Memphis Belle' Margaret Polk dies

April 6, 1990
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Margaret Polk, the 'Memphis Belle' whose romance with a World War II bomber pilot turned into an international love story, died Thursday following a bout with cancer. She was 67.

Polk for the last 46 years was the namesake of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber flown by Robert Morgan of Asheville, N.C., in 1942. Morgan is credited with flying the first B-17 to complete 25 missions over Nazi territory in Europe.

Morgan and his crew named their plane the Memphis Belle in 1942 after the romance generated international headlines. Although the couple was engaged, they never married and Polk remained single. Morgan says the long separation cooled the romance.

'She was a courageous lady and I'd like for her to be remembered as an upbeat person who never had a bad word for anybody,' said Morgan, who plans to attend Polk's funeral.

Polk later said she was the most romantic of the pair but said her ardor cooled in 1943 when she called Morgan's hotel room in Denver and another woman answered the phone. However, it wasn't easy to break the engagement.

'The publicity had gone so far I had to get written permission from the War Department to break the engagement,' Polk said.

Morgan and Polk remained friends and Morgan, 69, said he last saw her three years ago during a Memphis Belle ceremony on Mud Island in Memphis.

After the romance ended, Margaret Polk returned to school and later became a flight attendant. She also became an alcoholic and became known for her work with people stricken with the disease.

Services for Polk will be held Saturday in Memphis.

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