May 24, 2004 by

Robert Morgan


Categories: Military, Writers/Editors

Col. Robert K. Morgan, commander of the famed World War II B-17 bomber “Memphis Belle,” died on May 22 of complications from a fall. He was 85.
The North Carolina native lost his mother in 1936 when she was diagnosed with cancer and committed suicide. After her death, Morgan attended the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania then joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. Five days after Pearl Harbor was attacked, he pinned on his pilot wings and received his Second Lieutenant bars.
In 1942, Morgan flew the Memphis Belle to England and joined with the 91st Bomb Group, 324th Bombardment Squadron. Named after his wartime sweetheart’s hometown, the B-17 became the first 8th Air Force World War II bomber to complete 25 combat missions in the European theatre and return to the United States.
During its dangerous daylight missions over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, the Memphis Belle was struck by 20mm cannon shells, flak and machine gun bullets. Still, the “Flying Fortress” managed to drop more than 60 tons of bombs on the enemy. Upon its triumphant return to the U.S. in 1943, the plane’s heroic crew embarked on a 30-city tour to boost morale and help sell war bonds. Morgan’s exploits were featured in a 1944 combat documentary and in the 1990 movie, “Memphis Belle.”
Morgan was then given command of his own B-29 squadron. In 1944, he became the pilot of a brand new bomber named Dauntless Dotty, which he flew in the first B-29 raid on Tokyo. He completed another two dozen B-29 missions in the Pacific before returning home to serve in the United States Air Force Reserve. Morgan retired in 1965 as a full colonel. His post-military years were spent running a furniture business with his former co-pilot Jim Verinis (who died in 2003), and selling real estate.
For his heroism and service, Morgan received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. His autobiography, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle,” co-written with Ron Powers, was published in 2001.

2 Responses to Robert Morgan

  1. mark sanford

    i met bobs wife at thunder over michigan I did not get to tell her he was one of my heros he rates up there with the duke I only wish he could have been there to see all eight b-17s i think of him everytime I see a b-17 in movies or on tv to him and to all vets thank you

  2. M.C.Dusold

    Thank You. How great and a stressful time to be in the world then. It seems that way once again. I hope to see the Belle out live myself.

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