This Date in History : May 17th.1943
B-17 Memphis Belle's 25th Mission
The Memphis Belle
, a Boeing-built B-17F-10-BO, USAAF Serial No. 41-24485,
was added to the USAAF inventory on 15 July 1942, and delivered in September 1942
to the 91st Bomb Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. She deployed to Prestwick, Scotland,
on 30 September 1942, to a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on 1 October,
and then to her permanent base at Bassingbourn, England, on 14 October.
Each side of the fuselage bore the unit identification markings of the 324th Bomb Squadron(Heavy)-'DF-A'.
Captain Robert Morgan's crew flew 29 combat missions with the 324th Bomb Squadron,
all but four in the Memphis Belle.
Named after Capt. Morgan's wartime sweetheart, Miss Margaret Polk, the "Memphis Belle"
was based at Bassingbourn, England and was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions
and keep her entire crew alive - this at a time when eight out of ten aircraft
were being shot down over Europe. During ten months of service the "Memphis Belle" dropped
over 60 tons of bombs on France, Belgium and Germany, shot down eight enemy fighters,
and covered over 20,000 combat miles.
The "Memphis Belle" is now on display in Memphis, Tennessee.
Returning from a raid over Lorient, France on the 17th May 1943
the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" came under close attack
from Fw190s and Me109s. Fortunately no aircraft were lost and very little damage
sustained to the 91st Bomb Group aircraft during this mission -
the 25th and final one in the "Memphis Belle" for Captain Robert Morgan
The ground crews of the 91st Bomber Group stand on the field of Bassingbourn
watching the bombers return from their mission. They have particularly been anticipating
the return of one bomber, the Memphis Belle, returning from her 25th and final mission.
Upon her return Capt. Morgan makes his victory pass over the airfield, coming in so low
that he seems to “cut the grass”. As he passes the control tower he pulls the Belle up,
bringing her almost directly over the heads of the ground crews.
The crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" is shown at an air base in England
after completing 25 missions over enemy territory on May 17, 1943.
They are, left to right: Tech. Sgt. Harold P. Loch of Green Bay, Wis., top turret gunner;
Staff Sgt. Cecil H. Scott of Altoona, Penn., ball turret gunner;
Tech. Sgt. Robert J, Hanson of Walla Walla, Wash., radio operator;
Capt. James A. Verinis, New Haven, Conn., co-pilot;
Capt. Robert K. Morgan of Ashville, N. C., pilot;
Capt. Charles B. Leighton of Lansing, Mich., navigator;
Staff Sgt. John P. Quinlan of Yonkers, N. Y., tail gunner;
Staff Sgt. Casimer A. Nastal of Detroit, Mich., waist gunner;
Capt. Vincent B. Evans of Henderson, Texas, bombardier
and Staff Sgt. Clarence E. Wichell of Oak Park, Ill., waist gunner.