Memphis Belle is a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress used during the Second World War that inspired the making of two motion pictures: a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and a 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle. The aircraft was one of the first United States Army Air Forces B-17 heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions. The aircraft and crew then returned to the United States to sell war bonds. In 2005, restoration began on the aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio where, from May 2018, it is on display.
|Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, AAF Ser. No. 41-24485, Memphis Belle, 324th Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, 9 June 1943|
|Type||Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress|
|Manufacturer||Boeing Aircraft Company|
|Owners and operators||United States Army Air Forces|
|Preserved at||National Museum of the United States Air Force|
The crew for the Memphis Belle are as follows:
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing-built B-17F-10-BO, manufacturer's serial number 3470, USAAC Serial No. 41-24485, was added to the USAAF inventory on 15 July 1942, and delivered in September 1942 to the 91st Bombardment Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. She deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, on 30 September 1942, moving to a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on 1 October, and then finally to her permanent base at RAF Bassingbourn, England, on 14 October. Each side of the fuselage bore the unit and aircraft identification markings of a B-17 of the 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy); the squadron code "DF" and individual aircraft letter "A."
Captain Robert K. Morgan's crew flew 29 combat missions with the 324th Bomb Squadron, all but four in the Memphis Belle. The aircraft's 25 combat missions, which included eight German aircraft shot down by her crew, were:
* Sources disagree on which two of these three missions the Memphis Belle received mission credits for.
Morgan's crew completed the following missions in B-17s other than the Memphis Belle:
The aircraft was then flown back to the United States on 8 June 1943, by a composite crew chosen by the Eighth Air Force from those who had flown combat aboard, led by Capt. Morgan, for a 31-city war bond tour. Morgan's original co-pilot was Capt. James A. Verinis, who himself piloted the Memphis Belle for one mission. Verinis was promoted to aircraft commander of another B-17 for his final 16 missions and finished his tour on 13 May. He rejoined Morgan's crew as co-pilot for the flight back to the United States.
The aircraft was named after pilot Robert K Morgan's sweetheart, Margaret Polk, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. Morgan originally intended to call the aircraft Little One, which was his pet name for her, but after Morgan and copilot Jim Verinis saw the movie Lady for a Night, in which the leading character owns a riverboat named the Memphis Belle, he proposed that name to his crew.[N 4] Morgan then contacted George Petty at the offices of Esquire magazine and asked him for a pinup drawing to go with the name, which Petty supplied from the magazine's April 1941 issue.
The 91st's group artist, Corporal Tony Starcer, copied the Petty girl as art on both sides of the forward fuselage, depicting her suit in blue on the aircraft's port side and in red on the starboard. The nose art later included 25 bomb shapes, one for each mission credit, and eight swastika designs, one for each German aircraft claimed shot down by the crew. Station and crew names were stenciled below station windows on the aircraft after her tour of duty was completed.
In his memoirs, Morgan claimed that during his publicity tour he flew the B-17 between the Buncombe County Courthouse and the City Hall of Asheville, North Carolina, his home town. Morgan wrote that after leaving a local airport he decided to buzz the town, telling his copilot, Captain Verinis, "I think we'll just drive up over the city and give them a little goodbye salute." Morgan turned the bomber down Patton Avenue, a main thoroughfare, toward downtown Asheville. When he observed the courthouse and the city hall (two tall buildings that are only about 50 ft (20 m) apart) dead ahead, he lowered his left wing in a 60 degree bank and flew between the structures. He wrote that the city hall housed an AAF weather detachment whose commanding officer allegedly complained immediately to the Pentagon, but was advised by a duty officer that "Major Morgan...has been given permission to buzz by General Henry "Hap" Arnold."
After the war, the Memphis Belle was saved from reclamation at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma where she had been consigned since 1 August 1945, by the efforts of the mayor of Memphis, Walter Chandler. The city of Memphis bought the B-17 for US$350 (equivalent to $4,871 in 2018). She was flown to Memphis in July 1946 and stored until the summer of 1949 when she was placed on display at the National Guard armory near the city's fairgrounds. She sat out-of-doors into the 1980s, slowly deteriorating from weather and vandalism. Souvenir hunters removed almost all of the interior components. Eventually no instruments were left in the cockpit, and virtually every removable piece of the aircraft's interior had been scavenged, often severing the aircraft's wiring and control cables in the process.
