RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
Commander of Memphis Belle dies at 85

Colonel Robert Morgan died on Saturday of complications after he fell at an air show, his wife said. He was 85.

The Belle was the first heavy bomber in Europe to complete 25 missions, the number required for the crew to be sent home. Col Morgan co-wrote a book about some of his experiences, The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle, with Ron Powers.

"Twenty-five doesn't sound like much until you start flying them," Col Morgan said later.

Col Morgan and his crew were assigned to the plane on September 1 1942. The pilot named the craft after his wartime sweetheart's home town. The Belle flew to England in late September and departed on its first bombing mission on November 7.

In the next six months, the Belle flew missions over France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. She was hit by flak, cannon shells and machine-gun bullets. Every major part of the plane was replaced at least once, including the engines (nine times), both wings, tails and main landing gears. Four of the plane's crew of 10 died during combat.

According to army records, the plane flew 148 hours, dropping more than 60 tonnes of bombs, all on daylight missions.

"Some of them were pretty rough missions. The Luftwaffe boys would sometimes fly into their own flak to get at us. They were mean devils, I tell you," top turret gunner Harold Loch told the Associated Press.

There were many close calls: engine fires, bullet holes, confrontations with fighter planes. Somehow the Belle always made it back to base when other planes went down.

Col Morgan said he and his men never talked about crashing or dying.

"Every time we were going to fly, we gathered in a huddle and we just told ourselves that if only one plane was coming back, it was going to be ours," he said.

The exploits of the Belle were brought to later generations by a 1990 film, Memphis Belle, which told a heavily fictionalised version of the bomber's 25th and final mission.

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
No Place Like Home – A Black Briton’s Journey through the American South
book review
'The idea of retracing the route is a great one, urgent and necessary.'
 follow on twitter
RT @EthnicityUK: Gary Younge is interviewed by @sonikkalogan about his work on racism and gun violence in @the_hindu #DataPoint podcast. h…
RT @thefreedomi: 🚨 NEW: Saudi women’s rights activist & academic Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison + 34 year travel ban f…
RT @LRB: #DawnFosterForever! On Thursday 15 September at the @LRBbookshop, @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanley and @garyyounge will d…
RT @ShowunmiV: This is how we support Black women and girls
RT @sonikkalogan: It's #DataPoint Pod Thursday! In this week's episode, I talk to @noraneus, @garyyounge and @Casey_J_Wooten about the U.S.…
RT @bgnoiseuk: Next month, @LRBbookshop will host an event to celebrate the life and work of Dawn Foster with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lyn…
Help me Twitter. The quote: ""You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." is most commonly…
RT @the_hindu: #DataPoint | This Thursday, @sonikkalogan takes a look at the #US gun violence epidemic, as mass shootings continue to grow…
City workers get double-digit wage rises while lowest-paid see 1% increase - “Them’s the breaks”
RT @LRBbookshop: On 15 Sept we'll host an evening celebrating the life and work of Dawn Foster, with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanle…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc