Documentary about the 25th and last bombing mission of a B17, the "Memphis Belle". The "Memphis Belle" took part in a great bombing raid on sub-pens in Wilhelmshafen, Germany. On their way ...
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This documentary training film for agents of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was intended to show agents-in-training the techniques and obstacles involved in undercover work in ... See full summary »
Documentary about the 25th and last bombing mission of a B17, the "Memphis Belle". The "Memphis Belle" took part in a great bombing raid on sub-pens in Wilhelmshafen, Germany. On their way they encounterd heavy AA fire and interceptors. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Pilot Robert Morgan named the aircraft after his girlfriend at the time, Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tenn. Morgan chose the nose artwork from a 1941 illustration in Esquire magazine by famous pin-up artist George Petty. She is wearing a blue outfit on the port (left) side of the aircraft and a red one on the starboard (right) side. See more »
All aerial combat film was exposed during air battles over enemy territory See more »
The Boeing B-17 is a modern era legend and one of the most successful weapons of war to ever fly.
This documentary served to tell a story about the men who flew the Belle, as well as other air crews who flew other B-17s in the 91st bomb group along with other bomb groups in the 8th Air Force, all of whom helped win the war in Europe.
The film did not, however, mention the affection that these men often held for their airplane, cleaving unto it like a lover and depending on it to protect them and bring them home safely. Their lives depended upon their airplane's performance, durability, and function. They would regard their particular personal airplane like they regarded a first car, their "hot rod". This is why almost every B-17 received a personal moniker via nose-art, a name, and it was usually female in gender... such as "The Memphis Belle".
"That's my girl over there!"
These airplanes certainly had an identity, a presence, and in a manner of speaking, a soul... and air crews who saw other B-17s around them fatally damaged, going down often in flames, would watch in horror as the B-17 died. They knew a kinship with those other airplanes and the men in them. They would fight viciously at their gun positions to defend their girl from the enemy fighter planes which would kill her and them, if they could. The air war over Germany was a bloody and violent sort of thing, with hundreds of thousands of casualties suffered in the air before war's end.
Some years ago, when the Memphis Belle was in process of undergoing a restoration in Tennessee (much of what was initially done by Memphis Aerotech) I chased down the man who was heading up the restoration efforts to ask if I could have access to the airplane and photograph it, explaining that I was a photographer as well as a war-bird buff, and I was given access to where the airplane was parked, leaving me alone with the world's most famous B-17.
After shooting a hundred or so photographs, I went forward and sat in the cockpit, in the pilot's seat, staring out through the Plexiglas, thinking about WW-II and the missions this airplane flew, remembering that I was sitting in the ONLY surviving B-17 'F' model that saw combat.
THIS was the very same airplane that I'd watched countless times, while viewing Wyler's documentary film that had inspired me so much...
It's no wonder that the Belle is the only surviving 'F' combat model B-17 because so very few of the 'F' models came back, flying earlier in the war when the Luftwaffe was still powerful, tearing up formations of bombers in a hailstorm of bullets and cannon shells, ripping bombers to pieces as their crews desperately fought to defend "their girls", praying and cursing and firing their 50 cal. machine guns at the fighter planes which had been specifically engineered to tear up bombers.
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
It is sobering to think about what must have gone through those air crews' minds. It was equally sobering to sit in the cockpit of the Belle and consider that it was only the luck of the draw and the persistence of the USAAF that managed to beat down the resistance of the Luftwaffe, which resulted in the Belle surviving the war instead of ending up in Germany at the bottom of a smoking hole in the ground filled with pieces of B-17.
Pray for the souls of those air crews who gave their all while doing their duty, whether they were Americans, or Germans... they all died equally.
This documentary film is perhaps the ONLY film that makes any headway towards showing the real side of the air war over Germany in the times when missions were NOT cakewalks and the chances of surviving a combat tour of 25 missions was NIL. ...not until the B-17F Memphis Belle, 324th Sqdn 91st Bomb Group, 8th USAAF managed to do it with her original crew intact. They proved that it could be done, and that alone inspired other air crews more than most people would ever know.
One "technical" note: It was only a stroke of luck that the Memphis Belle survived the mass scrapping of combat veteran airplanes that resulted after the war. The Belle was, at the last minute, pulled off a line of bombers that were slated to be scrapped.
After being displayed in Memphis TN for many years, it was "recalled" by the USAF and transported to the Wright Patterson AFB where it is currently undergoing a second restoration and will be placed on permanent display at the Wright Patterson AFB Air Museum.
It's a fitting place for the most famous B-17 in the world. Go see her, and think about the men who flew in her, and be glad that such men lived.
Does a B-17 have a "soul"? Decide for yourself. I think it does... and next time at an air show when you see an old man standing beside a restored B-17 clutching a prop blade with tears on his face, give him a soft pat on the back. If he says anything about his wartime experiences, LISTEN to him. Ask him about his airplane, what its name was, which bomb group, who he flew with...
Remember the Memphis Belle and the men who flew in her, and then go out and buy-rent the documentary film by William Wyler and watch it with a new perspective, knowing that it was real, and not "Hollywood".
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