Famous WWII plane Memphis Belle’s exhibit still a secret: 5 things to know

The iconic B-17 Memphis Belle rolled out of a Wright-Patterson restoration hangar and into the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday evening after years of painstaking work to restore the World War II appearance.

Here are five quick facts about the bomber:

1. BUILDING SUSPENSE FOR THE DEBUT: The aircraft will be displayed "like we've never done before" for any other in the museum, curator Jeff Duford says. What that means is a secret, for now. The Air Force museum will put the plane under a tarp until its debut on May 17, the 75th anniversary of the bomber's final wartime mission against Nazi Germany. A new exhibit on strategic bombing in Europe will be next to the plane. Two B-17s and more than 100 World War II re-enators are scheduled to participate in the May 17-19 Memphis Belle celebration.

2. A FIRST: The four-engine propeller plane was the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to survive 25 missions over wartime Europe and return to the United States.

RELATED: Two B-17s will fly over Dayton as part of Memphis Belle debut

3. WORLD FAMOUS: Two Hollywood films were produced about the plane. One was a World War II 1944 documentary — Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress — by then Maj. William Wyler who flew on the Belle's final combat mission. The second was a 1990 film named after the airplane. The Memphis Belle flew a nationwide war bonds tour during World War II and stopped in Dayton.

RELATED: Memphis Belle earns its wings again

4. MUSEUM ARRIVAL: The plane arrived in crates and pieces at the Air Force museum in 2005, from Memphis, Tennessee. Restorers have rebuilt parts by hand and carefully studied photographs to get the exact shade of color and other details as close to the Belle's wartime appearance as possible, they say. The museum is moving out two aircraft, the B-17G "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby," which will head to the National Air and Space Museum, and a World War II P-63E Kingcobra fighter plane to make space for the Memphis Belle exhibit.

RELATED: Memphis Belle to go on display at Air Force Museum in 2018

5. ARTIFACTS: The new display will have Memphis Belle crew members wartime artifacts surrounding the display, from a radio operator's boots to "funny"metal decorations and actual flight gear and uniforms worn by airmen on the plane.


About the Author