While we conducting some research for Monday’s article concerning the imminent completion of the Memphis Belle at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, we came across an intriguing series of images taken on July 7th, 1943, showing the B-17’s visit to the N.A.C.A. facility then known as the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (AERL) at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. As most of you will know, the N.A.C.A., or more formally, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, was the forerunner of today’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration and had a number of significant research establishments across the country during WWII. The Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory at Lewis Field was an important part of this, and blossomed into what is now known as the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center. As an aside, the Glenn Research Center celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016, and produced a fascinating and comprehensive history of their achievements in an online document you can read HERE. It’s well worth perusing!
Regardless, we thought our readers would find these images of Memphis Belle at the AERL fascinating, particularly as they show the crew in their prime, displaying clear, though slightly haunted joy at being home from a war they probably never thought they’d survive. Of interest too are the closeup, detailed images of the aircraft itself, showing some of the finer points of her markings and fitments. While the AERL was a sensitive facility, the Memphis Belle was parked close to the fence line during the daytime on her three-day stay, so that the public could get a good view of the aircraft. They moved her inside the massive N.A.C.A. hangar during the evenings, as the weather was pretty wet during her visit!