“Memphis Belle” returns

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (WDTN) — In a lot of ways, assembling one of the best known bombers from World War II is similar to a kid’s activity.

“Yeah, it’s kind of like an erector set,” Casey Simmons, a member of the Memphis Belle’s restoration team said.

Simmons, and the restoration team started on the project back in 2008.

“It’s amazing. I don’t know if there’s really words that say it. You’re little and you build this kit as a little model,” he added, “Now you’re actually doing the real thing. It’s pretty neat.”

The crew has been assembling the pieces to the plane, and manufacturing parts that are needed inside a hangar at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Jeff Duford, the curator for the National Museum of the United States Air Force, says each piece is a story 75 years in the making.

“It is the symbol of the heavy bomber crews that flew missions over Germany during World War II, and helped the US win that war,” he said.

On the side panel of the B-17F plane — 25 bombs — each to represent a credited mission during its WWII campaign.

“The skin all over the fusalage is ingrained with a bunch of people’s names where it went on its war bond tour. You want to try to keep it as much as you can. If you replace that. It’s history that’s gone,” Simmons said.

“The Memphis Belle and its crew represent a time that is long, long gone,” Duford added, “A time when young men, and young women left their country when it called. And literally hundreds, of thousands of them didn’t come back.”

Duford says the Memphis Belle will be on permanent display in the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

“It’s absolutely incredible. This aircraft is a symbol in the way of the flags that flew at Iwo Jima, or the U.S.S. Arizona, or the U.S.S. Ironside is to this country. It’s truly one of our national treasures.”

It’s final mission — preserving the country’s past, and its future.

The Memphis Belle is set to be complete, and on display at the museum on May 17th, 2018.