Monday, September 1, 2014

Interactive History Lesson - the Memphis Belle

I live near a state airport that serves both the public and military.  Some folks might think living near an airport is a drawback but I consider it a community amenity. Imagine being able to experience mini airshows from the comfort of your own balcony.  

Photo by Dawn Rae
All weekend I have had the pleasure of watching a B-17 fly about. Today, I finally left the comfort of my balcony and drove around the corner to Martin State Airport to see that historic plane up close and personal. 

The Memphis Belle, the original one, is sequestered away and is being restored.  However, there is a B-17 that has been done in her likeness, apparently for the movie of the same name. The movie version Memphis Belle was taking people for rides during this entire weekend. When not in the air with a load of human cargo, it was on the ground and you could tour it inside and out.  It was great fun watching the smiling and happy faces of the passengers disembarking from the plane after their ride in the sky. There was not a dissatisfied customer in sight. It was better yet, watching older gentlemen being given special treatment with photos at the front of the plane and airport staff escorting them on to the plane.  I can only imagine that these gentlemen may have first hand memories of these planes.

A few bits about the B-17 during the campaign against Nazi Germany from eyewitness to history:
* up to 1,000 aircraft would take part in a mission
* each plane was manned by a crew of 10 men
* a mission would last about 8 hours
* planes were unheated and temperatures could reach 60 below
* planes were open to the outside 
* B-17s often took fire or were shot down
* crewmen wore helmets and suits to help protect against enemy fire
* on average, a crew member had a 1 in 4 chance of completing his tour of duty

Again, I am not a history buff.  But the personal stories of the men who flew in these "flying fortresses" in order to fight in WW II both intrigue me and touch me.

If you are a history buff, you have to make sure you find a way to take a ride in one of these pieces of history.  You can follow the Movie Memphis Belle schedule and plan your purchase of the $450 ticket.  If I had the spare money, you can bet your sweet bippy I would have been on that plane today.  My chance may not be lost as she is scheduled for the remainder of this year in nearby states: GA, NC, SC, TN, and VA

Whether you agree with military intervention or not, it is clear even to me that B-17s had an important part in ending the horror that was happening in Nazi Germany. And for that reason, I highly recommend that you tour a B-17 and you take a ride in this amazing bit of history if you are able.

Thank you to all who served during WWII; especially those of you who piloted and manned these flying fortresses. Thank you to the Liberty Foundation and Martin State Airport for providing such a wonderful glimpse into our history.

Written by Dawn Rae

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Very would really be cool to take a ride

    1. It is definitely on my bucket list. I thought of you and your photography skills while I was trying to take photos. It is not easy to photograph things in a crowd. I ended up with some fun photos of photographers though. I need to follow your example and join a photography group.

  2. I've seen this plane up close too.It's cool.

    1. It is very cool. I don't know how planes fly now. So it is amazing to me that things like this flew for such distances in that era.

  3. I grew up with the real Memphis Belle basically in my backyard. You see, she was displayed for decades close to the Memphis fairgrounds. While I loved having that piece of history so close at hand, it is a disgrace to Memphis that the Belle was allowed to be stripped, vandalized, and left to deteriorate. While it was a sad day when she was moved from Memphis, she deserved to be removed and cared for by custodians who truly appreciate her and the service she gave to America. I have heard all of the arguments. She is huge, expensive to house & maintain, expensive to restore, etc., but she is worthy and I do hope she is someday proudly displayed in her restored and protected state.

    It is very cool indeed that you got to see her replica in person. I know she is a beauty too! Such a shame that you didn't get to go for a ride. I hope you find the time and the money to play with her on another day.

    1. Mouse, I have just started to scrape the surface of the history of the real Memphis Belle. So cool that you was in your backyard. And so sad that she has been not cared for. I too hope she is restored and displayed somewhere respectful. And never neglected again.

    2. I spent a good portion of my youth at the Memphis Colosseum, the Pink Palace, the Memphis Zoo and certainly Libertyland and the fairgrounds. I've even been on the river boats a few times :) Such great memories! The Memphis Belle is part of the secure scrapbook in my mind. Much of what once was a reflection of a prosperous community and city, is now but a glorious memory.

  4. I can see why you left your balcony to get a closer look at this Memphis Belle replica. Yes, I can imagine by watching some of her visitors that your mind would be running wild with thoughts of their personal history with the B-17s from an up close and personal standpoint.

    I do hope the original shall be fully restored and in full view to the public one day, deservedly so as part of war history.

  5. Hubby & I were always big fans of WWII aircraft and in particular the B-17. In 1992 we went on a tour of England for the 50th Anniversary of the 8th & 9th Air force and it's arrival in England. The 10-day tour ended with a day at the Duxford Air Show and my dream had always been to see a B-17 'flying'. As we entered the airshow grounds that day, a B-17 flew right over our heads. I was thrilled! So I understand your excitement seeing this Memphis Belle replica, Dawn Rae.

  6. How cool is it that you can essentially see air shows from your balcony and to watch a B-17 (Like Memphis Belle) must be an incredible experience! I'm like you, I like looking up and see the planes fly over too, so being close to an airport doesn't really bother me - our house is on a flight path, but not close enough to see the air show that comes to Toronto once a year - although, they do fly all the out to where we are and we do get to see them - Must be quite the experience for people who buy a ticket to fly on that B-17!


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