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Contemplating the Memphis Belle
A short exploration of the space between the fact and fiction of B-17s, Friends, Families, Model Building and Carpet Bombing
My Beautiful Belle.
When I was younger, Belle was warm. I loved flying with Her in the clear high blue.

She was the star of my favorite film. I built a model of her. She was my favorite thing of all my things. My Memphis Belle. She had wheels and turrets and bomb bay doors which opened to reveal real bombs.

I learned to read only because there were things to read about Belle. I added details, shape and depth to my fantasy. Pictures of puffy men with hoses for noses, glass eyes and leather heads. Background, history, dates, quantities, descriptions, serial numbers - important details. My play took on an aspect of monkish study. Alone in my room I soaked in the stats. At school behind my math book. Under the sheets with a flashlight at night. At first I read grade school paperbacks, the Big Book of B-17s, that sort of thing. Then more serious books. Then I uncovered a cache of old Air Force manuals.

I won't try to explain how I got from playing with models and books in my room to rummaging around an old hanger at the airport. Suffice it to say that it's a young boy thing.

Suffice it also to say that I became young boy smart in all things B-17. If little else. Mostly, other things confused me. I was always becoming distracted by the things I saw in between things. My Belle gave me something to which I could attach specific detail and noble value.

They say that the devil is in the details. Details transformed my image of Belle, in time, from a glider beauty, looping in warm space, to a thing of exploding pistons - slip-streaming it's way through gaseous ice. Belle became cold - at altitude, if you touched your bare hand to her freezing airframe, she ripped your skin off.

I began to love her from a distance.

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The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, was released as a movie in 1944 by First Motion Picture Unit, U.S. Army Air Corps
(International Movie Data Base)


Memphis Belle was released as a plastic scale model in 1964
(Revell - Monogram)

The world-famous Memphis Belle was the first American B-17 to complete 25 missions over Europe. Features: Historic Memphis Belle markings, moveable turrets.



Memphis Belle was remade and rereleased in 1990 by Enigma Film and Warner Bros.
(International Movie Data Base)



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