View Full Version : Update on the Memphis Belle

09-03-2005, 12:59 AM
In USA Today I saw this: "Supporters of an effort to keep the Memphis Belle World War II bomber say they're giving up and returning the plane to the Air Force. The plane was the first B17 Flying Fortress to complete 25 bombing runs over Europe with it's original crew. The Belle will now move to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio."

Thought you might be interested....

09-03-2005, 01:23 PM

09-03-2005, 01:31 PM

Posted on Thu, Sep. 01, 2005

Widow says Memphis Belle move would have thrilled pilot


DAYTON, Ohio - The B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, which became a household name for its exploits during World War II, has one final mission.

The aircraft will be moved from its namesake city in Tennessee, where supporters have struggled to raise funds to maintain it, to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, where it will be restored to museum quality and put on permanent display.

The widow of the pilot said Thursday that would have made her husband very happy.

Linda Morgan, of Crane Hill, Ala., has waged a campaign to get the aircraft moved. She said her late husband, Robert Morgan, was adamant about wanting the Memphis Belle moved to Dayton so more people could see it. He made that clear just before he died in May 2003, she said.

"I just wish Bob was alive to see it," she said. "Bob is probably up in heaven right now grinning from ear to ear."

Robert Morgan named the plane in honor of Margaret Polk, his Memphis sweetheart, and the plane's nose was decorated with leggy paintings of a young woman.

The Belle became a symbol of heroism and sacrifice during World War II. It was the first U.S. bomber to complete 25 bombing runs over German-occupied Europe with its crew intact.

U.S. bombers were highly vulnerable to being shot down. They performed their missions in daylight and could not easily evade faster, more maneuverable enemy fighter planes.

Ron Kaplan, director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, said the Belle also was operating at a time when allied fighter planes were not flying alongside to protect the bombers from enemy aircraft during the entire mission.

"There were a lot of them that never completed 25 missions," Kaplan said. "They were shot down."

Linda Morgan said her late husband had been intrigued by the fact that he and his crew survived when so many others didn't.

"He always said the 11th member of the crew was the Belle itself," she said. "He also very firmly felt that God was looking over that plane."

The Belle has been in the Memphis area since 1946 after it was resurrected from a junkyard for old military equipment. Partially dismantled, the plane has been on limited display in a Memphis-area hangar since March 2003, after years of outdoor display that museum officials say exposed it to deterioration.

Efforts to build a permanent museum in Memphis to display and preserve the Belle fell apart last year, and the Air Force announced Wednesday it was moving the plane to Dayton.

Andy Pouncey, president of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association, said supporters just couldn't bring the resources together to give the plane its due.

"We know it is going to a place where it will be well taken care of and a place where more people can see it," Pouncey said.

Museum officials said the Belle will boost the museum's prestige and spur public interest.

"Clearly, the Memphis Belle is an icon of the Air Force," museum director Charles Metcalf said. "It's one of probably three airplanes the entire world knows."

Only the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II, and Glamorous Glynnis, the X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew when he broke the sound barrier, are as well known, Metcalf said. Both of those planes are on display at the Smithsonian.

The Belle will arrive at the museum sometime after Oct. 1. Metcalf said the plane will be on display as it is restored, but estimated it will take five or six years to fully restore it.

About 1.1 million people visit the museum each year.

"When you bring a national treasure and one that is as widely recognized by name as the Memphis Belle, it can't help but have an impact on our visitor base," Metcalf said."

09-03-2005, 01:36 PM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif Thanks for this!

09-03-2005, 02:14 PM
the 303rd BG B-17F "Hell's Angels" was the first plane to complete 25 missions on 13 May, 1943, beating Belle by a few days. It stayed in the group, flying a total of 48 mission before being retired.

The "Memphis Belle" crew was the first to complete a 25-mission tour of duty and return to the states. Belle flew her 25th mission on May 18th ,the crew actually having completed their tours in other aircraft the previous day.

A fine distincion, to be sure, but I just wanted to set the record straight. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

09-03-2005, 04:13 PM
yep this is confirmed in "The Mighty Eighth In the Second World War", when i read this a few years back i was saddened but i guess it doesnt realy matter, just felt like a childhood memory of mine had been crushed. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_frown.gif

09-03-2005, 05:48 PM
Thanks for the comments from Mrs. Morgan....

09-03-2005, 06:57 PM
For the record, I think the accomplishment of the crew far outweighs that of the plane. Crewmen were often wounded or killed, even if the plane was not lost. For a crew to finish their tour intact like they did, especially considering the loss rate at the time, was not only amazing but a huge boost to 8th AF morale.

