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Tom Leatherwood
 
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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Memphis Belle Memorial

The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was one of 12,731 B-17s (heavy bombers) built under the direction of the Boeing Aircraft Company. With a crew of ten, the aircraft was among the first B-17s to retire from active service in the European Theater of Operations. After 25 officially-credited missions, the crew and their lucky mascot, a Scottie dog called Stuka, returned home without major injuries. The Army Air Force assigned a crew to the aircraft in Bangor, Maine, in September 1942, which they flew to Memphis on a shakedown flight, where it was christened the Memphis Belle in honor of the pilot's wartime sweetheart, Miss Margaret Polk. From there they flew to their combat base in Bassingbourn, England, north of London. The aircraft flew in combat from November 7, 1942 to May 19, 1943. Upon completion of these missions, they flew home first to Washington and then to Memphis to visit the real Memphis belle, Margaret Polk. The Memphis Belle then toured the country on a 32 city War Bond Tour visiting Army Air Force bases, aircraft manufacturers and equipment suppliers to raise public awareness and support. Following the tour, the aircraft was flown to the Spokane Air Depot in Washington State, where it underwent a complete overhaul, after which the Memphis Belle was flown to MacDill Field near Tampa, Florida, to become a training aircraft. With Germany's surrender, it was flown on July 2, 1945, to Altus Army Airfield in Oklahoma, where it was placed on storage status on September 9, and nine days later passed to the Reclamation Center of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the agency tasked with the disposal of surplus military equipment. The City of Memphis rescued the aircraft and flew it to Memphis on July 17, 1946. The Memphis Belle remained in Memphis for 59 years at various locations including the Army National Guard Armory Building on Central Avenue, the Memphis Airport, Mud Island and Millington all the while undergoing preservation and restoration. Much of that time it was in the loving care of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association founded by Frank Donofrio. On October 5, 2005, the aircraft was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, part of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, to be restored as a "Plane of Record". This memorial is erected to honor the B-17F 41-24485 - Memphis Belle, the crew, Margaret Polk and the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country in World War II. Donors The Boeing Company Elbit Systems-Kollsman FedEx Hamilton Sundstrand Susan and Bob Wilson MBMA Board of Directors