Two Love Stories from the Same Aircraft, the Memphis Belle
The First Love Story:
We all may be aware of the history of World War II, Boeing B17F Aircraft, the Memphis Bell,
For those who may need a reminder,
As an incentive to the B17F aircraft crews and to boost morale on the home front, it was decided to create a challenge to send the first aircraft and her crew home to go on a war bond tour around the United States if they complete 25 combat missions.
The pilot of one of the B-17s that completed 25 combat missions was Robert K. Morgan. His sweetheart, Margaret Polk (a direct descendant of a former President) lived in Memphis. Morgan was a hotshot, hot-dogging cocky young man who always wanted to strut in front of his girl.
Captain Morgan contacted Esquire magazine and ask George Petty for a pinup drawing to go with the name he and his crew agreed upon the “Memphis Belle” to show his love for his sweetheart, Miss Margaret Polk. George Petty supplied the request from the magazine’s April 1941 issue.
Speaking of LOVE STORIES
Americans created a phenomenon of demonstrating their LOVE after WWII and it was called The Baby Boomers with the soldiers coming home after the war.
This LOVE STORY may or may not be factually correct but it is what was told to me by this gentleman.
[ Please note that I wrote this story about 8 years ago about a conversation that took place about 2 years before that. ” target=”_blank”>
I was in Red Bluff California Post Office a year or so ago and was in line with my medium size envelope to send birthday gifts to my granddaughter and noticed that the nicely dressed, older gentleman (never said his name) ahead of me has the same size envelope. He started to say as he noticed my envelope that his envelope was going to the guy who was in charge of the display of the Nola Gay at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (of which I have had the privilege of seeing first hand).
As he continued, while we were still in line, he said (looking at his envelope) “He (meaning the Smithsonian guy) wanted some information from me, see I am kinda famous”. “I am one of the pilots of the Memphis Belle”. (In my research, there was actually a hand full of pilots and co-pilots of the Memphis Belle but Captain Morgan passed away and actually never married Miss Polk, so it was not him).
The gentleman said he has been invited to many places for get-togethers and awards ceremonies but his wife doesn’t travel too well anymore so he doesn’t want to leave her. This was a heartwarming and selfless act of the love of a man for his wife.
The gentleman looked an awful lot like Howard Hunt in this photo: but I could not prove it.
I would love to have had a peek at the content of that package (maybe someday soon at the place where she (Memphis Belle) appropriately is displayed now after years of restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, Ohio.) (I have been to this museum as well but before the Memphis Belle was displayed) (My daughter-in-law is actually stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB as a lieutenant chemist).
[Spring forward, my daughter-in-law is now an Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer, (a career change from a warfare chemist) (now a Major) with a tour in Afghanistan under her belt (as well as 3 location assignment changes) and has a beautiful set of 5-year-old triplets (2 boys and a girl)” target=”_blank”>.
However, I met the real thing that day some 10 years ago. A kind, gentle, and well-kept man who shows us what love is all about, and why we are free to become a better nation and better people. That day, standing in a line at a Post Office, I met a true American Hero, God Bless America!!
The original, ‘Memphis Belle’ is now restored and on display
The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.
Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.
Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.
(The links in the last two paragraphs are VERY informative and well worth viewing for the history value they provide.)
According to an Air Force release , restoring the bomber has taken over 55,000 man-hours since 2005. She was saved from the scrapyard by the city of Memphis for a grand total of 0 in 1945 . After that, the plane spent most of her days stored outside, left exposed to the elements, as she awaited proper preservation. In 2004, the Air Force reclaimed the bomber.
Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane or at least period-accurate parts.
The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress , was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.
Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.
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