As my grandpa related to me, it was the first time many crewmen felt that they could actually live through the war. (He was later shot down on his 11th mission, already having been wounded in the hand by flak on his 3rd mission.)

09-04-2005, 01:51 AM

Very intersting post, nice bit of history I was not aware of, thanks all.

09-04-2005, 03:13 AM
I was at an airshow in Ottawa, Canada, last weekend and a B17 Memphis Belle - not the original, but the one used in the Matthew Modine movie - was there. I therefore assumed the original had been 'replaced' by the one I saw, but clearly there are two Memphis Belles.

I would have thought that somebody would object to a second aircraft identifying itself as one as iconic as The Memphis Belle. In fact, I'm sure a lot of people assume they're looking at the real article - I only found out different because I asked.

Anybody got any perspective on this?

09-04-2005, 11:18 AM
I think it is up to the owners of the aircraft how they want to paint the plane and identify it. These are privately owned aircraft (sort of), so I really don't know why they couldn't paint it to look like the Memphis Belle. I think they should tell people it is not the original Memphis Belle.

The Air Force took the Memphis Belle away from the group in Memphis because the group wasn't making enough progress in restoring it. Technically, the Air Force retains ownership of all these old warbirds and can take them away from whoever "owns" them at any time.


09-04-2005, 04:51 PM
actually the USAF can only reclaim planes that it still has the title to. They still had the title to it, and had never disposed of it as scrap, so these flying warbirds are private property, as the USAF would never approve of its property being flown again.

Many of the ones on static display in museums (most probably) are still owned by the AF, and they have control over them. this includes some on display near my home along I-75 just north of Calhoun Ga...several old jets and a T-28.

The Memphis belle you see at airshows belongs to DAvid Tallichet, who actaully flew them in the war. he owns more warbirds than any1 else in the US (world probably), most of which are still in storage. the one you see is a B-17G wiht the chin turret removed and an E type turret installed in the dorsal position (it was when i photographed it while it was still called the square D back in 88).

When it was used in the film along with several other forts, the owner made some kind of agreement wiht the movie company and whoever else that allowed him to tour wiht the plane to promote the movie. Its been in those markings ever since. I preffered it in its old markings, which were far more worn and natural looking.

09-04-2005, 06:43 PM

I'll check with a guy at work about the ownership question. He is on the board of directors for a B-17 that is privately owned. I thought he said the AF can reclaim these planes at any time.

It seems wrong that they could reclaim it if they sold it, but then again when my term of enlistment was up in the AF they told me they could recall me to active duty at any time for the next 4 years even though I was out and received no benefit for this time. It was my responsibility to make sure they had a proper address and phone number for those 4 years.


09-04-2005, 07:17 PM
Originally posted by Tallyho1961:
In fact, I'm sure a lot of people assume they're looking at the real article - I only found out different because I asked.

Anybody got any perspective on this?

As far as I'm aware, the real Memphis Belle is the only flyable restored B-17 that wears it's original wartime colors. Many of the ones flying today saw little or no 'front-line' service. They were used for training, transports, 'hacks' and several other things (Liberty Belle, for example, served as a test bed for a turboprop engine at one time).

I have mixed thoughts about it. I guess that overall I have no problem with planes masquerading as more famous machines, as long as it's done tastefully and with a thought towards historical accuracy.

09-04-2005, 09:20 PM
jarink is correct about the Liberty Belle.
They had chopped the nose off the aircraft and installed a turboprop as a fifth engine. They moved the cockpit back 4 or 5 feet too. It took 80,000 - 90,000 hours to restore her. They told us it cost in the neighborhood of $3.7 million.


09-04-2005, 11:00 PM
Anybody live in Memphis?

And able to get some high quality shots of her, before she gets moved and restored?

09-04-2005, 11:21 PM
TOAD, from what I've read, she was(disassembled) moved a couple of months ago to a hanger somewhere north of Memphis....

09-05-2005, 01:26 AM

Wow a thread that actually has to do with aviation. <Protos cries> sniff sniff..... I sure would love to see some pictures as well. I hope one of your southern boys can find a way to get some up. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

09-05-2005, 03:11 PM
I went and saw it a couple of years ago. Might have pictures around, not sure. I'll look around the house. Moved since then though so they may be mia for awhile.

Ohh, memphis is my favorite city btw. I'm thinking of moving there some day...