Memphis Belle – B-17 Bomber

  1. B-17
  2. October 5, 2012 11:31 pm

During a time when morale was low amongst air crews of the B-17 bombers, due to the fact that about 80% of the planes were being shot down during combat missions over Europe, the Memphis Belle gained notoriety. This particular B-17 bomber was from the 1st Eighth Air Force and the only such plane to complete the required 25 missions for her crew to return home. Miraculously, none of the crew were seriously injured or killed during any of these combat missions.

The crew of ten was comprised of:

Pilot: Captain Robert Morgan

Co-Pilot: Captain James Verinis

Bombadier: Captain Vincent Evans

Navigator: Captain Charles B. Leighton

Engineer / Top Gunner: Technical Sergeant Harold Loch

Radio Operator: Technical Sergeant Robert Hanson

Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant John Quinlan

Ball Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant Cecil H. Scott

Left Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Clarence Winchell

Right Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Casimer “Tony” Nastal

The crew was gathered together and united with B-17 bomber no. 41-24485. The pilot named her for his sweetheart, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee. The Memphis Belle completed the required 25 combat missions with her crew intact between November 7, 1942 and May 17, 1943.

The Memphis Belle was a B-17F bomber with 13 50 caliber machine guns, carrying 8,000 pounds of bombs. She had four 1,200 horsepower Wright R-1820-97 turbosupercharged radials, a maximum speed of 325 mph and a range of 2,800 miles. Her top ceiling was 37,500 feet.

Germany and Britain had long since abandoned the daylight raid after they each incurred massive losses over enemy territory. The United States Army Air Force was determined to cripple their enemies by carrying out daylight bombing missions to wipe out certain industrial and military installations. The B-17 bomber missions were flown in a “combat box” made up of 18 bombers that made up an unmistakably frightening force that would destroy many important targets over countless missions.

The Memphis Belle’s 25 missions included:

1. November 7, 1942: Brest, France

2. November 9, 1942 St. Nazaire, France

3. November 17, 1942 St. Nazaire, France

4. December 6, 1942 Lille, France

5. December 20, 1942 Rommily-Sur-Seine, France

6. January 3, 1943 St. Nazaire, France

7. January 13, 1943 Lille, France

8. January 23, 1943 Lorient, France

9. February 4, 1943 Emden, Germany

10. February 14, 1943 Hamm, Germany

11. February 16, 1943 St. Nazaire, France

12. February 26, 1943 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

13. February 27, 1943 Brest, France

14. March 6, 1943 Lorient, France

15. March 12, 1943 Rouen, France

16. March 13, 1943 Abbeville, France

17. March 22, 1943 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

18. March 28, 1943 Rouen, France

19. April 5, 1943 Antwerp, Belgium

20. April 16, 1943 Lorient, France

21. April 17, 1943 Bremen, Germany

22. May 1, 1943 St. Nazaire, France

23. May 4, 1943 Antwerp, Belgium

24. May 15, 1943 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

25. May 17, 1943 Lorient, France

When the crew of the Memphis Belle returned to the United States in June of 1943, they flew their 26th mission across the continental United States on a three month war bond tour to boost morale. They were accompanied by their mascot, a Scotty dog called “Stuka” who was part of their PR tour.

With careful efforts and a lot of donated funds, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is working to restore this famous B-17 bomber back to its original glory. Some of the restoration work includes treating corrosion, outfitting missing equipment and parts and replacing the markings on the plane as they were in 1943. The original nose art was painted by Corporal Tony Starcer. The logo pin-up girl was designed by George Petty, who drew a series of pin-up girls for Esquire Magazine.

Restoration of the Memphis Belle is so important because she represents the heroic efforts of all USAAF bomber crews that flew missions and lost their lives during World War II.

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