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Saugus man tabbed by Library of Congress

Morris Deason given opportunity to help World War II veterans tell their stories

Posted: December 28, 2008 8:09 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Morris Deason's 1958 Chevy is a fixture on the road in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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For a young man of 82, Morris Deason has lived several full lives, spending 61 of those years with his beloved wife Geri and incorporating a few full careers therein.

Now, even in retirement, one of the people responsible for the founding of the city of Santa Clarita continues to toil on behalf of his military brethren through the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

The program, introduced by President Bill Clinton in 2000, seeks to locate and record the stories of veterans from World War II through the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, among others.

In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors and medical volunteers) are also invited to share their valuable stories.

Especially needed are anectdotes and memories from those who took part in WWII because so many of those participants - up to 1,800 - are dying daily.

"It's exceedingly important to get these stories recorded (on audio and DVD) because we are losing so many," Deason said. "Before we know it, most of those people will be gone."

Perhaps the reason this longtime Saugus resident feels so passionate about this program is because he served in the U.S. Navy during the conflict, enlisting right out of his Corpus Christi high school in 1944.

Within three months he was driving a 35-foot Higgins amphibious landing craft delivering Army and Marines troops ("Operation Iceberg") to the Japanese-held island of Okinawa.

"Here I was, just turned 19-years old and was dropping off troops in one of the war's major invasions on Easter Sunday in 1945," he said."

"I wasn't really frightened at the time, though," he added. "I suppose we all thought we were invincible. It was actually quite exciting to me."

The battle, one of the bloodiest in the Pacific Theater of operations, cost the Japanese more than 100,000 troops, while the Allies (mostly United States) had more than 50,000 casualties.

One night, while on watch, Deason heard the rumbling of a Japanese kamikaze aircraft rumbling overhead.
"I saw the landing gear about 20 feet above me," he said. "I don't know what happened to it, but that was as close as I ever got to something like that. It's as close as I ever wanted to be, too."

After the war, Deason was severely injured in a non-combat automobile accident in Paris, Calif.. He broke an arm, dislocated a shoulder and suffered head trauma. The young man spent two months in a full body cast and underwent six months of painful physical therapy.

He still feels pain in his shoulder to this day and the incident put him on 30 percent disability.

Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Deason attended the Glendale School of Aviation earned his Aircraft and Engines License. This allowed him to work on airplane engines and airframes, a job he would continue over the next 10 years.

While in Hawthorne, Calif. working for Northrup Air Corporation in 1947 he entered a Safeway Drug store and spied a checkout girl.

"I knew there was something special about her," he said. "I worked up the courage to ask her out and we dated for awhile. That was October. By December we were married."

Sixty-one years later, the couple is still together, having celebrated their anniversary earlier this month.

"She kind of goes along to all of my veteran and city founder organizations," he laughed, "but we get along very well. We never go to bed angry and every day we tell each other ‘I love you.' She is very special to me and I am so happy I'm with her."

The union produced three children, a son, Michael, a Navy Vietnam War veteran who passed away in 1983; and daughters Karen and Kathleen (born on July fourth), as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Early in his marriage, Deason also worked on Northrup's Flying Wing (YB-35) project. The aircraft was basically boomerang-shaped intercontinental long range bomber that could fly from the states to Europe and drop its bombs without refueling.

Northrup advocated the "flying wing" as a means of reducing parasitic drag and eliminating structural weight not directly responsible for producing lift.

Unfortunately, by the time the first one had flown in May 1948, it was clearly made obsolete by the advent of the jet engine.

Only the first YB-35 was ever flown. Testing lasted only a few months. The YB-35 was scrapped July 20, 1949. The unfinished YB-35 #2, was scrapped in August 1949.

"I worked on riveting and other areas of construction on the plane," Deason said. "Ironically, the only time I ever saw it fly was in a scene in the (1953) film, "The War of the Worlds."

Stints with several unchartered airlines followed, including two years at Flying Tigers Airlines.

Later, he was brought on at the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District, a position he would hold for almost three decades.

Today he is a senior member at Environmental Consults, Ltd., acting as a government liaison to make sure businesses are OSHA and EPA compliant.

"I've had so many wonderful things happen in my life," Deason said. I have been greatly blessed indeed."

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