Memphis Belle flies once again on Smithsonian Channel

Julia LeDoux
November 15, 2019 - 10:35 am
Memphis Belle

Museum of the United States Air Force

Historian Don Miller believes World War II might not have ended in victory for the United States and its allies without the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Now, you can see the story of the Memphis Belle – arguably the most iconic of those aircraft – in color, thanks to the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, "Memphis Belle In Color." 

Miller said that in the summer of 1942, B-17 crews were squaring off against the German Luftwaffe in deadly battles that were five miles above the earth. The survival rate was 25 percent.

“The chances of surviving were almost zero,” he said. 

The Memphis Belle beat those odds, completing 25 missions and was one of the first planes to be returned to the United States.  After their return home, the plane and its crew were soon sent out on a tour across the country that not only boosted morale but raised money for the war effort via the sale of bonds.

Memphis Belle
Museum of the United States Air Force

In the film, “you see the crew of the Memphis Belle touring the country,” said Miller. “Crowds gathered around the plane, very excited. Children were lifted up to kiss it.”

Miller said the documentary used restored 4K footage from William Wyler’s 1944 film, "Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress to tell the plane’s story."

“It’s kind of an epic film,” he said. “The footage is absolutely incredible.”

In addition, archival film footage of the aircraft in battle was also used and restored, using today’s high-definition technology, Miller said.

“It brings out color and clarity,” said Miller, “It’s absolutely beautiful. That’s something really amazing to see. You feel like you can walk out and touch these guys.”

Click here to learn when the documentary will be shown on the Smithsonian Channel.

The Memphis Belle is on permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  

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