Robert Hanson, 85, the last surviving crew member of the famed Memphis Belle B-17 bomber that flew combat missions over Europe during World War II, died Oct. 1 in Albuquerque. He had congestive heart failure.
Mr. Hanson was the radio operator on the Memphis Belle, which flew 25 combat missions over Germany and France and escaped some close calls. He told his family stories about a chase involving several German planes, the bomber's tail being shot off and a nose dive that left crew members wondering whether they should use their parachutes.
Mr. Hanson was a native of Walla Walla, Wash., joined the military in 1941 and was assigned to the crew of the Memphis Belle. The Boeing Flying Fortress was named for the commander's Memphis sweetheart at the time.
The bomber flew to England in September 1942 and departed on its first mission in November. Army records show that the plane flew 148 hours and dropped more than 60 tons of bombs.
During its missions, the Belle was hit by flak, cannon shells and machine gun bullets. The plane's major parts were replaced at least once, and four crew members died during combat.
Family members said Mr. Hanson had one close call.
He was writing in a logbook one day and had to sneeze. As his head moved, a bullet missed him and put a hole through the book.
Mr. Hanson and the crew finished their 25th mission May 17, 1943. He went on to work as a salesman for Nalley Fine Foods in Walla Walla and became a regional manager. He later worked for a candy company in Spokane, Wash.