NAVY: Bob Morris built a legacy in the Navy

Published 10:52 am Friday, November 11, 2016



When you talk to veterans you gain a perspective on how different war experiences were from person to person. Some have frontline experiences; some serve their part in offices handling paperwork, and some fly planes. It varies from veteran to veteran.

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One aspect of war some do not consider is exactly how difficult of a logistical task it is to move an army around. Bridges have to be built, bases need to be assembled, and roads need to be laid. Without it, the American military couldn’t function like the well-oiled machine it truly is.

That’s where Bob Morris comes in. Born Robert Franklin Morris in Bainbridge on October 24, 1946. He worked as a firefighter and picked up some hours in the plants around Bainbridge. He enlisted to be a Navy Seabee in August of 1966. Never heard of the Seabees? Bob hadn’t either.

Bob was lucky. While most were being drafted into the Army or the Marines, Bob was tipped off that he was going to be drafted in the next round. Knowing that he was going to go, he decided he wanted some control over his future. While working a shift as a firefighter, one of his coworkers mentioned an interesting thing to him, the Seabees. Bob did some research, and signed up.

The Seabees are the Navy’s construction regiment; they build anything the Navy asks of them. Bob and his unit were stationed at Red Beach, north of Da Nang in Vietnam. The way their area of operation was laid out was in between two mountains. Bob and his unit built a radar site on one of the mountains, Monkey Mountain, and an ammo dump on top of the other. Aside from those two contributions, Bob also had to rebuild bridges that were destroyed by the Vietcong.

Bob made the best of his situation though. One day on bridge detail, he noticed a school of mullet fish heading up river under his bridge. The next day, Bob and his buddies found a way to harvest the fish from the river by using some military equipment. Laughing about it, Bob said that some northern guys in his unit turned their noses up to eating mullet, but now, even today, a lot of them absolutely love it.

Don’t let the fried fish and steak dinners fool you, he was in a hostile country. While dispatched to do some work near the Hai-Van pass, Bob had an incredibly close call.

Before going up through the pass to their destination, a Marine detail had to conduct a daily mine sweep of the area to make sure it was safe. While the sweep was being conducted Bob and his unit found ways to pass the time in the village like they often did. Shortly before he decided to head up the hill, two Vietnamese boys ran up to him. Bob knew the two, and they were always around. Like most kids, they would ask the men for rations and other things. They were innocent kids, the unit liked them and they liked the unit. The men had named them Tom and Jerry.

“Morris! Morris! No go up hill today,” said the duo in broken English, “VC on hill.”

Shortly after their encounter, the hill erupted in gunfire. The Marine detail had been ambushed by an unknown number of Vietcong inflicting casualties on the unit. Bob said that those two boys saved his skin.

His story is a good one. We shared some laughs during our interview and bonded over the fact that my grandfather was also a Seabee. However the point of Veterans Day is to honor those who gave it all, according to him.

“It’s a day that honors them, not the guys here, it honors the ones that aren’t,” Morris said. “All 58,000 of them.”

About Brandon O'Connor


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