Robert K. Morgan
This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (May 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Robert K. Morgan|
July 31, 1918|
Asheville, North Carolina
May 15, 2004 (aged 85)|
Asheville, North Carolina
Western Carolina Veterans Cemetery|
Swannanoa, North Carolina
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1940–1965|
|Unit||91st Bombardment Group ("The Ragged Irregulars")|
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 did a second combat tour commanding the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group of the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific Theater where he flew the B-29 Superfortress Dauntless Dotty from Isley Field, Saipan. The aircraft was nicknamed after his third wife, Dorothy Johnson Morgan. 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. He completed 26 missions over Japan until being sent home on April 24, 1945.
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 International 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.
Awards and Decorations
Command Pilot Badge
|Distinguished Flying Cross with two bronze oak leaf clusters|
with two silver oak leaf clusters
|Air Force Presidential Unit Citation||American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with two bronze campaign stars
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal|
with four bronze campaign stars
|World War II Victory Medal||Air Force Longevity Service Award
with three bronze oak leaf clusters
|Armed Forces Reserve Medal|
with bronze hourglass device