Robert K. Morgan

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Robert K. Morgan
Major Robert Morgan, was pilot of B-29 Superfortress "Dauntless Dotty" and B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle"
Born(1918-07-31)July 31, 1918
Asheville, North Carolina
DiedMay 15, 2004(2004-05-15) (aged 85)
Asheville, North Carolina
Western Carolina Veterans Cemetery
Swannanoa, North Carolina
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Years of service1940–1965
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Colonel (US)
Unit91st Bombardment Group ("The Ragged Irregulars")
Commands heldMemphis Belle
Dauntless Dotty
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsDistinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal ribbon.svg 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.

Memphis Belle[edit]

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.[1] 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.

In 2001 Morgan published his autobiography, The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle: Memoir of a WWII Bomber Pilot, co-written with Ron Powers ISBN 0-525-94610-1.


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[edit]

Command Pilot Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
AFRM with Hourglass Device.jpg
Distinguished Flying Cross 3d Award
Air Medal 11th Award Air Force Presidential Unit Citation American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal 3 campaigns European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal 5 campaigns
World War II Victory Medal Air Force Longevity Service Award 4th Award Armed Forces Reserve Medal 10 years


  1. ^ The "Hell's Angels" B-17 (41-24577) of the 303rd Bomb Group completed 25 combat missions on May 13, 1943, becoming the first B-17 to complete the feat, one week before the Memphis Belle. "B-17 Flying Fortress". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2008-05-30. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links[edit]