Dempsey Wesley Morgan, Jr.
March 1, 1920 – April 11, 2013
Unit 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group
Dempsey Wesley Morgan Jr., of Cherokee as well as African-American extraction, was born in 1920 in Detroit, Michigan. He enrolled as a member of the 1942 Class of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York and was one of 996 Army Air Force Pilots who graduated from the Flight School at Tuskegee, Alabama between 1939 and 1949. He was, with his graduation in 1943, in the 15th of 44 Classes of Pilots, that completed training at the School before the end of the War. He flew missions over the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, while based in Italy as a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. The 332d was later rolled into the XV Air Force.
The 332nd was immortalized in the 2012 Movie “Red Tails”, a fictionalized account of their exploits in the air. His Squadron flew air cover missions over the beach at Anzio during Operation Shingle (which also included black ground soldiers) from 22-29 January 1944. They also escorted Bombers from North Africa on bombing missions throughout Southern Europe. On 4 October 1944 mission, highlighted in the book, “The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History” was the highlight of his service in Europe. He, as a 1st Lt., along with four other pilots (1st Lt. S. L. Curtis, & 1st Lt Willard Woods (also of the 100FS), Capt. Claude B. Govan (301FS) and 1st Lt. Herman A Lawson (99FS)) made their way to a German Airbase in Greece where they destroyed nine planes while they were still on the ground. For this Mission all five were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They joined 91 other Tuskegee Airmen to have won the DFC approximately 10% of the total number of members of the 332nd Fighter Group. In that interview in the Roanoke Times, he stated, “We got to the base and destroyed everything.”
He flew 142 combat missions and for his service, mainly over Africa and Europe near the Mediterranean, Dempsey was awarded several medals including a Bronze Star and an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. More recently, in a wave of belated public recognition for the Tuskegee Airmen, he was among those awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 2002; an honorary doctorate in public service from Tuskegee University in 2006; and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
Facing racial barriers in his postwar efforts to become a commercial pilot, Dempsey earned a degree in psychology, physics and chemistry at the University of Detroit. He worked as a counselor at a hospital and a prison, and while studying law sat on the prison’s parole board.
332nd Fighter Pilots Left to Right: Dempsey W. Morgan, Carroll S. Woods, Robert H. Nelson, Andrew D. Turner, Clarence P. Lester