John C. Morgan
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army Air Corps (Air Force)
World War II avitor whose actions on a 1943 bombing run over Germany won
him the Medal of Honor and helped to inspire "Twelve O'Clock High," died
on January 17, 1991 of a heart attack. The inspiration for Sy Bartlett
to write "Twelve O'Clock High," fame from the bombing mission on July 28,
Morgan, an Army Air Forces Second Lieutenant, was co-pilot on a B-17 enroute to the raid when the plane was hit by fire from enemy fighter planes. The pilot and top turret gunner were wounded and the waist, tail and radio gunners lost consciousness when their oxygen supplies were cut off by the damage to the plane. For two hours, Morgan had to fight the pilot, who continued to try to fly the plane despite being crazed by a bullet that had split his skull open. The plane's communications system was knocked out and it was two hours before the navigator entered the cockpit to assist him. He completed the raid and returned to base, saving both the crew and the aircraft.
After leaving the service, he worked for Texaco in California selling aviation fuel.
He is buried in Section 59 of Arlington National
MORGAN, JOHN C. (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 326th Bomber Squadron, 92d Bomber Group. Place and date: Over Europe, 28 July 1943. Entered service at: London, England. Born: 24 August 1914, Vernon, Texas. G.O. No.: 85, 17 December 1943.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above
and beyond the call of duty, while participating on a bombing mission over
enemy-occupied continental Europe, 28 July 1943. Prior to reaching the
German coast on the way to the target, the B17 airplane in which 2d Lt.
Morgan was serving as copilot was attacked by a large force of enemy fighters,
during which the oxygen system to the tail, waist, and radio gun positions
was knocked out. A frontal attack placed a cannon shell through the windshield,
totally shattering it, and the pilot's skull was split open by a .303 caliber
shell, leaving him in a crazed condition. The pilot fell over the steering
wheel, tightly clamping his arms around it. 2d Lt. Morgan at once grasped
the controls from his side and, by sheer strength, pulled the airplane
back into formation despite the frantic struggles of the semiconscious
pilot. The interphone had been destroyed, rendering it impossible to call
for help. At this time the top turret gunner fell to the floor and down
through the hatch with his arm shot off at the shoulder and a gaping wound
in his side. The waist, tail, and radio gunners had lost consciousness
from lack of oxygen and, hearing no fire from their guns, the copilot believed
they had bailed out. The wounded pilot still offered desperate resistance
in his crazed attempts to fly the airplane. There remained the prospect
of flying to and over the target and back to a friendly base wholly unassisted.
In the face of this desperate situation, 2d Lt. Officer Morgan made his
decision to continue the flight and protect any members of the crew who
might still be in the ship and for 2 hours he flew in formation with one
hand at the controls and the other holding off the struggling pilot before
the navigator entered the steering compartment and relieved the situation.
The miraculous and heroic performance of 2d Lt. Morgan on this occasion
resulted in the successful completion of a vital bombing mission and the
safe return of his airplane and crew.
Photo courtesy of Raymond L. Collins