“Forgotten Hollywood”- A Memorial Weekend Story…

Posted on May 27, 2017 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here… 

“`The iconic World War II bomber Memphis Belle is finally going on public display, next Spring at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; alongside John F. Kennedy’s presidential plane, the Wright Brothers flyer, and other national aviation treasures. The journey from flights over occupied France and Germany, to restoration and display at the Ohio museum, has been troubled for the most celebrated American aircraft to survive the war.

“`The B-17 Flying Fortress, feted as one of the first planes to make it through the required 25 bombing missions, arrived at the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in pieces, a dozen years ago. It was in rough shape, having been outside on display for years in Memphis, where it deteriorated from weather and vandalism.

“`Restoration work by an army of volunteers has continued;  delayed by major expansion at the museum near Dayton, and other restoration projects vying for attention. An unveiling of the restored war bird is scheduled for May 17th, 2018 —  the 75th anniversary of the crew’s 25th and final mission. The Memphis Belle will be displayed as a centerpiece of an exhibition on the strategic bombing campaign that broke the back of Germany’s wartime production.

“`Since B-17 parts are no longer manufactured,  volunteers have labored painstaking hours fabricating them from scratch, and reassembling the plane inside a cavernous hangar at the museum. The wing tips just went on. But, the fuselage skin still needs riveting. And, it’s still missing the plastic nose cone, a tail section, and an authentic paint job.

“`The four-engine bomber with .50-caliber machine guns was piloted by Lt. Robert Morgan, and was given its famous name before leaving  the mainland. Morgan,  who died in 2004, said its inspiration was his sweetheart, 19-year-old Memphis resident Margaret Polk. The actual moniker came from the riverboat in the John Wayne film Lady for a Night that Morgan and his co-pilot watched, the evening before the crew voted on a name. Prior to flying to Europe, he flew to Memphis where Polk christened the aircraft with a bottle of champagne, amid much fanfare.

“`The Memphis Belle, with a leggy Esquire Magazine pinup girl painted on the nose, survived six total months of combat in 1942-43, during missions to bomb submarine pens and munition factories. In doing so, the airplane and its crew beat the odds.  Two out of three young men — their average age was 20 — who flew on those B-17 missions from airfields in England, did not survive the war. One out of every 18 planes was lost in combat.

“`Because the bomber’s crew flew in other aircraft, they had actually completed their requisite 25th mission two days before the Memphis, which flew its 25th on May 19th, 1943.  It was one of the first B-17’s to do so. After being honored by Army brass and the King and Queen of England, most of the original crew and airplane were reunited in a publicized tour of the United States to help sell war bonds during the summer of 1943, including a trip to the same military base, where it will permanently reside. A 1944 William Wyler documentary added to the lore of the Belle, while younger generations were introduced to it in a 1990 movie; a fictionalized account of its last wartime mission.

“`Despite Memphis Belle’s final assignment at the Air Force museum in Ohio, the Tennessee legislature designated it as the state’s official airplane, earlier this year.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 27th, 2017 at 12:03 pm and is filed under Blog by Manny Pacheco. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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