Robert Morgan





Col Robert Morgan, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal With Nine Oak Leaf Clusters.

Robert Morgan was born on the 31st of July, 1918 in Asheville, NC in the Western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. Robert Morgan would become famous for the first Eighth Air Force pilot to survive twenty five daylight missions over occupied Europe, flying in probably the most famous B-17 of the war 'The Memphis Belle'. Morgan named this famous bomber after a Memphis girl he fell in love with, Margaret Polk . Morgan was a student of history and realized early on that America would get into the war. After attending the University of PA Wharton School of Finance, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. His basic flight training took place in Camden, S.C.; Primary Training at Bush Field, Augusta, GA; and Barksdale Field, LA; B-17 training at McDill Field, Tampa, FL; and Advanced B-17 Training in Walla Walla, WA. On the 12th of December, 1941 (five days after Pearl Harbor), he pinned on his Pilot Wings and received his Second Lieutenant bars.



In October 1942, the Belle arrived in  Bassingbourn, England, home of the 91st Bomb Group, 324th Bombardment Squadron. “Back then,” Morgan recalls, “there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The Generals didn’t know anymore than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along.. Initially, the Memphis Belle flew missions into France,  and the Low Countries, bombing U-boat pens, railway yards, airfields, a naval base, Focke Wolf factory to name just a few. but in early 1943, Germany became the target. In the first three months of the Belle’s sorties from Bassingbourn, 80% of their Bomb Group were shot down. Moral was low, so the Generals set the completion of 25 missions as an incentive for a man to go home.  On the  17th of  May 1943, the Memphis Belle crew became the first to complete 25 missions; then return to the United States on their 26th Mission. The Memphis Belle was the first heavy bomber in the Eighth Air Force to complete a full 25-mission combat tour. In those missions, all of which were daylight raids, the Memphis Belle flew 148 hours, dropped over 60 tons of bombs, and shot down at least eight enemy fighters, and had every major part of the plane replaced at least once. Before every fight, Col. Morgan said, the 10 crew members huddled outside the plane and said, "Guys, if only one airplane comes back today, it's going to be us." Morgan and his crew were the subjects of a 1944 film documentary. 

The Memphis Belle and her crew, Harold Loch, Cecil Scott, Robert Hanson, Jim Verinis, Robert Morgan, Chuck Leighton, JP Quinlan, Tony Nastal, Vince Evans, Bill Winchell.



Dauntless Dotty's payload is readied.

Promoted to Major, Morgan flew a second combat tour in the Pacific Theatre, commanding the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group of the Twentieth Air Force. Flying B-29's from Isley Field, Saipan, On the 24th of November 1944, he led the first mission of the XXI Bomber Command to bomb Japan, 110 aircraft of the 73rd Bomb Wing to Tokyo, with wing commander Brig. Gen. Emmett O'Donnell as co-pilot. His B-29 was nicknamed Dauntless Dotty, after his first wife. he completed 26 missions over Japan until sent home on the 24th of April, 1945. Col. Morgan was hospitalised on the 22nd of April, 2004 with a fractured neck after falling from an entry ladder while getting into a B-17 following an air show at Asheville Regional Airport, in his hometown of Asheville, NC. Ironically, the B-17 he was entering at the time of his accident had been painted with the "nose art" and other markings of his beloved Memphis Belle. Col. Morgan passed away at Mission Hospitals on May 15, 2004 from complications to his injuries, including pneumonia.