Seventy-five years after its last bombing run in World War II, the newly restored Memphis Belle is on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Ohio.
The B-17F bomber was unveiled Wednesday at a private event honoring family members of the Memphis Belle crew. The airplane and displays of artifacts, including wartime uniforms, a flight suit, pilot wings and rare color archival footage, will be open to the public Thursday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, the museum website says.
The Memphis Belle returned to the United States after completing 25 combat flights over Nazi-occupied Europe, according to the museum. Its final mission was on May 17, 1943. After its wartime service, the Memphis Belle and its crew returned home as part of a war bond publicity tour. It was also the subject of a 1944 documentary and a 1990 Hollywood movie.
Though an iconic symbol of US air power in World War II, the Memphis Belle was also known for its rather risqué nose art – featuring a scantily clad “pinup girl.”
The plane was moved to Ohio in 2005 after being on display for decades in Memphis, Tennessee, where the plane deteriorated in an outdoor display. It took some 55,000 hours to restore the plane to its wartime glory.
Linda Morgan, the widow of pilot Robert Morgan, told CNN affiliate WHIO in Dayton that she was stunned by the restoration.
“I’ve seen pictures of that plane when it was in tatters and this, it looks better than when it came out of the factory,” she said in an interview with reporters.
Robert Morgan named the aircraft after his wartime girlfriend, Margaret Polk, of Memphis and chose the artwork from a George Petty illustration in Esquire magazine, according to the museum.