MORRIS MAXWELL WOODS, SR. United States NavyI ©By Larry Hume, VFW Post 8904

By Larry Hume
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United States Navy, World War II

©By Larry Hume, VFW Post 8904



US Navy & Marine Corps Medal for Heroism

 It is hard to tell when and where a hero will emerge and stand apart from the rest of us.  These days you hear that word so often that its true meaning is sometimes lost.  Over the past couple of years I’ve written about some of the true heroes that Shelby County, Texas has produced.  Today another.  Morris Woods also known as Max and Marcy like 16 million other Americans served his country during World War II.  He joined the US Navy at a very young age as the 1930 census places him at Pearl Harbor Naval Reserve Base, Honolulu, Hawaii with occupation at sailor (military).  Being born on July 27, 1914 he may or may not have at that time reached his 16th birthday. 


Being in the naval reserve I’m not sure when he was released from active duty but he lived in the San Francisco area marrying Josephine Marie Portera on March 27th, 1934 and son Morris Jr. was born on September 16th, 1936.  Max rejoined the Navy in the fall of 1939.  His Navy job was that of Ship’s Cook.  Following Navy cruise records that I could find, Max served on a number of ships.  March 31st, 1942 found him on the crew rolls of the destroyer USS Emmons (DD-457) with the rank of Ships Cook Third Class.  Seven months later in October, 1942 and being promoted to Ships Cook Second Class he reported aboard the minesweeper USS Fidelity.  June, 1943 Max joined the crew of the destroyer, USS Clarence K. Bronson and at the end of 1943 spent three months at a Navy receiving station in Miami, Florida.  March, 1944 he was transferred to the battleship USS Wyoming and then to the USS Jacamar that was a wooden hulled coastal minesweeper.  On September 30th, 1944 Max boarded the USS APL 18 that was a non-self-propelled barracks ship.  Barracks ships in the combat area provided necessary residence for sailors and merchantmen whose ship had been sunk, or whose ship had been so damaged that on-board berthing was no longer possible. They were also used at advanced bases, and as mobile barracks for units such as construction battalions.


Champion Newspaper, March 1945

 While assigned to this barracks ship Morris Maxwell Woods, Ships Cook First Class was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal which is the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the Department of the Navy.  The citation reads “For heroic conduct in saving two men from drowning while attached to and serving aboard the APL-18 at Ulithi Anchorage in the Caroline Islands, February 26, 1945.  Gallantly diving overboard to go to the aid of one of a number of men struggling in the watcher, WOODS towed the seaman through choppy seas by means of a line carried in his teeth and to the safety of a small boat then, unhesitatingly went to the rescue of a second sailor, assisting him over a greater distance to reach a place in the rubber life boat.  Through his alert presence of mind and tireless efforts, WOODS saved the lives of two men who otherwise might have perished and his selfless courage and fortitude at the risk of his own life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”  For the President, Signed James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy. 


On May 19th, 1945 eleven days after Victory in Europe was declared the USS APL 18 left the port of Ulithi and three months later on August 27th, 1945, Ships Cook First Class Morris Woods, Sr. was sent to the continental United States for release to inactive duty.


After being released from active duty Max received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, dated October 17, 1945.  It read “My Dear Mr. Woods.  I have addressed this letter to reach you after all the formalities of your separation from active serve are completed.  I have done so because, without formality but as clearly as I know how to say it, I want the Navy’s pride in you, which it is my privilege to express, to reach into your civil life and to remain with you always.  You have served in the greatest Navy in the world.  It crushed two enemy fleets at once, receiving their surrenders only four months apart.  It brought out land-based airpower within bombing range of the enemy and set our ground armies on the beachheads of final victory.  It performed the multitude of tasks necessary to support these military operations.  No other Navy at any time has done so much.  For your part in these achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live.  The Nation which you served at a time of crisis will remember you with gratitude.  The best wishes of the Navy go with you into civilian life.  Good luck!”  Sincerely yours, James Forrestal.


 He was the eighth child of David Blain Woods and Ida Fay Maxwell.  Siblings included Mamie Lou Woods, Julius Blain Woods, Joseph Emmett Woods, Lawrence L. Woods, William Frederick Woods and two infant children.  His parents operated a General Merchandise store in East Center and his father was also a Tax Assessor and Tax Collector for the State of Texas.


His wife Josephine was the daughter of Vincenzo Portera and Filippa Phillis Los Monaco.  Son Morris Jr. lives in San Francisco, California.  Morris Maxwell Woods, Sr. died on April 4, 1988 in San Francisco, California.  His remains were cremated.



I would like to thank Frederick Woods who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio for all the input and documents he gave me pertaining to his Uncle Max.  Max Woods was also an uncle to USMC PFC Bryan McCallum, Jr. who was killed in action on Iwo Jima, March 1, 1945.  Fair winds and following seas Max.


 (Sources:  Champion Newspaper, 1945;, 2015;, 2015; Frederick Wayne Woods)

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