Robert K. Morgan
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|Robert K. Morgan|
July 31, 1918|
Asheville, North Carolina
|Died||May 15, 2004
Asheville, North Carolina
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1941–1965|
|Unit||91st Bombardment Group ("The Ragged Irregulars")|
|Commands held||Memphis Belle
|Awards|| Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (11)
Robert Knight Morgan (July 31, 1918 – May 15, 2004) was a colonel and a Command Pilot in the United States Air Force from Asheville, North Carolina. During World War II, while a captain in the United States Army Air Forces, Morgan was a bomber pilot with the 8th Air Force in the European theater and the aircraft commander of the famous B-17 Flying Fortress, Memphis Belle, flying 25 missions. After completing his European tour, Morgan flew another 26 combat missions in the B-29 Superfortress against Japan in the Pacific Theater.
Morgan attended the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and entered the Army Air Corps in 1940. He earned his pilot wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant on December 12, 1941, then after advanced training at Walla Walla Army Air Base, Washington, was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group (RAF Bassingbourn approximately 3 mi (5 km) north of Royston), 324th Bomb Squadron as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. Morgan went overseas as part of the original group of combat crews and flew 25 combat missions over Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, between November 7, 1942, and May 17, 1943.
The Memphis Belle was the second heavy bomber in the Eighth Air Force to complete 25 combat missions in the European Theatre; and was the first to return to the United States as part of a publicity campaign to sell war bonds. In those missions, all of which were daylight raids, the Memphis Belle flew 148 hours, dropped more than 60 tons of bombs and had every major part of the plane replaced at least once. Morgan and his crew were the subjects of a 1944 film documentary, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.
Promoted to major, Morgan flew a second combat tour in the Pacific Theater, commanding the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group of the Twentieth Air Force. Flying the B-29 Superfortress Dauntless Dotty from Isley Field, Saipan, he completed 26 missions over Japan until sent home on April 24, 1945. On November 24, 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 Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell, Jr. as co-pilot. His B-29 was nicknamed Dauntless Dotty, after his third wife, Dorothy Johnson Morgan.
Leaving active duty after World War II, he continued to fly in the Air Force Reserve, achieving command pilot status. Among his military awards were the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters. He retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of colonel in 1965.
Morgan was hospitalized April 22, 2004, with a fractured vertebra in his neck after falling outside the Asheville Regional Airport while returning home from what would be his last airshow appearance at the Sun 'n' Fun airshow at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida. He died at Mission Hospital on May 15, 2004, from complications due to his injuries, including pneumonia. Morgan was buried at the Western Carolina Veterans Cemetery in Swannanoa, North Carolina.