For Hometown News
The B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" was one of 12,750 B-17s built by the Boeing Aircraft Company.
The Belle was the most famous because she was the first heavy bomber in the European war theatre to complete 25 combat missions, with the same crew, and return to the United States with that crew.
The "Memphis Belle" and her crew represent all the planes and crews of the 8th Army Air Force. The bombers of the USAAF took on the challenge of daylight-precision bombing and succeeded in the face of dramatic losses.
"The Belle" flew for 10 months from Nov. 7, 1942 to May 17,1943. The command had set 25 missions as an incentive for aircrews to go home. Morale was extremely low because 80 percent of the bombers were shot down during the first three months of America's combat flights over Europe.
Early experience showed that the average life-expectancy of a bomber crew in late 1942 was eight to 12 missions. A bomber crewman at that time only had a 30-50-percent chance of completing his tour of duty.
The Belle shot down eight enemy fighters, probably destroyed five others and damaged at least a dozen more. She dropped more than 60 tons of bombs over Germany, France and Belgium.
During her 25 missions, she flew 148 hours, 50 minutes and covered more than 20,000 combat miles.
This gallant lady was bullet-ridden; flak damaged; on five separate occasions had engines shot out and once came back with her tail nearly shot off. However, there was not one major injury to the crewmembers.
The 26th mission of the Belle was to return to the states during the summer of 1943 on a public relations tour to thank the American public for supporting the war effort. The crew visited more than 32 cities, where members received a heroes' welcome. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Footnote: Robert Morgan went on to fly 25 more missions in the B-29 "Super Fortress" (Dauntless Dotty), in the Pacific, and in November 1944, led the first bombing mission against Tokyo, since the Doolittle Raid in April 1942.
The Valiant Air Command is proud and honored to help preserve the memory of these heroic pilots and crews, who made the B-17 Flying Fortress such a great warbird machine of World War II.
Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 22, 23 and 24.
Advance tickets are available through Ticket Derby online via the website or through ticketderby.com.
Come and see all the vintage warbirds, great flying, vendors and family activities and help honor the great B-17 Flying Fortress.
For more information, call (321) 268-1941, or visit www.vacwarbirds.org.
Col. Terry Yon, U.S. Army (ret.)
Public Relations Officer
Valiant Air Command