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Boeing B-17F-10-BO "Memphis Belle" in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Boeing B-17F-10-BO “Memphis Belle” in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Memphis Belle is the nickname of a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 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.

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,

Moton Picture: Memphis Belle

Moton Picture: Memphis Belle

The aircraft was one of the first B-17 United States Army Air Corps heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions with her crew intact.   The aircraft and crew then returned to the United States to sell war bonds.  

After 25 missions, the crew and the Belle went on a War Bonds tour, stopping at Patterson Field in Ohio. Recalling the tour decades later, Commander Robert Morgan wrote: "In today's lingo, our uniforms were dazzling 'chick magnets.'" (USAF)

After 25 missions, the crew and the Belle went on a War Bonds tour, stopping at Patterson Field in Ohio. Recalling the tour decades later, Commander Robert Morgan wrote: “In today’s lingo, our uniforms were dazzling ‘chick magnets.'” (USAF)

The aircraft was the namesake of pilot Robert K. Morgan’s sweetheart, Margaret Polk, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee.

Captain Robert Morgan

Captain Robert Morgan

Margaret Polk, of Memphis Tennessee

Margaret Polk, of Memphis Tennessee

Morgan originally intended to call the B-17, Little One, after his pet name for her, but after Morgan and his 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.  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.

Original pinup girl

Original pinup girl

The 91st’s group artist Corporal Tony Starcer reproduced the famous Petty girl nose 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 of the Memphis Belle. Station and crew names were stenciled below station windows on the aircraft after her tour of duty was completed.

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Captain Robert Morgan’s crew flew 29 combat missions with the 324th Bomb Squadron, all but four in the Memphis Belle. The aircraft was used in 25 missions.

The Memphis Belle crew shown at an air base in England after completing 25 missions over enemy territory on June 7, 1943.

The Memphis Belle crew shown at an air base in England after completing 25 missions over enemy territory on June 7, 1943.

The aircraft is undergoing extensive restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

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6 responses

  1. The pictures and the people really bring this post to life, and serve to remind us of what those men went through. No wonder they became so attached to their planes – their lives depended on the machine’s reliability.

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  2. Birgit says:

    I saw this film years ago and need to see it again. I am glad they are restoring this as history needs to be cherished. It is part of our culture and legacy and more people should take an interest in history

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  3. This is absolutely a poster child blog for why blogging can be well done. The design of the site is visually ‘very grown up.’ I love it. The information like a mini history class. Your creativity, time, energy should be recognized. I hope you make many new blogging friends during the #challenge. That’s how I found you…a fellow participant. Congratulations on this wonderful blog. You have a new follower!

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    • Thank you. I changed it up for the A to Z. Normally I post every day on a history fact that occured on that date in history. Thanks for stopping by, for you comment and for the follow. I just visitited yours and can I say breathtaking gardens.

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