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Memphis Belle

Memphis Belle

Aug. 18, 1943: Women aircraft workers sign their names on the B-17 bomber Memphis Belle during a visit in Long Beach.

As the first U.S Army Air Force heavy bomber in World War ll to complete 25 missions with her crew intact, the Memphis Belle was pulled from front line service and flown back to the United States. She was then used for a 31-city war bond tour, including this stop in Long Beach.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 19. 1943, in a non-byline story:

That fightin’ Flyin’ Fortress, Memphis Belle, is back from the wars, scarred and patched from nose to tail–but she’s still the belle of the ball!

She landed at Long Beach yesterday and her crew of youngster veterans received an ovation from thousands of Douglas Aircraft workers who build the big B-17’s.

First bomber retired from active service with the 8th Air Force and flown back from England, the Belle is credited with 25 long-range sorties over Europe, eight enemy fighters, five “probables” and a dozen damaged.

Farther down in the Times article, pilot Maj. Robert K. Morgan, 24, explained the damage the Memphis Belle took:

“The old girl really went through hell,” he remarked, running his finger over a train of patched bullet holes. “She’s had to have a whole new wing, a new tail, a new landing gear and nine new engines since we first went to work on the Heinies. Why, one time we came back with 62 gashes in her.”

The Memphis Belle was built by Boeing Aircraft Co. After the war, the city of Memphis, Tenn., obtained the aircraft. In 2005, the Memphis Belle was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and is currently being restored.

Following the recent crash of the Liberty Belle, there are, according to this Aero Vintage Books website, 10 B-17’s still flying.

The photo above was shot by an unidentified staff member of the old Los Angeles Daily News, a newspaper purchased by the Los Angeles Times in 1954.

The original 4-by-5-inch negative, stored at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA, has some damage on the right side of the frame.


  1. October 24, 2013, 10:16 pm

    The biography of my uncle John McBee, a bomber bilot instructor, says he flew the Memphis Belle six times.
    Were missions conducted by the Memphis Belle prior to the famous crew who flew 25 missions?


    Donald Davis

    By: ddav
  2. November 22, 2013, 9:46 pm

    I don't think so, but other crews besides Bob Morgan's did fly her on missions, I believe. If your uncle was a flight instructor, he probably flew her at one of the flight schools. Many B-17s upon returning to the U.S. after their war tours were used for training.


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