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The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle: Memoir of a WWII Bomber Pilot Hardcover – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Made famous in a 1944 William Wyler documentary and inspiring a 1990 movie starring Matthew Modine, Harry Conick Jr. and Eric Stolz Morgan, a B17F "Flying Fortress" pilot, here fleshes out his own story, together with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Powers (Flags of Our Fathers). Morgan's depression-era childhood in Asheville, N.C., was cushioned by his mother's friendship with Cornelia Vanderbilt, who stepped in when the family went bust. Fond of fast cars and women, a grown-up Morgan joined the Army Air Corps in late 1940 and found that he had a natural talent for flying. In spite of less than perfect eyesight, he was chosen to pilot the newly developed Flying Fortress, designed to take flak and keep flying. When he met Memphis-born Margaret Polk, the two fell in love and planned to marry. On every mission over Germany and France, Morgan flew the Memphis Belle with a photo of Polk taped to the instrument panel (16 pages of photos here in all), which made for great publicity. After 25 harrowing daylight missions, the crew endured an exhausting 31-city U.S. tour, which ruined Morgan's marriage plans and led to his assignment as a B-29 Superfortress squadron commander. He flew 26 missions over Japan in 1944 and early 1945 before being rotated home. His search for the woman to replace his deceased mother led him through several marriages and engagements, which he chronicles in detail. Morgan also recounts (with the aid of 16 pages of photos) the tale of the Memphis Belle itself, which went from being a vandalized and forgotten plane to a national treasure. (On-sale: May 7)Forecast: Fans of military memoirs will like the first-person straight talk and action, but few outside the subject will come along for the ride through Morgan's personal life, though it is presented with ease and relative candor. And with Memphis Belle the movie 10 years in the can, there's little hope of the book being swept along in its breeze, despite Morgan's heroics.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As pilot of the World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber Memphis Belle, Morgan flew 25 successful combat missions to complete his tour of duty over Europe in 1942-3. He named his plane after his sweetheart, Margaret Polk, and their romance attracted publicity, which the army used to promote the war effort. Although he and his crew survived their missions in Memphis Belle, Morgan's own relationship fell victim to the stress of a lengthy public relations tour. He transferred to the Pacific theater and flew 26 missions over Japan in a newly developed B-29 bomber, named Dauntless Dotty after the girl he eventually married. Morgan (colonel, USAFR, ret.) and Powers (a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and coauthor of James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers, LJ 3/15/00) bring a new perspective to World War II literature. Morgan's propensity for "buzzing" airfields and his off-duty romantic affairs are interspersed with background history of the war. Written in a chatty style that is easy and exciting to read, this book is recommended for all public and most academic libraries. Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525946101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525946106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #766,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey M. Hyder on May 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The life of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, reads like a cross between Flags of Our Fathers and a romance novel. He grew up in the mountains of Asheville, NC and his family were friends of the Vanderbilts. His mother's suicide starts him on a life long search for someone to replace her love. He tells about this search in very candid and blunt fashion that I found both wonderful and sad. The one lady he does fall in love with was the Memphis Belle(the plane and the lady) and the book follows both his missions over Europe with her(the plane) and her crew as well as what happens to her when the war was over. After his 25th mission he and his crew were sent back to the United States to sell war bonds and keep the home front morale up. This bond tour has one unintended side effect, it destroyes his love affair with the planes name sake (the real Memphis Belle). Needless to say, with women fawning over him, Mr Morgan's womanizing hits an all time high. After the bond tour he signs up for a tour of duty flying missions over Japan. He is invloved in several famous fire bomb missions over Japan.
No doubt some people will be turned off by his womanizing and cheating ways. However, if you can get past that you will find one of the most amazing war books I have read in some time. Mr Morgan saw as much action as any bomber in WWII and his casual writing style is really wonderful.
The books last chapter shows that you can go home again and you can find what you have been searching for. It is a touching ending. Mr Morgan is still alive and kicking and all I can say is I would love to sit down with him and just talk about his life. He is a true hero!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Philip A. True on September 26, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Is this a good read? Yes it is, but not necessarily for the accounts of combat missions flown by Robert Morgan, pilot of the famed Memphis Belle, the first B-17 of the 8th Air Force to successfully complete 25 missions, and memoralized by William Wyler's photography and, in 1990, by a movie. More to the point, the story is one of what happened to the heroes of WWII, to those who flew, who were in the foxholes, who strode the deck of a warship. Did everyone come back to marry, buy a house, have children and live happpily ever after? Read this book and perhaps you'll understand in a small way what war meant and what it meant to those who fought in it.
Raised in upper class surroundings in Ashville, North Carolina, Robert Morgan seemed to have a care-free life of good times, fast cars, and plenty of women. But World War II intevenes and Morgan, at loose ends, joins an expanding Air Corps in late 1940. He fell in love with flying, but his career was often jeporadized by his propensities for buzzing buildings and beaches, and his disregard for proper military attire and the finer points of military discipline. There is no doubt of Morgan's abilities and courage, however, because in 1943, after a lengthy tour with his Memphis Belle and crew on a bond drive, he volunteers for the brand new B-29 program. As a squadron commander, Lt. Colonel Morgan is part of the 73rd Bomb Wing, based on Saipan, and flies the first B-29 mission to Tokyo, November 1944, in "Dauntless Dotty." After twenty-six often perilous missions, he is grounded and returned to the States in the summer of 1945. Later discharged, Morgan returns to civilian life with wife and now children and enters the business world begun by his father and headed by his brother, David.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought TMWFTMB on the strength of the glowing--make that gushing--reviews on this site. Was I ever disappointed!!!
There can be no doubt that, despite his protests to the contrary, Bob Morgan is an American hero in every sense of the term. The man flew 51 combat missions in World War II. Those of us born since the war owe him a debt that can never be repaid!
That said, TMWFTMB is riddled with errors! FDR's Secretary of War was Henry Stimson, not Harold Stimson. Curtis LeMay headed the Strategic Air Command, not the Strategic Defense Command. The prototype for the P-51 Mustang was not a Curtiss NA-73, it was a North American NA-73. On a B-29 the bombardier was not "down in the bomb bay," he was in the nose. The superchargers on a B-17 were not under the fuselage, they were under the nacelles (the part of the wing where the engines are mounted). Dana Andrews did not play an ex-pilot in "The Best Years of Our Lives," he played an ex-bombardier. Aviation history has been my passion since childhood but I've never heard of an aircraft called a "Schmitt 110." Perhaps Col. Morgan meant a Messerschmitt 110. The list goes on. After a while I only kept reading to see what gaff would turn up next.
Lighten up, you say. Little mistakes like these (how many did you catch?) don't matter. I disagree. The generation that fought and won World War II will, sadly, soon be gone. (We will not see their like again!) It will then fall to a handful of historians (myself included) to pass on the stories of their courage and sacrifice. A flop like this makes it all the more difficult to do that accurately.
I don't place one iota of blame on Col. Morgan for any of this. He is now well into his eighties and can be forgiven for a goof here and there.
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