Joseph Morabito

[ Age 82 ] Retired Army master sergeant flew numerous bombing missions over Germany and France as an aerial gunner.

At 17, he joined the Army Air Forces and was stationed in England with a bomber squadron.

September 07, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

Joseph Albert Morabito, a retired Army master sergeant who flew numerous bombing raids over Nazi Germany, died of Alzheimer's disease complications Aug. 31 at Baltimore Veterans Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center at Loch Raven. The Middle River resident was 82.

Born in Renfrew, Pa., he left high school in 1943 and lied about his age to enlist in the Army after his two older brothers had been drafted.

At 17, he joined the Army Air Forces and was stationed in Halesworth, England, with the 489th Bomber Squadron. He flew on B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers on 32 missions over Germany and France. He was an aerial gunner.

"He had good eyesight and never wore glasses," said his wife of nearly 52 years, the former Norma Owens. "He became a top turret gunner and would spend eight hours in a very confined space."

Mr. Morabito witnessed the 1944 explosion and crash of an aircraft flown by Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a brother of John F. Kennedy, while it was on a secret mission to bomb German sites.

"The war was horrible, and for years he would jump in his sleep," his wife said.

Mr. Morabito was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on Sept. 3, 1944.

He attended reunions of his old squadron.

After working briefly for Eastern Airlines, Mr. Morabito returned to what had become the Air Force and completed many assignments, including postings in Japan, London and Thule, Greenland. A loadmaster, he directed the placement of cargo within planes.

In early 1957, he participated in Operation Safe Haven, an airlift of nearly 10,000 Hungarian refugees after Soviet troops had occupied Hungary. He was then a member of the 1608th Air Transport Wing from the Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. A news service photographer shot a much-published photo of Mr. Morabito carrying a young Hungarian child to a plane during the airlift.

He was named a senior master sergeant in 1957 and retired from the Air Force in 1961 because of a medical condition. He then joined the Department of Health and Human Services and worked in administration at the National Institutes of Health. He retired in 1982.

"He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who could repair anything," his wife said.

His experience as a loadmaster made him an expert packer, she said.

Mr. Morabito enjoyed gardening and watching football. He was a member of the Holy Name Society and Knights of Columbus.

A Mass was offered Wednesday at St. Ursula's Roman Catholic Church in Parkville. He was buried at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery with full military honors.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, James Morabito of Novi, Mich.; three daughters; Marisa Conner of Middle River, Gina Borman of Palm Beach, Fla., and Marianne Holland of Half Moon Bay, Calif.; a brother, Vito Morabito of Butler, Pa.; a sister, Judy Colosimo of Butler, Pa.; and seven grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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