WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Casey Simmons, a restoration specialist at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, initially started his position in 2007 and was tasked with restoring the B-17F Memphis Belle.
He said it was in multiple pieces at the time.
Now, Simmons and the restoration team are gearing up for an event slated for Thursday, May 17 that will reveal the project to the public and celebrate the historic WWII aircraft. They installed a control surfaces on the left side of the aircraft Jan. 4 and are just days away from painting the nose art. Later, the nose cone and 50 caliber machine guns will be installed which will complete the exterior restoration work.
“You pretend and think of what it’s going to be like but once you actually start working on it, it’s just really rewarding … It’s the most transformation you could ever imagine,” Simmons said. “It’ll be complete by May 17. We’ll probably work right up until the end.”
May 17 will mark exactly 75 years after the Memphis Belle crew completed their final mission during WWII. It will be followed by an additional two days of celebration that will include flying B-17 planes, reenactments, an opening ceremony and other items.
“The Memphis Belle represents extraordinary sacrifice on the part of our heavy bomber crew,” Museum Curator Jeff Duford said. “The idea that their odds of finishing a tour were about 25 percent is difficult for us to understand because these young men knew what they were doing and they knew what their odds were. How does one get inside this aircraft knowing that ‘I’m probably not going to survive in-tact. I’m probably not coming home, and I’m not doing that one time — I’m doing that  times.’ It wasn’t just [one] crew, it was thousands of bomber [airmen] who made this choice to do their duty, to fly these missions to risk their lives. They were faced with choices we don’t face in our daily lives.”
“The Memphis Belle tells the story, represents the story and for our visitors coming to the museum later this year and for decades to come, the legacy and sacrifice of these young men will be remembered long after we’re gone. I think that’s truly the most important part of the Memphis Belle, that we don’t forget what they did. They destroyed an evil regime and in many cases, they paid for victory with their lives,” Duford added.
For more information, about the Memphis Belle, visit http://bit.ly/2CFzGrd
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.