It took Everett WWII Marine Pfc. Harry Morrissey 78 years to rest in peace, but last Tuesday, Sept. 22, a contingent of Marines laid him to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. – ending decades of uncertainty about where his remains were and where he would be buried.
In a solemn ceremony on Sept. 22, the Marine Bravo Unit received the remains of Morrissey and buried him property in a small ceremony at Arlington National. He will lay to rest there. His name is also on a tablet for the missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. A rosette has been placed next to his name to denote he is now accounted for.
Morrissey died on Oct. 9, 1942 while trying to take a ridge during the main offensive at the Battle of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, in a firefight with the Japanese. He died just after noon, and one day after his 27th birthday.
Harry C. Morrissey was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, on August 8, 1915. He was the son of Charles and Clarinda “Clara” Morrissey, and grew up with an older brother (Charles Raymond) and a younger sister (Pearl). The Morrisseys moved from New Hampshire to Rhode Island, and then to Camden, New Jersey where both parents worked factory jobs to support the family.
Harry Morrissey and his brother, Charles, both left school after the ninth grade and began working in the factories in Camden. In 1940, Harry arrived in Everett when he went to live with his uncle, Joseph Joyal, and family. He took a job at the Eagle Mattress Company as a truck driver, but he didn’t enjoy the job, and prior to the war breaking out, he decided to join the Marine Corps.
He enlisted in 1940 in Boston at the age of 25, and trained at Parris Island, before setting out for Cuba to join his Marine Battalion and Company. He served through 1941, and then was stationed in North Carolina when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. His regiment deployed from California to Samoa to man the beach defenses there. They moved on to Guadalcanal in September 1942, seeing their first combat there. Morrissey was soon a veteran of battles along the Matanikau River, but the month of September ended with a disastrous defeat at Point Cruz.
On Oct. 9, 1942, the battalion was operating in support of another Marine outfit, heading along a ridge towards the ocean. They suddenly came under attack though, and Morrissey and three others were hit by machine gun fire. The battalion called in support from mortar fire and drove off the Japanese attack, however, with no further losses. Before evacuating the area, they quickly buried Morrissey and the two other.
They lay there for 70 years.
The burials had been catalogued carefully, but a search after the war using a map of the burial could not locate any graves. Morrissey was then listed and missing after being Killed In Action.
In 2011, While working on an outside kitchen for a building on Skyline Ridge, Honiara resident Yorick Tokuru uncovered “possible osseous remains” – in the form of a partial human skeleton. The remains changed hands several times, from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to a local archaeologist, then to historian John Innes, who contacted JPAC to take possession of the remains.
Then, in 2012, Michael Tokuru Jr. unearthed more bones while working on that same kitchen. JPAC made an excavation and identified a third set of remains – which turned out to be Morrissey.
On Aug. 28, 2017, Morrissey was officially identified.
The process has taken some time since then to get Morrissey to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, but that did finally occur last Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Morrissey’s older brother, Charles, served with the 110th Infantry in Europe and was captured in combat. He died in a German POW camp on March 6, 1945, and is buried in Lorraine American Cemetery.