Memphis Belle, Here to stay

  • Published
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing

MacDill Air Force Base’s Dale Mabry gate recently received a new addition next its current KC-135 Stratotanker small static display.

A replica of the WWII B-17 Flying Fortress, Memphis Belle, was unveiled outside of the main gate of MacDill AFB, Florida, to symbolize pride and heritage.

“What people might not know is that MacDill was ground zero for training B-17 bombers as of 1942,” said Stephen Ove, the 6th Air Refueling Wing base historian. “Most of the B-17 aircrew members that flew in WWII were trained at MacDill.”

Memphis Belle pilot, Capt. Robert K. Morgan, trained out of MacDill and named the aircraft after his girlfriend, Margaret Polk, a southern belle from Memphis, Tennessee.

The Memphis Belle is the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to accomplish 25 combat missions over Europe during WWII and return to the U.S. 

“It was rare for an aircraft to fly 25 missions without any of the aircrew being seriously injured or killed in action and the Memphis Belle accomplished that,” added Ove. “The Memphis Belle is a national treasure because it gave people hope during a brutal war.”

Upon the arrival back to the United States, the Memphis Belle along with the aircrew, became iconic symbols of perseverance who helped defeat Nazi Germany while providing Americans with confidence of survival.

According to the Air Force National Museum, the USAAF chose this aircraft for a highly-publicized war bond tour from June to August 1943 where the crew were celebrated as heroes.

After the Memphis Belle returned to the U.S. and repaired from the war in Europe, Air Force officers at the time decided to not send her back to the warzone, but to MacDill Air Field where she would be used to train brand new B-17 crews. This became the home of the Memphis Belle for nearly two years.

“The MacDill command team wanted to represent MacDill’s past and present,” said Col. Stephen Snelson, 6th ARW commander. “What better way to honor MacDill’s heritage than to display the Memphis Belle and our KC-135. These aircraft show that MacDill was and is at the forefront of the fight.”

After years of flight, war, admiration and restoration, the Memphis Belle now hangs on display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. For more history go to: