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by Jack Morris
Canyon Creek Books 2001
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|One Angel Left
One Angel Left is the memoir of Jack Morris, a USMC pilot. His story is details his wartime service flying F4U Corsair 02566 in the South Pacific, and the recovery of a wounded pilot. Most importantly, it is a touching memoir of a veteran who returns to location he was shot down to be reunited with the very aircraft he bailed out of in 1944, and a reflective memoir about war, love and life.
Morris describes his early life, growing up in Oregon and Vancouver, and his enlistment and training as a Marine Aviator. Like thousands of other pilots in training, Morris experiences firsthand the trials and joys of flight school and Naval Training stations, and honest depiction of what life was like for recruits. After training, he was assigned to VMF-218 and joined them for orientation and training flights in Vanuatu, and ferry flights to advanced airfields on Bougainville for combat missions.
On his fourth mission, he was shot down over Rabaul, while escorting bombers attacking Vunakanau airfield. His aircraft was damaged by gunfire, and he was wounded in one eye. The title "One Angel Down" refers to the altitude he regained consciousness and bailed out (1,000 feet) and the inspiration of his girlfriend, Rosalind back home that kept his spirits high and allowed him to survive eight days behind enemy lines, as he made his way out of the jungle and to the sea. His story is one of survival and close calls with nearby Japanese. Luckily, Morris was rescued by a RNZAF PBY "Dumbo" and returned to safety.
The war as a pilot was over, and the new war of recovery was beginning. The book is unique as it provides a glimpse into what life was like for the countless wounded and diseased of the South Pacific. Even while wounded, Morris' story of recovery contains many humorous and miraculous episodes. His eye wounds require him to return to California for extended hospitalization and treatment. There, he recounts the paradox of returning 'home' while the war was still raging, and the regrets felt for leaving his comrades and flying behind.
Slowly, his wounds heal, and beyond the war, he describes his marriage to his girlfriend Rosalind, and their long and loving life together: college, family and growing old. Her passing in the early 1990's is part of the inspiration for Morris to take a trip back to some of the places he served in the South Pacific, and bring with him her ashes.
On his trip of remembrance, there was a surprise: his former F4U was discovered where it crashed, and brought to the Kokopo War Museum for display. He has the unique distinction to be reunited with the very aircraft he flew during his final mission. Also, to retrace his escape from Rabaul and to safety.
"One Angel Left" is a powerful memoir of
service, combat and survival, and the story of one man's war and life.
Review by Justin Taylan
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