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Published: Monday, 1/10/2005

Bombardier shot down in WW II later became dentist

Dr. Robert Gordon Morgan, a bombardier who was shot down over Nazi Germany, imprisoned, and later returned to America to start a successful dental practice in Toledo, died yesterday at the Lake Park Hospice Comfort Care. He was 85.

Dr. Morgan died of acute leukemia several years after a debilitating stroke, friends said.

Born the youngest of five children in Youngstown, Dr. Morgan graduated from South High School in the late 1930s. Years later, when World War II broke out, he joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force.

In 1944, his bomber was hit by cannon fire from German war planes while engaged in a bombing run over Nazi Germany.

"The warplanes carved off the bomber's nose, and it was engulfed in fire," said his friend, Dr. William Stewart. Dr. Morgan managed to bail out of the plane, and parachuted into a hail of small-arms fire from German ground-based soldiers, who captured him.

Out of his plane's 10-man crew, only he and two other crew members survived the descent.

Placed in a German internment camp for a year and a half, Dr. Morgan was eventually liberated by advancing Russian troops. When he returned to America, Dr. Morgan weighed less than 100 pounds.

"He didn't talk much about his war experiences," Dr. Stewart said.

But he quickly returned to health in his family's care, and in 1946 entered the Ohio State University dental school as a member of the first postwar class.

"There were all these young guys and us," said Dr. Stewart, who was in his class.

Dr. Morgan graduated in 1950, a member of the Psi Omega dental fraternity, and came to Toledo to practice dentistry with his uncle, Dr. Charles Leslie, before starting his own practice on Monroe Street.

"His patients loved him. He was quiet, but he had a real sense of humor," Dr. Stewart said.

He retired from his practice in 1990. Early in his career, he married the former Ginger Suha, who died in 1983.

Dr. Morgan was equally known for his hobbies: An avid bow hunter and fisherman, he traveled from Florida to Saskatchewan to hunt game in woods and deep waters. In the Boca Grande Pass in Florida, he caught a 164-pound tarpon and a 600-pound blue shark.

Dr. Morgan continued to bow hunt until he was 80.

He was a member of the Beaver Lake Club near Alpena, Mich., where he hunted 40 years in a row.

Dr. Morgan requested that no visitation or services be held. Reeb Funeral Home in Sylvania is taking care of all arrangements.

Friends suggest tributes to the American Cancer Society.

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