Morris E. Crain was born on October 7, 1924, in Bandana, Kentucky, on the very western edge of the state. He enlisted in the Army in Paducah in March 1943, and, in only two years, was promoted to Technical Sergeant as a member of “E” Company, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. In March 1945, his unit was part of the Allied offensive sweeping through France and making their way into Germany via Haguenau, France. While in the Alsace-Lorraine province on March 13, the 20-year-old sergeant led his platoon in combat in an effort to secure a bridgehead over the Moder River. While already the recipient of two Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat, his actions that day that went above and beyond the call of duty as described in his citation:
“With great daring and aggressiveness, he spearheaded the platoon in killing 10 enemy soldiers, capturing 12 more and securing its objective near an important road junction. Although heavy concentrations of artillery, mortar, and self-propelled gunfire raked the area, he moved about among his men during the day, exhorting them to great efforts and encouraging them to stand firm. He carried ammunition and maintained contact with the company command post, exposing himself to deadly enemy fire. At nightfall the enemy barrage became more intense and tanks entered the fray to cover foot troops while they bombarded our positions with grenades and rockets. As buildings were blasted by the Germans, the Americans fell back from house to house. T/Sgt. Crain deployed another platoon which had been sent to his support and then rushed through murderous tank and small-arms fire to the foremost house, which was being defended by 5 of his men. With the enemy attacking from an adjoining room and a tank firing pointblank at the house, he ordered the men to withdraw while he remained in the face of almost certain death to hold the position. Although shells were crashing through the walls and bullets were hitting all around him, he held his ground and with accurate fire from his submachinegun killed three Germans. He was killed when the building was destroyed by the enemy. T/Sgt. Crain’s outstanding valor and intrepid leadership enabled his platoon to organize a new defense, repel the attack, and preserve the hard-won bridgehead.”
Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor almost a year later on February 13, 1946, he was buried at Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery at La Center, Kentucky. In addition to receiving the award, the Navy took the additional step in christening cargo ship T-AK-244 the Sgt. Morris E. Crain on June 8, 1946. The vessel served as part of Military Sealift Command and operated primarily in the Pacific until it was decommissioned in 1975.
John Curatola, PhD
John Curatola is the Military Historian at the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.