12 WWII-era Aircraft Will Attend B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit Opening Events

B-17G Aluminum Overcast will be one of three Flying Fortresses, and a half dozen P-51 Mustangs to perform over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in celebration of the unveiling of combat-veteran B-17F Memphis Belle to the public in mid-May! (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

The Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Movie Memphis Belle will join B-17G Yankee Lady and B-17G Aluminum Overcast, along with six P-51 Mustangs and three WWII-era trainers in the skies over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio on May 16th as part of the events surrounding the opening of the museum’s new Memphis Belle exhibit.

The original B-17F Memphis Belle – the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 combat missions over occupied Europe – will be unveiled to the public on May 17th – exactly 75 years after her crew finished their last mission in the war against Nazi Germany on May 17th, 1943.

Plans call for 11 of the WWII-era aircraft to land at the museum on May 16th between 8 and 9 am (one P-51 will be part of the initial flyover, but not land at the museum). The aircraft will then be available for viewing on static display May 17-18th from 9 am to 4 pm. On May 18th, at approximately 4:30 pm, visitors in the museum’s Memorial Park may view the aircraft as they take-off and depart the grounds. (Note: Outdoor events are weather dependent and subject to change.)

The Memphis Belle, which has not been on public display since 2002, and the surrounding exhibit, along with a new strategic bombardment exhibit, will also open to the public on May 17th following a ribbon cutting ceremony that will begin at approximately 9:15~9:30 am.

Owned by the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation in Anaheim, Calif., and operated by National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York, the Movie Memphis Belle was built in 1944 as a B-17G. She was extensively rebuilt to represent a B-17F aircraft for the 1990 film Memphis Belle.

Korean War era veteran, Bob Selden a volunteer crew member of the “Movie Memphis Belle” B-17 Flying Fortress show plane, shares the history of the aircraft with Jason Morris and his on Brody during the 2008 McGuire Air Expo, May 31. McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., hosted the air expo which provided a fitting conclusion to AIr Force Week – Philadelphia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

In addition to the aircraft, more than 160 re-enactors from around the country will bring history to life by performing war-time skits, showcasing their displays and interacting with the public in an encampment near the museum’s 8th Air Force Control Tower, May 17-19th from 9 am to 4 pm each day. Reenactor briefings and performances will also take place inside the 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen Hut.  The complete re-enactor schedule is available HERE.

Along with the re-enactors, 30 vintage military and civilian vehicles will be on display, including a 1938 Buick Special; 1942 Chevrolet airfield crash truck; 1943 Dodge WC-54 Ambulance; and several Willys MB Jeep and Ford GPW vehicles.

On Friday, May 18th, a special outdoor Big Band concert featuring Glenn Miller music will be performed by Air Force Bands from 6-7:30 pm, near the 8th Air Force Control Tower. The concert is free and no tickets are required. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets, and hard surfaces are available for wheelchairs. (Note: The concert is weather dependent and will not be re-scheduled in the event of inclement weather.)

Throughout the event, the museum’s Education Division will offer many STEM, flight and period specific learning events and activities in the Learning Center, STEM Learning Nodes, and WWII Gallery. Among the activities offered outdoors will be a scavenger hunt using a ration booklet in the “home front” area with prizes (while supplies last) and a Victory Garden display and demonstration. Inside in the WWII Gallery there will be Memphis Belle themed trivia and a Memphis Belle artifact and restoration station. Finally, visitors will be able to see wind tunnel demonstrations and can build and fly balsa wood gliders (while supplies last) in the STEM Learning Node in the Presidential Gallery; try a flight gaming system in the STEM Learning Node in the Global Reach Gallery, and enjoy interactive educational activities in the STEM Learning Node in the Space Gallery.

Not only has the Memphis Belle been restored, but so too has William Wyler’s 1944 film “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.” A new 4K digital version of the film was recently refurbished by Vulcan Productions in partnership with Wyler’s daughter Catherine and Producer Erik Nelson, including the full color restoration of the film. This restored version contains actual combat footage, and will premiere in the Air Force Museum Theatre on May 17th at 6:30 pm as part of the Air Force Museum Foundation’s Living History Film Series. Prior to the film, Chris Henry of the EAA Aviation Museum, will speak about what life was like aboard the famous Flying Fortress in the war, and the bond that exists between the people and the machine. The film will then be introduced by Nelson and Catherine Wyler, and a question and answer session will follow after the film concludes.

Memphis Belle in all her glory. The magnificently restored combat veteran Flying Fortress will be unveiled in a special ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in mid-May. (photo by Ken LaRock for USAF)

Then on May 19, the 1990 film “Memphis Belle” will be shown at 4:30 pm in the Air Force Museum Theatre. Henry will once again speak prior to the film and Catherine Wyler will introduce it with both taking questions at the end of the film. A limited number of tickets for both films are available at www.afmuseum.com/livinghistory.

The digital restored version of “The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress” will also be available for screenings during the summer of 2018 and sold on DVD exclusively by the Air Force Museum Foundation. Federal endorsement is not implied.

Also during the event, authors Graham Simons and Harry Friedman will be signing copies of their book, “Memphis Belle: Dispelling the Myths” in the WWII Gallery. Simons will also will be signing his book “Images of War” and DVD “Memphis Belle” in the Museum Store and will be joined by author Steve Snyder who will sign copies of his book, “Shot Down” and Charley Valera, who will sign copies of his book “My Father’s War.”

Nine food trucks are scheduled to be on-hand for the event offering a variety of breakfast, lunch, ice-cream and beverage items including: Pitabilities; Lilias Outside Café; Dan’s Deli; Good Golly Miss Molly; and A Cut Above.

According to Museum Director, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the new exhibit and surrounding events will be a magnificent tribute to the Memphis Belle and heavy bomber crewmen of WWII.

“The Memphis Belle is an integral part of the Air Force story and one of the most iconic aircraft in American history, and continues to be recognized 75 years later by those from around the world.” said Hudson. “For our younger visitors and those not quite as familiar with the story of the Memphis Belle, this new exhibit and the surrounding events will take you back to the 1940s, and offers a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the service and sacrifices that were made during WWII.”

For more information including photos and videos of the Memphis Belle, visit http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Boeing-B-17F-Memphis-Belle-Exhibit-Opening-May-17-2018/.


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