In the early 1970s, another mayor had donated the historic aircraft back to the Air Force, but they allowed her to remain in Memphis contingent on her being maintained. Efforts by the locally organized Memphis Belle Memorial Association, Inc. (MBMA) saw the aircraft moved to Mud Island in the Mississippi River in 1987 for display in a new pavilion with large tarp cover. She was still open to the elements, however, and prone to weathering. Pigeons would also nest inside the tarp and droppings were constantly needing removal from the B-17. Dissatisfaction with the site led to efforts to create a new museum facility in Shelby County. In the summer of 2003 the Belle was disassembled and moved to a restoration facility at the former Naval Air Station Memphis in Millington, Tennessee for work. In September 2004, however, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, apparently tiring of the ups and downs of the city's attempts to preserve the aircraft, indicated that they wanted her back for restoration and eventual display at the museum at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. The Memphis Belle- The Final Chapter in Memphis, a documentary film by Ken Axmaker, Jr., focuses on the history of the Belle in Memphis and emphasizes the final days and the volunteers who tried to keep one of the most famous aircraft in the world and another Memphis icon from disappearing.
On 30 August 2005, the MBMA announced that a consultant that they hired determined that the MBMA would not be able to raise enough money to restore the Belle and otherwise fulfill the Air Force's requirements to keep possession of the aircraft. They announced plans to return the aircraft to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio, after a final exhibition at an airshow in Millington, Tennessee from 30 September–2 October 2005. The Belle arrived safely at the museum in mid-October 2005 and was placed in one of the Museum's restoration hangars.
The Museum placed restoration of Memphis Belle near the top of its priorities. In the magazine Friends Journal of the museum's foundation, Major General Charles D. Metcalf, USAF (Ret), then the director of the museum, stated that it might take eight to 10 years to fully restore the aircraft.
By the spring of 2009, considerable preparatory work had been accomplished, but the fuselage and wings were still disassembled.
After stripping the paint from the aft fuselage of the aircraft, hundreds of names and personal messages were found scratched in the aluminum skin. It turned out that, during the aircraft's war bond tour, people were allowed to leave their mark there.
In May 2017 the museum announced the goal of completing the restoration and putting the Memphis Belle on display by May 17, 2018, the 75th anniversary of the plane's 25th mission. On March 19, 2018 the Memphis Belle was moved into the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and was officially unveiled May 17, 2018.
Five airworthy B-17s were used in the filming of the 1990 British-American war drama film Memphis Belle, two from the US (N-17W – now on display in Seattle and Movie Memphis Belle 44-83546), B-17G Sally B from the UK and two French geographic survey B-17Gs, one of which crashed on take-off near the end of filming.
The B-17Gs had some sections converted into a B-17F configuration for the film. A former bomber, B-17G-85-DL, AAC Serial No. 44-83546, FAA registered N3703G, was converted by installing a Sperry top turret, early-style tail gunner's compartment and waist gunner's positions, and omitting the chin turret. After appearing in the film, this plane continues to make air show appearances as Movie Memphis Belle in that configuration. Originally painted with the Warner Brothers movie version of the nose art and markings, the B-17 (owned by restaurateur David Tallichet until his death in 2007) now carries the historic markings found on the actual Memphis Belle. That aircraft is currently leased by the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York and provides historical flight experiences to the public.
The Sally B, used in film, is the last airworthy B-17 in the United Kingdom and is based at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. She is part of the USAAC World War II Memorial Flight and makes dozens of appearances across the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. She is maintained and run by volunteers, relying solely upon donations.
In addition to the airworthy B-17s, others were used as planes visible at the airbase in the film, but not as the Memphis Belle. One example, B-17F-70-BO, Serial number 42-29782, is located at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA. Boeing Bee has been completely restored and is potentially airworthy once again.
This is a partial list of accidents and incidents involving the Boeing-designed B-17 Flying Fortress. Combat losses are not included except for a very few cases denoted by singular circumstances. A few documented drone attrition cases are also included.
Aircraft were constructed by a three firm consortium, Boeing, Vega and Douglas, known by the acronym BVD. Boeing built airframes at their plant in Seattle, Washington and their production models were appended -BO. Douglas Aircraft Company constructed airframes at Long Beach, California with a -DL suffix. The Vega Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Company, at Burbank, California, delivered airframes with the -VE suffix.Bangor Air National Guard Base
Bangor Air National Guard Base is a United States Air National Guard base. Created in 1927 as the commercial Godfrey Field, the airfield was taken over by the U.S. Army just before World War II and renamed Godfrey Army Airfield and later Dow Army Airfield. It became Dow Air Force Base in 1947, when the newly formed U.S. Air Force took over many Army air assets. In 1968, the base was sold to the city of Bangor, Maine, to become Bangor International Airport but has since continued to host Maine Air National Guard units under a lease agreement with the city.Memphis Belle
Memphis Belle may refer to:
Memphis Belle (aircraft), a USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress whose aircrew was the first in the U.S. Eighth Air Force to complete 25 missions in Europe and return to the United States.
It also refers to two films based on the aircraft and its story:
The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, a 1944 documentary film about the real aircraft and crew on its final mission
Memphis Belle (film), a 1990 fictional film inspired by the 1944 documentary