Father of the 412th
February 25, 2010
VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI (Feb. 3 2010)--Grace Morris Spears celebrated the end of World War II in 1945 by walking around her block in Vicksburg, Miss., beating on an old metal pan with a metal spoon.
"I beat on it till I beat a hole in the bottom," Spears said. "Of course there weren't good pans back in those days."
Spears was eight years old at the time, and she was more excited about her dad coming home from France than she was about the war being over. Her first memories of him are from his time in the war, according to Spears. His letters home talked about a French family he stayed with that included a little girl who was the same age as she was.
"I was so jealous because he was around her...I didn't have him," Spears said. "He'd write home about her not knowing how I felt."
Spears' father was Brig. Gen. George A. Morris, the first commander of the 412th Engineer Command. She visited the 412th headquarters with some friends on Jan., 22, 2010 at the reserve center in Vicksburg which is named after him. The group came to see a painting of Morris by Marshall Bouldin, a National Portrait Artist Hall of Fame inductee. Spears' mother commissioned Bouldin to paint the portrait of Morris as a gift to the 412th when the unit relocated in 1993 from Army Navy Drive to the current location on Porters Chappel Road.
During a second visit to the unit in February 2010, Spears shared some stories of her father, one of which included how Morris, who was a colonel at the time, became a member of Gen. George S. Patton's staff during the war.
"He didn't want to be on Patton's staff, because he wanted to stay with his unit. They were building bridges across the Rhine," Spears said. "He sent word back to Patton, 'thank you, but I want to stay with my men.'"
According to Spears, Patton got word back to Morris with some expletives saying, "that's great, stay with your men tonight, but I'll see you at eight o'clock in the morning."
Spears said Morris mentored a lot of young men in Vicksburg who lost their fathers in the war.
"They came to our house, he brought them along...he'd talk to them like a son, like part of the family," Spears said. "There were a lot of them, many of them my age."
In 1963, the French family Morris stayed with in France during the war visited him and his family in Vicksburg.
Spears said she remembers the 412th being a significant part of her childhood.
Aca,!A"At that time the 412th met every Monday night, one weekend a month, and two weeks in the summer,Aca,!a,,c Spears said.
She said visiting the unit renewed some cherished memories mainly because of the love and admiration she had for her father.