461st plaque

461st Bombardment Group (H)

Douglas W. Morrell

Douglas W. Morrell was born 15 May 1919 in Douglas, Nebraska, the son of a prominent Methodist Minister.

He shot and sold his first motion picture documentation at age 12 covering a lawsuit and received $10.00 for the effort.

Doug graduated from high school at Scottsbuff, Nebraska in 1935. He then went on to attend Nebraska Wesleyan University at Lincoln, Nebraska for 2 ½ years.

He attended the Art Center in Los Angeles for cinematography and photography.

Doug joined the Army Air Corps on 3 October 1939 at March Air Force Base, CA as a motion picture and still cameraman.

He was assigned to one year on special duty observation status at four major Hollywood studios, three months at each studio (20th Century Fox, MGM, Warner Brothers, and Paramount).

He returned to the Army Air Corps and made training films specializing in field production and aerial documentation.

He spent one year in glider pilot training and Sergeant Pilot duty covering the training in motion pictures at the same time.

He was transferred to Africa and Italy in 1943-1944 flying 33 combat missions in B-17 and B-24 bombers hitting Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Yugoslavia, France and Romania.

In March 1944, his B-24 Liberator bomber was disabled by anti-aircraft fire over the "Iron Gates" of Romania forcing the crew to bail out. He evaded capture for 27 days while walking across Yugoslavia and northern Albania to the Adriatic Sea where he bribed a fisherman for a ride in the bilge of a fishing boat back to Italy.

He was sent back into combat documentation duties and, because of a green-brown visual color deficiency, was able to discern a fake Messerschmidt factory in Austria. He photographed the area in infrared still coverage and intelligence was able to re-target the factory. He also spotted two German submarines under a camouflage near Venice and recorded them in infrared. They were destroyed the next day.

In May 1944, while documenting his fifth raid against the oil refineries at Ploesti, his aircraft was disabled by anti-aircraft fire and forced to leave the formation. Attacked by several German ME-109 fighters, the lone bomber was engaged in a 10-minute running battle before being set afire at 18,000 feet altitude. Doug bailed out moments before the aircraft exploded killing five of the ten crewmembers aboard. He was immediately captured by German troops on landing and was held as a Prisoner of War in Bucharest until released by the advancing Russian Army four and one-half months later.

Doug returned to the CONUS and spent 4 months in rehabilitation status in hotels on Santa Monica beach in California.

He was sent to Tinian in the Pacific to document a "special" bomb drop over Hiroshima but was not aboard the Enola Gay due to a last minute decision. (They didn’t get the coverage they needed.) During the 3-month stay in Tinian, S/Sgt. Morrell flew six B-29 firebomb missions over Japan as practice for the big raid on Hiroshima.

On his return to the CONUS, he was immediately assigned to the 509th Composite Group and sent to Kwajaline as a senior (lead) photographer/cameraman to document the atomic tests at Bikini in the Marshall Islands from converted B-29 aircraft (F-13) heavily loaded with motion picture and still cameras. Over one million feet of film was exposed during the first minute of the blast. Morrell documented two devices set off during the test, one air blast and one under water blast in Bikini lagoon.

Upon returning again to the CONUS, he was immediately assigned to document guided missile tests in the Sahara Desert in Africa for 2 months and Alaska for 2 more months. Doug was voluntarily discharged from the Army Air Force 12 February 1947.

Doug was a professional photographer in Helena, Montana until he returned to the service for the Korean War on 2 March 1952.

He served three years as lead and standardization 1st photo on RB/GRB-36 aircraft with the 99th Strat Recon Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. He also made training films for the wing during this time.

He had a career diversion to Loadmaster aboard C-124 aircraft of the 2nd Strat Support Squadron at Pinecastle Air Force Base, Orlando, FL for 3 months before escaping into a special assignment as an Air Force Advisor (Photo) to the Alabama Air National Guard at Birmingham for the next 5 years. He made 10 training films for the Guard during this period.

Doug was back into the regular motion picture business with assignment to 1365 Photo Squadron (APCS) at Orlando where he became chief documentary cameraman for the Air Force New Review until September 1963 when he was sent to the Canal Zone to open up a new Detachment for coverage of Air Force activities in Latin America. He received commendations from three Latin American Presidents for coverage of civic actions in their countries. He arrived in Panama as a T/Sgt. and left 5 years later with a line number for Chief.

He was assigned to Det 2, 1352 Audiovisual Squadron at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and was sent to Keflavik, Iceland for 3 months to fly with F-102 Delta Dagger fighters intercepting Russian "Bear" aircraft over the North Sea. He documented a total of 24 intercepts (14 in one day) and made an honorary member of 57th Fighter/Interceptor Squadron.

Doug was then assigned to 601 Photo Flight, Koret RTAFB, Thailand in November 1968 as the Operations NCOIC and Chief of Aircrew Standardization.

Two months after his 50th birthday, he was documenting a sensor drop over the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos when his O-2 Forward Air Controller aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire knocking half of the left wing off and setting the stub on fire. Morrell and the pilot bailed out at 5,0000 feet and were fired upon by the anti-aircraft gunners most of the way down. Morrell landed in the jungle about 100 yards from the Ho Chi Minh trail in the middle of a truck servicing and parking complex guarded by six anti-aircraft gun positions. Calling in the rescue team with his survival radio, he assumed the role of a ground controller directing fire on the guns until all were silenced by rescue team fighters. After a combined effort involving 34 aircraft, he was picked up by a "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopter 9 hours after he hit the ground. His pilot was captured on landing and held prisoner of war in Hanoi for four years. After 3 months in the hospital at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, his tour in SEA was curtailed under evader rules and he was reassigned to HQ Aerospace Audiovisual Service at Norton Air Force Base, California where he served as Chief of Aircrew Standardization for AAVS worldwide until his retirement 30 June 1974.

Chief Morrell spent the next 5 years in college earning his degree in Anthropology from the University of California in Riverside. In 1980 he returned to HQ AAVS as a civilian critiquing documentary projects and coordinating the Air Force combat documentation program.

During the next 15 years he conducted 2-day seminars on combat camera documentation techniques at each AAVS unit worldwide each year. He wrote practically all of the Operational Regulations including a comprehensive Combat Camera Documentation Techniques manual, the Combat Camera Basic Unit Supplement (BUS), and supplements to DOD and AF regulations and directives.

Chief Morrell managed the Military Cinematographer of the year competition for the Department of Defense and was a leader in the establishment of the Military Motion Media Studies Program at Syracuse University that he managed for the Air Force. He was also very active in the Air Force Aircrew Survival program and lectured to aircrews and survival instructors all over the world on combat survival.

Prior to his retirement on 3 September 1994 he was awarded the Combat Camera Lifetime Achievement Award and on his retirement, the Air Force Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award.