WWII bomber debuts after 12-year restoration

One of the most celebrated aircraft in history is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Airforce.

The B-17F Memphis Belle made its debut May 17 in the museum’s WWII Gallery, marking the 75th anniversary of the day the crew completed its last mission and the first time the plane has been displayed since 2002.

The museum is celebrating with three days of events May 17-19, including appearances by three B-17 Flying Fortresses, six P-51 Mustangs and three WWII-era trainer aircraft; re-enactments; vintage military and civilian vehicles; a concert; book signings; and film screenings. Aircraft flyovers are planned May 19 weather-permitting; some earlier events were canceled due to conditions.

There also will be activities geared for younger guests, including hands-on STEM stations, wind tunnel demonstrations, a scavenger hunt and more.

The Memphis Belle has been at the museum since 2005 and underwent an extensive restoration. A new companion Strategic Bombardment exhibit explores the plane’s history and features crew member uniforms, Medals of Honor and archival footage and photos. 

According to the museum, the plane was the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return home after flying 25 combat missions over Europe. It went on a popular war bond tour in 1943 and the crew gained national acclaim. Two “Memphis Belle” movies were made, in 1944 and 1990. 

The museum, which is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

For more information about opening weekend events or the Memphis Belle exhibit, go to nationalmuseum.af.mil.