BIOGRAPHY (Excerpt from USAF Public Affairs Office)
Col. Robert K. Morgan, USAFR/Ret
|Pilot, B-17 Memphis Belle - B-29 Dauntless Dotty||
658 County Rd 204
|Army Air Corp./World War II 1941 - 1945||
Crane Hill, AL 35053
|U.S. Air Force Reserve 1945-1965||
|Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters||website: www.memphis-belle.com|
Hes a damn good pilot. He always brought us
home These words from a crew member of the B-17 Memphis Belle probably
best sum up Bob Morgans military career. Commanded by Morgan, the B-17 Memphis Belle
was the first of the heavy bombers to achieve 25 missions over Europe. The plane and her
crew were immortalized in a 1943 combat documentary directed and filmed by William Wyler ;
and again in 1990 by a Warner Bros. Hollywood movie (produced by Wylers daughter,
Catherine) - both were titled Memphis Belle.
There were no easy missions, says Morgan, who never lost a crew member. But, the secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations - so tight that the wings were often almost touching. We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower. That, and the Norden Bomb Sight, which made us extremely accurate at high altitudes. I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.
Morgan, born July 31, 1918 in Asheville, NC (he has lived his entire life there) in the Western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, 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 December 12, 1941 (five days after Pearl Harbor), he pinned on his Pilot Wings and received his Second Lieutenant bars.
In October 1942, Morgan flew the Memphis Belle to 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 didnt 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, but in early 1943, Germany became the target.
In the first three months of the Belles 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. Morgan frequently speaks to school kids and explains, 80% losses means you had breakfast with 10 men; dinner with only 2 of those 10. On 17 May 43, the Memphis Belle crew became the first to complete 25 missions; then return to the United States on their 26th Mission..
In June 1943, the crew departed England for the United States and began a 30-city Public Relations/Warbond Tour. First stop - Washington Natl. Airport, D.C., where Morgan was ordered to buzz the field. All the dignitaries ducked when he made a low pass over the reviewing stand. All through the tour the crew thanked the American public for their war efforts. They told them what was really going on in the war. The boys (Morgan was 23) were treated as heroes everywhere they went. Wined and dined from June through August of 43. The red carpet was rolled out in every city. They even took their mascot, Stuka (a black Scottie dog), with them. The tour was an emotional, but exhausting event for the crew, but an incredible moral boost for them and the public. Then it was over. The Generals told the crew they could have any job they wanted in the Air Corp. (except theirs).
Morgan had seen the still secret B-29 during the tour in Wichita and volunteered to train in this new bomber. He wanted to command his own B-29 Squadron and he trained hard and earned it. In Oct 1944 he deployed to Saipan in his brand new B-29 named Dauntless Dotty. They were assigned to the 20th AF, 73rd Bombardment Wing, 497th Group, 869th Squadron. On 24 Nov 44, Morgan made history with another first. With Gen. Rosie ODonnell on board Dotty as command pilot, Morgan led the first B-29 bombing raid on Tokyo (this was the first time the U.S. had bombed Tokyo since the 42 Doolittle raid in B-25s). The mission was successful. After completing another 24 B-29 missions, Morgan was sent home in April 1945. He continued to serve his country in the USAF Reserve and retired in 1965 as a full Colonel.
At age 81, he still holds an active pilots license and works full-time in the real estate business and makes personal appearances around the world. In April 1999 he was invited to fly the Boeing B-52 at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, LA and in October 1999, he was invited to fly the subsonic B-1B Bomber at Robins AFB, Georgia. Robins subsequently named one of its B-1s Memphis Belle and painted the new noseart on in February, 2000.
He and his wife, Linda (also a pilot), have five children between them, and eight grandchildren. They own two Olde English Sheepdogs and a mutt and are active in animal welfare.
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