Memphis Belle Restoration Report and Exhibit Plans at NMUSAF

A team of painters lay down the olive drab top coat on Memphis Belle's port wing, while another technician touches up the gray paint on the No.1 engine nacelle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio will be holding a three-day series of events next May to celebrate the unveiling of their Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 41-24485 known as Memphis Belle. As all of our readers will surely know, Memphis Belle is an iconic aircraft, being the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States following the completion of 25 bombing missions over Axis Europe. While a handful of other bombers and their crews could lay claim to being the first to complete their 25 missions, Memphis Belle and her crew were chosen to celebrate the feat with a War Bonds tour of the USA soon after their final combat mission together.

Memphis Belle War during her War Bond Tour stop at what was then Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. The base later merged with nearby Wright Field in 1948 to become what we know today as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is adjacent to this base, with some of its facilities, such as the restoration hangar, actually within its grounds. (photo via NMUSAF)

Museum officials will formally reveal the Memphis Belle in her new exhibit within the WWII Gallery on May 17th, to coincide to the day with the 75th anniversary of her crew completing their 25th mission together. The Memphis Belle flew her final combat mission on May 19th, 1943. According to a recent museum press release, the public ceremony next May will be the opening salvo in a “three day event (May 17-19, 2018) to include a WWII-era aircraft fly-in, WWII reenactors and vehicles, memorabilia and artifact displays, music from the era, related guest speakers for lectures, book signings and films, including both Memphis Belle films in the Air Force Museum Theatre. Activities will be both inside and outside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.”

The preliminary schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit ribbon cutting
  • WWII aircraft on static display on the runway behind the museum
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Air Force Museum Theatre Living History Event ($)

Friday, May 18, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit open
  • WWII aircraft on static display on the runway behind the museum
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Glenn Miller Concert


Saturday, May 19, 2018

  • B-17F Memphis Belle Exhibit open
  • WWII aircraft flyovers throughout the day
  • WWII reenactors and vehicles
  • Air Force Museum Theatre Living History Event ($)

Details are still being finalized, and the schedule is subject to change, so please do check with the Museum ahead of time before making your own plans.  Outdoor activities are weather dependent.

Restoration Report:

The restoration team at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has spent more than a decade returning the famous aircraft back to pristine condition. She is very close to completion, with a team spending the best part of November applying the paint scheme to the combat veteran bomber. We thought our readers might enjoy seeing some of the highlights of the painting process so far.    

Museum restoration specialist Brian Lindamood, cleans the B-17F Memphis Belle in preparation for painting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Memphis Belle out in the sunshine after her wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Museum restoration crews and 88th ABW civil engineers work to install the upper turret of the B-17F Memphis Belle in preparation for the exhibit opening. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. At this stage, the undercoat layers are mostly finished. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the topcoat over the silver-doped fabric on Memphis Belle’s control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the topcoat over the silver-doped fabric on Memphis Belle’s control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Applying the finishing touches to the olive drab paint on Memphis Belle’s fabric-covered control surfaces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the final coat of grey under the starboard horizontal stabilizer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the undersurface of the starboard horizontal stabilizer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Painting the gray coat on the under side of Memphis Belle’s No.4 engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
With masking in place on the engine, and exhaust system, among other components, the paint team gets to work on Memphis Belle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Laying down the olive drab topcoat on the Memphis Belle’s vertical stabilizer. Note the fuselage in the background is the museum’s unique Boeing B-17D model of the Flying Fortress, The Swoose, 40-3097. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Another shot showing the restoration team painting the olive drab topcoat on Memphis Belle’s fin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
A team of painters lay down the olive drab top coat on Memphis Belle’s port wing, while another technician touches up the gray paint on the No.1 engine nacelle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Great photos. I am in the process of restoring a 1943 Taylorcraft L2M and would love to know what kind (brand) of OD they are using for the metal and fabric?

    • Many thanks for writing in Jonathan. Sadly I can’t help you with your request. I would contact the museum directly for this kind of information. Please do tell us more about your project though!

  2. Grand old bird,.. I remember seeing her at the old Army depot here in Memphis when I was just a boy.. I was there for the dedication on Mud Island as a young man. When my daughter was very young, I would take her to Mud Island where the Memphis Bell was on display. She would play in the river walk, and I got the chance to marvel at a war machine at rest. Later I tried to volunteer in the last attempt to restore her here in Memphis. She was already on the move. Good to see her in such fine shape, and in a place where she will be appreciated and cared for.

  3. Awsome. Thank you very much guys for the restoration of one the most iconic bombers of World War II. I am a great aviation enthusiast and the B-17 is defenitly my favourite aircraft of all aircraft. Aspecialy the Memphis Belle. Glad she is in the care of the NMUSAF. She should have been moved there a long time ago! It was sad to see her decay over the years. She deserves to be treated like a lady!! So sad I can’t be there to touch her as I am living in South Africa. But thanx for the great photos. Can’t wait to see the pictures of her unveiling!! Good job!!

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