A site dedicated to my favorite WWII aircraft

  Col. Morgans Letter
  In response to a review of the 1990 movie by Mark R. Leeper

Dear Mark,

I just read your critiques on the documentary and movie Memphis Belle on Bob's 17 site. I was the pilot of the Memphis Belle. I'd like to set you straight on some of your comments.
Wyler flew five combat missions with us. He personally filmed a lot of footage (not just a minute or two as stated in your critique); and got the Belle landing by filming from the ball-turret gun position. I wouldn't let any of my crew get in there on take-off or landing, so it took a lot of courage for Wyler to do that.

Our last (rather uneventful) mission on 17 May 43 was to Lorient, France, but Wyler Used Wilhelmshaven because that Mission contained mo re action.
There was only one slight injury ever to any Belle crewman and that was a slight schrapnel wound to my tail gunner's right leg, John Quinlan, on the March 28, 1943 mission to Rouen, France. He got the Purple Heart and was embarrassed to take it because his wound was so slight.

The Belle did have a fire on the 23 Jan 43 Mission to Lorient, France. A Focke Wulf 190 whose shells were intended for our nose, nearly shot the whole tail off. It was on fire and chunks of it were falling off. I did make a 5,000 foot dive to burn out the fire and we were left with almost half the tail Missing. So, it is not a contention the 17 was one of the best-designed combat planes ever built. It was.

After the Belle I trained in B-29's and flew 25 more missions over Japan from Saipan. On 24 Nov 44 1 led the first B-29 raid on Tokyo (the first Tokyo raid since Doolittle's April '42 raid). The 29 couldn't hold a candle to the 17. Engines overheated constantly - they were underpowered. So, if you lost an engine or two as I did, it was impossible to make it back to Saipan. When I lost those two engines over Tokyo, I was able to straggle into Iwo Jima and land. It saved our lives.
I was the second oldest member of my crew - age 24 when I took command (I was born 31 Jul 18). Jim Verinis, the copilot was slightly older. None of us were in our 30's.

The documentary was intended as a training film for crews stateside who had not arrived in England. There were mid-air collisions. There weren't shown on the documentary so they would not weaken the moral of those back home. We wanted to give them an idea of what was really happening, but at the same time we didn't want to scare the hell out of them before they got to England.

In regard to your 1990 movie critique. First, all the Belle crew did not go home and sit out the rest of the war on cushy assignments.

As I told you earlier, I flew 25 more B-29 Missions in the Pacific. My bombardier, Vince Evans, was also my B-29 bombardier, and Quinl an, my tailgunner, also went to the Pacific in 291s. He was shot do wn on his 5th mission. He landed in Japanese-held Manchuria and was captured by the Japanese. He escaped and literally "walked" out of China with guerrilla’s. During his trek out he fought several high pitched battles with the Japanese.

I was the "religious" guy in the movie. Still am. I firmly believe God was watching over us. We did have parties at our humble base. Except, Bassingbourn wasn't humble. We had the finest base in all of England. It's still operating as an English Army base. The two-story brick house my officers lived in is still there; the nice Officer's Club is still there. We were lucky as hell to get that base.
We lived pretty damn good during the war.

There is a hardback book "Memphis Belle Home at Last" by Menno Duerksen. It’s reasonably accurate and describes all 25 missions. You can see it on my web site at www.memphis-belle.com

Please don't be offended by my comments. I just think you ought to do your homework before you write a critique that is as inaccurate a s the films you knocked.

Kindest regards,
Col. Bob Morgan

P.S. I'm sorry you thought the movie was so shallow.

Read Mark's review Return to Memphis Bell Page
Last updated June 8, 1995