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Art Leatherwood

MORGAN, JOHN CARY (1914–1991). John Cary Morgan, Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Vernon, Texas, on August 24, 1914. He attended New Mexico Military Institute and began flying lessons at the University of Texas. He received his pilot's license at age twenty. He also attended Amarillo College, Schreiner Institute, and West Texas State Teachers College. About 1924 he went to the Fiji Islands, where he worked on a pineapple plantation and in a gold mine. After three years he returned to the United States and worked in various Texas oilfields. He was refused entry into the army air corps because of a poor academic record and a neck injury he had sustained years earlier, but went to Canada and enlisted in the Royal Air Force. There he received pilot training in the RCAF and was posted to England in 1942. In March 1943 he transferred to the United States Army Air Corps with the grade of flight officer and a rating as pilot.

In July 1943, Second Lieutenant Morgan was copilot on a B-17 as part of a large formation when his aircraft was attacked by a large force of enemy fighters. The windshield was shattered by a cannon shell. The pilot, who had received a severe head wound that left him crazed, 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, Lieutenant 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." His mission inspired the novel Twelve O'Clock High! by Sy Bartlett (1948).

After the mission on which he earned the Medal of Honor he continued to fly combat missions. On March 6, 1944, his aircraft was shot down over Berlin. He spent the remaining fourteen months of the war as a German prisoner. He left the military in 1945 and was married to Chris Ziegler in 1947. They had one son. Morgan was recalled during the Korean War and finally retired in 1954. He had begun work with Texaco in 1938 as a truck operator in Oklahoma City. He returned to Texaco after each period of military service and retired from the company as division manager of the International Aviation Sales Department after thirty-nine years of service. He died of a heart attack at Midlands Hospital in Papillion, Nebraska, on January 17, 1991, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to his Medal of Honor he also received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster.

Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1976. Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Art Leatherwood, "MORGAN, JOHN CARY," accessed August 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmowh.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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