After 59 years in her namesake city, the B-17 “Memphis Belle” is on the move.
The Memphis Belle Memorial Association is giving the airplane to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The first B-17 to complete 25 missions during World War II, the “Memphis Belle” was named after a girlfriend of pilot Robert Morgan.
Technically, the airplane has always belonged to the Air Force, although its location in Memphis was a point of pride and honor since it flew into town in 1946 after having been rescued from a boneyard, according to Andy Pouncey, president of the association. The aircraft spent four years in restoration.
“First it was out in the open and then later it was moved to Mud Island, under the shelter,” Pouncey said. “It was a Memphis landmark.”
The elements took their toll on the grand dame of the air, and a drive was started to get her into a climate-controlled museum. A study done at the request of the Air Force determined, despite best efforts, the money to build a museum could not be raised in an expedient manner.
The move is in the best interest of the airplane, Pouncey noted.
Once the airplane is at the Air Force museum, it will be restored, a task expected to take several years, according to Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf, the museum’s director. He that the “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of the museum’s World War II collection.