Robert Knight Morgan

Military
media-25285.jpeg UPL 25285 Major (then Captain) Robert K Morgan [ Biltmore Estates, Asheville, North Carolina ], flight officer of the Boeing B-17 "Memphis Belle".

NARA Ref 342-FH-3A06253-I24147AC.

Object Number - UPL 25285 - Major (then Captain) Robert K Morgan [ Biltmore Estates, Asheville, North Carolina ], flight officer of the Boeing B-17 "Memphis Belle". NARA Ref...

Pilot of the 'Memphis Belle', named for Margaret Polk.



Robert (Bob) Morgan

Pilot, 324th Sqdn. 91st Bomb Group, Bassingbourn, England



While Bob Morgan may not be a household name, he qualifies for my “celebrity list” since he has been featured in two movies. Col. Robert Morgan served in the 91st bomb group of the Mighty 8th. He piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress named the “Memphis Belle”. The crew of “The Belle” was designated as the first to complete a full 25 mission tour in the 8th Air Force. As such, they were awarded medals, returned to the states for a war bond tour and became the subject of one period movie and a 1992 re-make.



I had the pleasure of meeting Col. Morgan several times, at militaria shows and events. Approaching him at one of those shows where he was signing autographs at a table, I introduced myself as the editor of the local 8th Air Force Historical Society’s newsletter and asked if I could interview him over lunch. He replied that he didn’t take a lunch break, but I was welcome to sit with him and talk between autograph seekers.



I have encountered some military celebrities whose patience with the public has worn thin after years in the lime-light. Such was definitely not the case with Col. Morgan. He motioned for me to join him behind the table where he was seated and offered me a chair. We visited for a few minutes before I sprung the question I wanted to ask. Since his war-time history and that of his plane have been documented many times, I instead asked him if he had humorous story about his time in England. He thought for a minute, then smiled and chuckled.



“Well, there was the time we almost ran out of gas on the way home from a mission and had to land at an RAF base on the coast. I had to convince the RAF officers that the fuel they had was likely American gas and I need to borrow a few gallons to get me and my crew back to base. They eventually relented and provided us with some fuel. This done, we went to fire off the engines and #3 wouldn’t start.



The RAF wanted to tie the plane to the ramp and wait for our base to send a maintenance crew to repair it the next day. Well, my copilot and I had a pass to go to London that night, a hotel room and dates waiting. We really didn’t want to spend the night with the RAF instead”.



“Talking to our flight engineer, we knew that the engine would start easy enough if we could get the ship in the air and windmill the prop. The plan we hatched was for the engineer, co-pilot and I to take the plane off on three engines, start up the #3, then land and pick up the rest of the crew. The British tried to block the plan but we eventually convinced them after a loud exchange of opinions.



With no bombs, and little fuel, “The Belle” made it off on three engines just fine. We got #3 going, landed, collected the crew and we did make it to London that night. I’m sure those RAF guys were telling stories about ‘those crazy Yanks’ for weeks”.



Col. Morgan and his crew survived 25 missions over occupied Europe, went home and did a high profile tour of the country. Bob transitioned to B-29s and went on to fly the first B-29 raid over Tokyo.



One other thing he told me was that he didn’t fly all 25 missions in the 91st Bomb Group in the “Memphis Belle”. He flew one in a plane called “Bad Penny” while “The Belle” was down for maintenance.





































Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

Units served with

Unofficial emblem of the 91st Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Aircraft

Lieutenant-General Jacob L. Devers adresses a bomber crew of the 91st Bomb Group in front of their B-17 Flying Fortress (DF-A, serial number 41-24485) nicknamed "Memphis Belle". Passed for publication 10 Jun 1943. Printed caption on reverse: 'Not For Publication Before 00.30 June 10th. Flying Fortress Returns To U.S.A. After 25 Operations. June 1943. At an 8th Army Air Station somewhere in England, Lt.-Gen. Jacob L. Devers, and Major-General Ira. C. Eaker, bidded fare-well to the Flying Fortress "Memphis
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Memphis Belle
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 324th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: The Sky Wolf, Great Speckled Bird
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 324th Bomb Squadron

Missions

Places

Events

Event Location Date Description

Born

Asheville, NC, USA 31 July 1918

Died

Asheville, NC, USA 15 May 2004

Buried/ Commemorated

Black Mountain, Buncombe County, North Carolina, USA Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery

Revisions

Date
Contributorjmoore43
Changes
Sources

Added a connection to the 8th AF Bomber Command Mission #58 for 17 May 1943. Note: Mission #25 for the crew of the Memphis Belle.

Date
Contributorjmoore43
Changes
Sources

Added middle name and burial location per Find-a-grave MEMORIAL ID 8762939.

Date
Contributorjmoore43
Changes
Sources

Added nickname.

Date
Contributorjmoore43
Changes
Sources

Moved cemetery comment to burial record.

Date
Contributorjmoore43
Changes
Sources

Added birth, death & burial data per Find-a-grave MEMORIAL ID 8762939.

Date
Changes
Sources

Source: Conversations with Col. Bob Morgan in 1995. lda 3/22/16

Date
ContributorEmily
Changes
Sources

Wilson D Webb, via American Air Museum Memory Book Correspondence

Date
ContributorAAM
Changes
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum Membership List, July 2000

Robert Knight Morgan: Gallery (14 items)