Morse, John Havens I. Sr.

John Havens Ireland Morse, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)
September 24, 1922 – September 06, 2013

MORSE, Sr., Lt. Col. John Havens Ireland, USAF Retired, service God, Family and Country John Havens Ireland Morse, Sr. passed away after a short illness on Friday, 6 September 2013 at Riverside Memorial Hospital in Columbus Ohio, after a life full of service to his country, his family, and his church.

A longtime resident of Springfield, his last days were full of family and friends and were mercifully limited in the trials of this world. He was 90 years of age. Dad/Daddy found the most enjoyment in life being with his extensive family. This family was spread out over many areas of the country and the world, and over a breath-taking span of interests and experiences, all made possible through his physical and emotional support.

John proudly served his country by means of an extended 30 year career in the U.S. Air Force, beginning his career serving in World War Two’s European Theatre flying B-17’s. Throughout his flying and research and development career, his proudest activities involved Air Sea Rescue through two tours in Vietnam. His deepest intellectual satisfaction came from tours in Alaska, Ohio, and New Mexico with the Air Force’s flight test group, which included a phenomenal range of small, large, reciprocating, and jet aircraft.

After retirement from the Air Force, Johnny continued to pursue his love of flying through private instrument flight instruction at the Wright-Patterson Aero Club. He continued his dedication to his church through his positions of Junior Warden and later as Treasurer, and to his church community through tireless work with the Food Pantry and Interfaith Hospitality services of Christ Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. In 2012 he was inducted into the Society of St. Simeon and St. Anna.

Johnny was born in Stamford, CT. on 24 September 1922, part of the family of Daniel Parmelee Morse and Ruth Tinker. He had three siblings and grew up learning to sail, which would teach him the life-long principals of air-flow, whether it be on the water or in the sky.

Dad/Daddy, John/Johnny departed into the sunset on the wings of the angels and airfoils that guided him through life and allowed him to serve his family, community, and country.

He is survived by all seven children – Cynthia, Pat, Charlie, Bob, Tina, Dave, and John, his eleven grandchildren one of whom is pre-deceased, and seven great-grandchildren. Remaining close and always important to Johnny were his first wife Alice Winslow Morse who pre-deceased him, and his second wife Phyllis Taylor Morse.

A service for family and friends will be conducted at 7:00 PM on Wednesday in Christ Episcopal Church, 409 E. High Street in Springfield, Ohio, with visitation beginning at 5:00 PM. Arrangements have been entrusted to the RICHARDS, RAFF & DUNBAR MEMORIAL HOME.

Expressions of sympathy may be made at



September 10, 2013
Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family during this difficult time.
Dr. Singh and staff

September 08, 2013
You are in my heart, Dear Heart. You will be much missed.
Phyllis Morse, Friendswood, Texas

September 08, 2013
A great neighbor for many years while living in Springfield. Admirable and always steady as a rock.
David Corcoran, Albuquerque, New Mexico

September 08, 2013

Taylor Family, Springfield, Ohio

September 08, 2013
To the family of LT COL John Morse, I am very sad to hear the news of your lost of such a wonderful and caring person! Col M, will always be missed in my heart. God bless.
MAJ Alan B. Taylor, Dallas, Texas

Military Springfield

Helicopter commander in Vietnam dies

Springfield man led rescue missions for pilots.
Posted: 7:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

By Andrew McGinn – Staff Writer

A longtime Springfield resident who commanded a helicopter rescue squadron during the Vietnam War and co-piloted the Jolly Green Giant credited with the 1,500th save of a downed airman in that war has died.

Lt. Col. John H. I. Morse Sr. died Friday at age 90 in a Columbus hospital.

Morse had been on the mend after a recent stroke when he caught an infection, according to his son, Charlie Morse.

John Morse, a Connecticut native who came to live in Springfield in 1969, served 32 years in the Air Force and was also a veteran of World War II.

He retired in 1974 while at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“He was so very proud of his military service,” Charlie Morse said Monday.

As the pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II, John Morse flew 25 combat missions over Europe, Charlie Morse said.

But, he remained most proud of his two tours of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Arriving at Nakhon Phanom Air Base in northeast Thailand in June 1968, as commander of the Air Force’s 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, it was Morse’s job to hoist downed American pilots to safety using the Sikorsky HH-3E — the helicopter lovingly called the Jolly Green Giant.

On his second combat tour, which lasted from May 1971 to 1972, he flew the HH-53, the Super Jolly Green Giant.

“That was the high point of his career,” Charlie Morse said. “He absolutely loved that job. You’re saving people instead of killing people.”

On Dec. 21, 1968, Morse’s Jolly Green set out to retrieve an F-100 pilot in Laos they knew only as Litter 81, his call sign.

The fighter pilot turned out to be Maj. Forrest Fenn, who retired from the Air Force in 1970 and later became a celebrity art and antiques dealer in Santa Fe, N.M., whose gallery was frequented by the likes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg and former President Gerald Ford.

In 1986, when People magazine profiled Fenn, his gallery was making $6 million a year.

Now retired — but back in the national news this year after revealing that he’s hid part of his fortune in the mountains north of Santa Fe for anyone to find — Fenn credits John Morse with his life.

“He is many times a hero to me,” Fenn, now 83, said Sunday in an email. “It made no difference on the 21st of December, 1968, that he didn’t know me. He risked his life to pull me out of an angry situation in Laos.”

Fenn’s rescue was the 1,500th save by combat search and rescue in Southeast Asia.

“In the years since,” Fenn said, “I have tried to find John so I could buy him a beer and tell him again how much I appreciate what he did for me. I have a special place in my heart for John Morse.”

Even as he neared his 91st birthday, Morse never took credit for what he did, Charlie Morse said. “He was always a participant,” Charlie Morse said. “He was always just part of a group of guys.”

John Morse is survived by his second wife, Phyllis, seven children and many grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Christ Episcopal Church, 409 E. High St., the church where John Morse was actively involved, with a visitation there at 5 p.m. that day.

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
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