander in June 1922, Commander in October 1931, and Captain in July 1939.
In February 1941, he became War Plans Officer on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet. While serving in this capacity, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for "contributing materially to the conduct of operations against the Japanese Empire."
Capt. McMorris then assumed command of the cruiser USS SAN FRANCISCO from May-November 1942. For heroism during this action on 11-12 October 1942, he was awarded the Navy Cross. The citation read in part "For extraordinary heroism...(he) fought his ship valiantly, maneuvering with expertness of an able seaman and striking at the enemy with determined and effective gunfire despite the difficulties of night combat." For this action the SAN FRANCISCO also was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for sinking one enemy destroyer, silencing and disabling an enemy battleship and severely damaging two other vessels.
On November 14, 1942, he attained the rank of Rear Admiral and one month later assumed command of Cruiser Task Force 8, operating in the North Pacific. Subsequently, in what became know as the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, a running gunfire duel pitted the cruisers SALT LAKE CITY and RICHMOND against a superior enemy force. Followed rapidly by a U.S. destroyer torpedo attack, the enemy ships were forced to retire with heavy casualties. As a result of Rear Admiral McMorris' "complete rout of the enemy" he earned the Distinguished Service Medal.
In June 1943, he assumed command as Chief of Staff and aide to Fleet Admiral
Chester W. Nimitz, and in this capacity received a Gold Star in lieu of a second
Distinguished Service Medal. He was temporarily promoted to the rank of Vice
Admiral from September 23, 1944 until July 1948, when he reverted to the rank
of Rear Admiral. During the following years, Vice Admiral McMorris served as
Commander, Fourth Fleet and president of the General Board at the Navy Department.
He assumed duty on August 25, 1948 as Commander of the Fourth Naval District,
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with additional duty as Commander, Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
from which duties he retired to Marietta, Pennsylvania.