Saturday, May 17, 2014


The B-17 MEMPHIS BELLE is the most famous US heavy bomber because she was the first in the European war theatre to complete 25 combat missions and keep her entire crew alive. She flew for 10 months from November 7, 1942 to May 17, 1943.

On 17 May 43 the Memphis Belle and her crew made military history as the first US WWII bomber to complete 25 combat missions & return to the United States.

Aircraft nose art gave identity, character, and humor to impersonal machinery in ways that a serial number never could. It made the members of the crew feel special, believing that their nose art girl would bring their plane good fortune in battle and safe return.



  1. She used to be outside a great restaurant in Memphis near the airport called the "91st Bomb Group".

  2. Hmm. G for George (the Lancaster in the Australian War memorial - flew with 460 SQN RAAF, did 90 operational sorties, mostly against the Ruhr. Not sure which bomber flew most operational sorties in WWII, though. Bomber Command crews did 30 ops then crews were broken up, which was wht so many volunteered for PFF, which kept crews together for 60 ops. Forming up a new crew for another 30 ops was very much disliked. Not that too many crews survived 30 ops.
    Understand that the various USAAF 'Bomber Commands' had differing tour numbers and standards and that once 'done' there was a slightly higher chance of not seeing further action than in Bomber Command, where rotations back to ops were fairly common.


  3. I saw the Memphis Belle in Memphis back in the 90's when she was sitting, badly neglected and vandalized, on Mud Island. It was a crying shame. But now she's at Wright-Patterson and they'll take care of her right.

    Meanwhile, here at The Lair, Miss Memphis Belle the dog keeps making life interesting and enjoyable. When I saw this post, I gave her an extra biscuit, just because.

  4. Mark - understood the Commonwealth Forces had a rougher row to hoe (I am Australian remember and my lost his brother to Bomber Command; Uncle Phil is buried in Belgium). But it is also true that US AAF flew daylight missions for greater accuracy while Commonwealth RAF/RAAF/RNZAF/RCAF/SAAF flew night missions to avoid the horrific loss rates that daylight flying incurred.

  5. SB - understood and I'm not carrying on with the stuff you see from the uninformed but opinionated, it was horses for courses and this is an area where there is still a lot of old and even false data which really clouds the picture. It's not widely known that Bomber Command flew between 17% and 22% of sorties in daylight, or that 8th AF flew a lot of night operations. it's not widely known that the steeper training curve forced on the USAAF caused much higher losses in training, for example.

    It's good that both G and MB still exist, G's a sobering sight in the AWM (I know one of the curators there) and the new hall she's in is spectacular.

    They fought quite different wars and coordinated them fairly well after the Battle of the Ruhr: the RAF learned its lessons about daylight ops in a radically different threat environment (39/40) and responded logically to its early defeat. The USAAF responded logically to its initial defeat in daylight ops too, and both sides had the muscle to escort with long range fighters by then (it's not often realised that most BC raids from mid-late '43 were escorted by RAF night fighters).

    There's a lot of room for new scholarship on the 39-45 air war.

    I don't know that the Imperial forces had a tougher road to hoe day to day, it was certainly longer overall which I guess meant more tough days, but again that's just the historical reality of it. And as veterans of both wars said to me in interviews over the 70s and 80s, 1939-1945 was a walk in the park compared to 1914-1918.

    It's slightly ironic that we are both strange ducks, you and I. You're an Australian who went to the US Army (who I rarely worked with), I did both RAN and RAAF as a regular, yet worked with the USN and USMC more than I ever did with the Australian Army. Funny old world.

    Cheers: Mark

  6. The bomber that flew the most missions of the war was (AFAIK) Lancaster S-Sugar. She was the first to reach 100 operational missions. S-Sugar started with the RAF but did most of her work with the RAAF. Don't know where she is now.