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 larger image.
Photos by Mark Young.

 

                      

 

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