The B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle (Serial No. 41-24485) was one of 12,750 B-17's built by the Boeing Aircraft Co. The Belle was the most famous because she was the first heavy bomber in Hitler's 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. The command generals had set 25 missions as an incentive for air crews to go home. Morale was extremely low because 80% of the bombers were shot down during the first three months of America's combat flights over Europe.
The Belle shot down eight enemy fighters, probably destroyed five others, and damaged at least a dozen more. She dropped more than 60 tons of bombs over Germany, France and Belgium. During her 25 missions she flew 148 hours, 50 minutes, and covered more than 20,000 combat miles. She is the only B-17 to have her own file in the Air Force Film Depository.
This gallant lady was bullet-ridden, flak damaged; on five separate occasions had engines shot out and once came back with her tail nearly shot off. There was not one major injury to the crew members. The crew met their plane in Bangor, Maine for the first time in September, 1942. They flew their ship to Memphis, TN on a shakedown flight, where she was christened MEMPHIS BELLE in honor of the pilot's wartime sweetheart, Ms. Margaret Polk. From there they flew across the Atlantic to their home base in Bassingbourn, England, just north of London. Bassingbourn is still an active English army base today.
Die kommandierenden Generäle legten 25 Einsätze fest, damit eine Besatzung in die Heimat zurück kann. Die Moral war sehr niedrig, weil 80% der Bomber in den ersten drei Monaten im Kampf abgeschossen wurden.
The 26th mission of the BELLE was to return to the States during the summer of 1943 on a public relations tour to thank the American public for supporting the war effort. The crew visited more than 32 cities where they received a heroes' welcome. Their mascot, a Scotty dog named "Stuka", traveled across the Atlantic with them and participated in the PR tour.
Towns and cities, which the Memphis Belle visited while her PR Tour in the USA can be seen at next page.