B-17F Memphis Belle
Restoration at NMUSAF
The B-17 Flying Fortress "MEMPHIS BELLE" (Serial No. 41-24485) was one of
12,750 B-17's built by the Boeing Aircraft Co. The BELLE was the most famous
because she was one of the first heavy bombers in the European Theatre of
War to complete 25 combat missions and keep her entire crew alive. She flew
for 10 months from November 7, 1942 to May 17, 1943. The command generals
had set 25 missions as an incentive for air crews to go home.
The BELLE shot down eight enemy fighters, probably destroyed five others,
and damaged at least a dozen more. She dropped more than 60 tons of bombs
over Germany, France and Belgium. During her 25 missions she flew 148 hours,
50 minutes, and covered more than 20,000 combat miles. She is the only B-17
to have her own file in the Air Force Film Depository.
This gallant lady was bullet-ridden, flak damaged; on five separate
occasions had engines shot out and once came back with her tail nearly shot
off. There was not one major injury to the crew members. The crew met their
plane in Bangor, Maine for the first time in September, 1942. They flew
their ship to Memphis, TN on a shakedown flight, where she was christened
MEMPHIS BELLE in honor of the pilot's wartime sweetheart, Ms. Margaret Polk.
From there they flew across the Atlantic to their home base in Bassingbourn,
England, just north of London.
In 1950 the Belle was placed on a pedestal near the Army National Guard. In
November, 1977, she was moved to the Air National Guard at the Memphis
airport. During these years the vandals did what the Germans couldn't. They
almost destroyed her! For the next nine years various fund raising efforts
were made to restore the Belle. Later the Belle restored and placed on
display on Mud Island in Memphis.
Due to significant physical deterioration the National
Museum of the Air Force recalled the aircraft. The plane was delivered
to the museum in October of 2005. The photos show the aircraft in pieces
prior to the beginning of a very long and complete restoration.
A short picture description
can be found in the photo name. Click on the thumbnail to view a
Photos by Mark