Don’t miss these 5 Air Force Museum exhibits when you go see Memphis Belle

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Five World War II exhibits you should not miss at the Air Force Museum include ace and gender barrier changes, heroism and technology leaps

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A tall black curtain surrounds a large corner of the World War II Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. If you stand in just the right spot (between the German Junkers Ju-88 and the V-2 rocket) you can see the top turret, tail and propeller tips of the B-17F Memphis Belle - another “crown jewel” of the museum which is about to be unveiled on May 18.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Memphis Belle was the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe, a stunning task considering the odds that only 25% of bomber crewmen survived the war. The bomber and the crew returned to the U.S. for a War Bonds tour and is considered the most famous plane of WW II.

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Just as important is the rest of the story of WW II aviation, and the Museum has much to offer. 

The Doolittle Raiders exhibit takes you to the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet where B-25 Mitchell bombers were prepared to launch a raid on Tokyo, Japan. The twin-engine bomber is lashed to the aircraft carrier deck and loaded with bombs and ammunition for a surprise attack. Artifacts and the silver goblets used to toast the survivors are included to tell the story.

Aircrew load bombs into a B-25 aboard the USS Hornet in the Doolittle Raiders exhibit.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Aircrew load bombs into a B-25 aboard the USS Hornet in the Doolittle Raiders exhibit. The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Women Airforce Service Pilots program began to break the gender barrier for military pilots during WW II when it was formed in 1943. More than 1,000 women pilots graduated from the program and supported the war effort by becoming flight instructors, tow pilots for gliders and gunnery targets, ferrying aircraft and other duties.

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Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II. The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Racial barriers were also being broken in WW II. The Tusk egee Airmen exhibit tells the story of providing equal opportunity and training in the U.S. Army Air Forces that lead the way for integration of all the armed forces.

Artifacts from Tuskegee Airman Maj. Lloyd "Scotty " Hathcock.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Artifacts from Tuskegee Airman Maj. Lloyd "Scotty " Hathcock. The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Nazis were on the cutting edge of aviation technology in WW II and the museum has excellent examples the first jet fighter aircraft and rockets that terrorized Europe. The twin-engine Messerschmitt Me 262, V-1 Buzzbomb and V-2 rocket are located with a Junkers Ju-88 and Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet.

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Cutaway display or the Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engine that powered the first jet fighter, the twin-engine Messerschmitt Me 262, in the background, for the Germans in WW II.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Cutaway display or the Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engine that powered the first jet fighter, the twin-engine Messerschmitt Me 262, in the background, for the Germans in WW II. The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

To complete the story of WW II aviation, the B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Bockscar”, includes a replica of the atomic bomb “Fat Man” that was dropped by the bomber over Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945, the second and last nuclear weapon ever used. Included in the display is a replica of the atomic bomb Little Boy that was dropped by B-29 Enola Gay three days earlier on August 6.

B-29 Bockscar with Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bomb replicas under its wing.  Bockscar dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
B-29 Bockscar with Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bomb replicas under its wing. Bockscar dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. The National Museum of the United States Air Force will soon open the Memphis Belle exhibit, a crown jewel of the World War II Galllery. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Several WW II aircraft have been moved out of the gallery, but most will be returning after the opening of the Memphis Belle exhibit according to Air Force Museum sources.