DAYTON, Ohio — The B-17 Movie Memphis Belle will join B-17G Yankee Lady and B-17G Aluminum Overcast, along with six P-51 Mustangs and three World War II-era trainer aircraft, in the skies over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 16, 2018, as part of the events surrounding the opening of the new Memphis Belle exhibit at the museum.
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 17 — exactly 75 years after its crew finished its last mission in the war against Nazi Germany on May 17, 1943.
Plans call for 11 of the WWII-era aircraft to land at the museum on May 16 between 8-9 a.m. (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 17-18 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
On May 18 at approximately 4:30 p.m., visitors in the museum’s Memorial Park may view the aircraft as they takeoff 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, along with a new strategic bombardment exhibit, will open to the public on May 17 following a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will begin at approximately 9:15-9:30 a.m.
Owned by the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation in Anaheim, Calif., and operated by National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y., the Movie Memphis Belle was built in 1944 as a B-17G and was extensively rebuilt to represent a B17F aircraft in the 1990 film “Memphis Belle.”
In addition to the aircraft, more than 160 reenactors 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 17-19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Reenactor briefings and performances will also take place inside the 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen Hut.
Along with the reenactors, 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 18, a special outdoor Big Band concert featuring Glenn Miller music will be performed by Air Force Bands from 6-7:30 p.m., 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 17 at 6:30 p.m. 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.
Then on May 19, the 1990 film “Memphis Belle” will be shown at 4:30 p.m. 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 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.”
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.”