DAYTON, OH (WDTN) – A World War II icon is almost back to its former glory. Thursday, restoration specialists at the National Air Force Museum showcased some of the finishing touches on the famed Memphis Belle.
The B-17F aircraft has been undergoing complete restoration since it arrived at the museum in 2005. Specialist Casey Simmons says he built miniature models of the plane as a child before dedicating more than a decade of his adult life to the real thing.
“(We’ve been) going through the blueprints, figuring out what goes into that, how they did it and then trying to recreate the real thing,” Simmons explains.
Thursday, Simmons and his team installed the flight controls on the wings of the Memphis Belle. In the past year, the crew has restored and painted almost all of the stripped, salvaged aircraft. It now closely resembles the heavy bomber as it looked during its World War II heyday.
“The Memphis Belle is really the symbol of these heavy bomber crewmen who helped win the war against Nazi Germany,” says Air Force Museum curator Jeff Duford.
The B-17F was among the first to survive 25 mission over enemy air. At the time, only a quarter of bomber crewmen finished their tours without being killed, injured or captured.
“It’s not just an airplane,” Simmons says of its historical significance. “It’s all about the people that served on it. It’s representative of what everyone was serving for during World War II.”
The specialists hope their work honors the service and sacrifice of the Memphis Belle crews. The restoration team poured over hours of footage and thousands of documents in the National Archives to replicate every detail, from the interior machinery to the exact shades of paint.
Starting the week of January 8th, the team will start assembling the aircraft nose and add paint details. Simmons estimates the specialists will be putting finishing touches on the aircraft until it makes its public debut.
Museum curators say the attention to detail is critical to preserving American history for future generations.
“For our visitors coming to the museum later this year, and for decades to come, the legacy and the sacrifice of these young men will be remembered long after we’re gone,” says Duford.
You can see the Memphis Belle on display at the National Air Force Museum starting May 17th. The date marks exactly 75 years since its crew finished its 25th mission in 1943.