It's May 1943 at a US Army Air Corps base in England. The four officers and six enlisted men of the Memphis Belle - a B-17 bomber so nicknamed for the girlfriend of its stern and stoic captain, Dennis Dearborn - will soon start their twenty-fifth mission, having completed their previous twenty-four successfully with nary an incident, while fewer and fewer other planes are coming back from their missions at all. If they complete their next mission successfully, they will be the first Army Air Corps B-17 Crew to complete their tour of duty. Visiting communications officer Lt. Col. Bruce Derringer wants to publicize and highly tout their accomplishment, even before it happens, as a long term good news campaign at a time when there is little good news to report. Derringer's plan is against the wishes of the base commander, Col. Craig Harriman, who would prefer to treat the ten as any of his other hard working men. The previous success of the Memphis Belle is despite the disparate natures ...Written by
"MB" nay-sayers: ever been a bomber pilot at age 21?
No?? then shut up.
My dad was. Didn't fly B-17s, but he was the PIC (pilot-in-command) of a crew of seven, all younger than he, of a B-26 Martin Marauder medium bomber (the Flying Prostitute 'no visible means of support'; referred to the short wingspan and hot landing speeds) in the Mediterranean Campaign out of Corsica and Sardinia, bombing German-controlled ball-bearing factories in northern Italy at 10,000 ft. Lost his nose-gunner from "fright" - frozen to the gun wouldn't bail out when they were shot down right after 'delivering the pizza' over Bergamo-Seriate airfield on my mom's birthday, Aug 08th, 1944 about 9 weeks before I was born. His story about getting out of that B-26 before it crashed would raise the hair on your young necks. Survived Stalag Luft III and the 500 mile foot-march yes, in January, through snow to Stalag Luft VII (Steve McQueen "The Great Escape"). Gen'l Patton liberated all in April, 1945 including my dad and five of his crew.
Dad didn't make furniture like Matthew Modine's character in "Memphis Belle". But he did pick and truck-haul tomatoes on HIS dad's farm in the Ohio River Valley around Racine, right out of the black river-bottom soil just above the banks; became a basketball hero in high school; then entered the Army Air Force at 19. Pilot training in Texas and Florida. I have the letters from him to my mom during all that...
And the dialog in the film? Pretty true-to-life, he said everybody was young and talked and acted JUST LIKE THAT
This review isn't meant to be about my dad. But I hope it says a little something about the producer's efforts for "Memphis Belle." Very young kids normal Americans tough (even impossible) duty in advanced machines (then) in hard times in a country far from home doing what they were trained for. Sound familiar even today?...
And don't be too hard on the details. Remember, this is a 'representative film' of what happened to many, many bomber crews in many, many different bombers during WWII. Many thousands of very young American air crews were lost in this effort to help keep America and our Allies 'free.' Think about that whole image, listen to the music score, cherish the action from a fresh perspective. TRY to put yourself in their shoes.
Then watch the film again
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