After meeting with the former Vice- President of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association involved in the restoration project in Millington, Tennessee, near Memphis, and touring the facilities personally with this wonderful man who volunteered his time to teach others about the historical significance of this magnificent plane, I felt a renewed sense of fondness towards this legendary aircraft.
Jim's responsibilities were with the engines, and his wife Paula worked with him on restoring the Curtis Wright R-1820 radial engines of the Memphis Belle. He is also a qualified flight instructer. He is very knowledgeable about every aspect from the crew members to the intricate details of the plane itself. It was a pleasure to learn so much about this historic "Memphian" (the Memphis Belle). Please check out the article that he wrote about volunteering for the Memphis Belle. Why We Volunteer by Jim Harris
Last year (October, 2004) I discovered that the US Air Force had made plans to confiscate our beloved national treasure the Memphis Belle, and relocate her to Dayton, Ohio. Considering all she has been through, including nearly being scrapped by the US Air Force, before being rescued and brought "home" to Memphis, it is still hard for me to believe, after 58 years in her namesake city, the US Air Force wanted her back.
Please see my travelogue for a virtual photo tour of her, and interesting artifacts at the facility, including the bombs and a photo of Bob Hope with regards to the Memphis Belle.
The Memphis Belle is one of the most recognized names in aviation history. During World War II, the crew of this B-17 bomber flew 25 succesful combat missions in Europe between November 7, 1942 and May 17, 1943, and was the first to arrive back safely in the USA. She was named after the pilot Robert Morgan's sweetheart Margaret Polk, who was a resident in Memphis, Tennessee. The Memphis Belle, after returning a hero in the eyes of Americans, made her first stop in Memphis where the pilot and his love were reunited on June 19,1943, before continuing on a nationwide tour across America with her beloved crew.
In July, 1945, the Memphis Belle was flown to Altus, Oklahoma, and in October that same year, was declared available for disposal. After negotiations, the city of Memphis acquired the aircraft from the U.S. government for use as a war memorial in March 1946. A volunteer crew flew her from her potential graveyard back "home" to Memphis on July 17, 1946. She was on display outdoors at several locations within the city of Memphis for nearly 40 years. Time, weather and vandalism were unkind, and she was moved to a pavilion downtown at Mud Island on May 17, 1987, where she remained until March 2003, when the Memphis Belle Memorial Association moved her to the Jim Webb Restoration Center in preparation for her place in the upcoming museum. The restoration process was to take approximately three years.