Our son, Tyler is currently working part time at our regional airport in Chesapeake. He called us this afternoon and told us we HAD to come to the airport to see this really cool plane.
It turned out to be a B-17 Bomber named the “Memphis Belle”. It isn’t the original “Memphis Belle”, but the one that was used in the movie “Memphis Belle”.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (I think I have seen it at least a half million times) or know the history, the original Memphis Belle was a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress that served during World War II. The original “Memphis Belle” is in Dayton, Ohio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base undergoing extensive restoration.
The “Memphis Belle” was added to the USAAF inventory on July 15, 1942 and delivered to Dow Field in Bangor, Maine in September, 1942. She was sent to Scotland to a temporary base at RAF Kimboton in October, 1842. She then went to her permanent base at Bassingbourn, England in the same month.
Her pilot was Captain Robert Morgan and it was from him that she received her name. He named her after his sweetheart, Margaret Polk who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. At first he had intended on call it “Little One” after his pet name for her, but after seeing a movie call “Lady for a Night” with his co-pilot, Jim Verinis, in which a riverboat in the movie was named the “Memphis Belle”, he changed the name. The girl’s image on the plane came from a pinup drawing from the April 1941 issue of Esquire Magazine. Corporal Tony Starcer, the 91st Bomb Group artist reproduced the pinup on both sides of the forward fuselage. He gave her a blue suit on the plane’s port side and a red suit on the plane’s starboard side. Other nose art was added later for each successful mission and aircrew shot down. Once her missions were complete, the crew names and stations were stenciled below station windows.
During World War II, if a Bomber completed 25 missions, its crew would earn enough points to come home. This Bombing Mission was generally done during daytime hours and would place the aircraft and crew within striking distance of enemy fire. Most B-17s didn’t make it. But the “Memphis Belle” was one of the first and few that completed this task without being shot down or losing even one crew member.