Famed WWII bomber will soon be on display at Air Force Museum

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

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The National Museum of the USAF said Wednesday a new exhibit is coming to Dayton.

The B-17F Memphis Belle, the first U.S. Army Air Forces bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe during World War II will be placed on public display at the museum on May 17.

According to a release from the museum, Pilot Robert Morgan named the aircraft after his wartime girlfriend, Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tennessee. Morgan chose the now famous artwork from a 1941 George Petty illustration in Esquire magazine.

After returning to the United States in June 1943, its crew flew the aircraft across the country on a three-month war bond and morale boosting tour. With the bond tour and the 1944 William Wyler documentary color film titled “The Memphis Belle” – which contained actual combat footage – the aircraft and its crew became widely known and celebrated. In 1990 a major motion picture of the same name added to their fame.

Following decades of display in Memphis, the historic aircraft came to the museum in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment, which continues today.

According to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Curator Jeff Duford, the Memphis Belle is a national treasure, and will soon be the centerpiece of a new major exhibit in the museum’s WWII Gallery.

“The B-17F Memphis Belle is an icon that represents the thousands of bomber crews, maintainers, and others supporting the bomber mission, whose service and sacrifice helped win WWII.” said Duford. “Work is underway to showcase the aircraft in the WWII Gallery, and the surrounding exhibit will include interactive displays, rare archival film footage and many personal artifacts which have never been seen before by our visitors.”

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