MORRIS A. REEVES
Chief Machinist | United States Navy
The cruiser U.S.S. Montpelier has credit for shooting down fourteen aircraft and three sure assists in sinking enemy ships, but perhaps more impressive is simply her presence at thirteen of the Second World War's great Pacific battles. As a plankowner on the Montpelier, Machinist Reeves was on hand for every one of them. Beginning at Rennel Island, the last engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign, he sailed from there to Bougainville, the Marianas, and the Philippines to cover amphibious landings and bombardments until the close of hostilities, by which time he was truly an old salt.
He had previously been seasoned early in the war when his destroyer U.S.S. Sturtevant sank off the coast of Key West. Two hours out of port, she was rocked by a violent explosion that did not appear to cause any damage, but gave the illusion of a submarine attack and she began dropping depth charge barrages. Moments later, another blow struck the ship and was settling rapidly when a third explosion ripped her keel apart. With all communication cut from the bridge, Reeves realized that the aft section would not receive orders to abandon ship and fearing further explosions, rushed to set all depth charges to safe. Since they were set for shallow waters, their set times were short and quick detonation would be a horrible tragedy for the surviving crew in surrounding waters. Fifteen hands were lost that day, but likely would have been much more had it not been for Reeves' bold control of disarming all charges. Investigation later revealed that the ship passed through an American laid minefield.
Five years after his Pacific odyssey, Reeves' was assigned on another notable cruiser, the U.S.S. Rochester, among the first vessels called upon for Korean duty. She sailed continuously from July 1950, patrolling and bombarding without rest. Though grand naval engagements and swarms of Zeroes were non-existent, this kind of war was no less dangerous than the Pacific war and the Rochester had a number of close calls. As an old hand who had seen it before, Reeve's coolness throughout the campaign was of great value to the crew and ship's operations.
Gallery photos credit: Thomas C. Clark