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Medal of Honor recipient's plane shot down


On this day in 1944, John Cary Morgan's plane was shot down over Berlin. He spent the remaining fourteen months of World War II as a German prisoner. The Texas native, born in Vernon in 1914, received his pilot's license at age twenty. In July 1943, Second Lieutenant Morgan was stationed in England and was flying as a copilot on a B-17 bomber when his aircraft was attacked by a large force of enemy fighters. The pilot received a severe head wound that left him crazed, and fell over the controls with the wheel in his arms. Morgan took the controls on his side and, despite the frantic struggles of the pilot, brought the aircraft under control and back into the formation. Because the interphone had been destroyed it was impossible to call for assistance. The waist and tail gunners were unconscious because of damage to the oxygen system in the rear compartment. Hearing no fire from their guns, Morgan concluded that they had bailed out. He faced the prospect of flying the plane to the target and back to England unassisted. For two hours he flew in formation, with one hand holding off the pilot and the other on the controls, until the navigator entered the pilot's compartment and relieved the situation. Morgan's heroic performance resulted in the successful completion of a vital bombing mission and the safe return of the aircraft and crew. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for "gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty." He continued to fly missions until he was shot down in 1944. His story was fictionalized in the novel Twelve O'Clock High! by Sy Bartlett (1948).

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